operate a dashboard, not a leaderboard
"I generally find that comparison is the fast track to unhappiness." Jack Canfield
We often destroy our self-confidence and self-trust that we’re on the right path by comparing our chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 10.
Measuring yourself against others is a zero-sum game. Check the leaderboard and you’ll see that you’re either ahead or behind. When your focus is on how far you still have to go, instead of “measuring backward” against how far you’ve come, you’ll experience a constant sense of dissatisfaction and crushing self-doubt.
The truth of life: There will always be someone stronger and fitter than you. You’re going to end up on the losing side of the comparison.
The key is to play against yourself, the man you were yesterday, not an ever-changing opponent. Jordan Peterson put it best, “The only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday.”
Where your attention should be.
In the right context, looking at a leaderboard can drive us. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by what others have achieved. We can harness the energy of competition to give us the push we need to get started.
But don’t rely on it. Changing your body or habits is a long game, and you’ll need to run this race at your own pace.
If you’re looking at a leaderboard, your attention is, by definition, on others. A dashboard helps us turn our attention within, where it should be.
Entrepreneur and author, Ben Casnocha, brilliantly compares this process to driving a car:
“Think of how you monitor your car dashboard when you drive. It shows how fast you’re driving and displays other barometers of the health of your vehicle. It does not display how fast the cars next to you are driving. Some cars are driving faster than you, some are driving slower than you—it doesn’t really matter. You’re not on a racetrack. You’re on a road just trying to make your way to your destination in whatever way and at whatever speed makes sense for you in that moment.”
The key line from Casnocha is “at whatever speed makes sense for you.” It doesn’t matter how fast you think you should be going or how fast others are progressing.
What matters is that you can sustain your momentum and continue improving in small increments day-by-day.
You’ll be amazed at how the results compound.
A dashboard is about the process, not results.
Achieving your goals requires building a system. And creating a system requires an honest assessment of where you’re at and the actions you’re taking. It requires looking down at the dashboard.
Your dashboard helps you develop self-awareness so you should “measure from a place of curiosity” habit expert James Clear advises. You’re not looking to judge, only to identify where you can improve.
Clear also suggests measuring against your last best effort, not forward against your goals. You can’t predict the future. However, you can track the actions that will move you towards your goals.
Your dashboard will let you know if you’re showing up. And although this might be uncomfortable, you’ll see if you’re spending time on the things that are most important to you.
What’s on your dashboard?
My guess? You know what you need to focus on right now. But it’s difficult to determine what we should do to get the results we want.
Here are some ideas:
Building a Workout Habit: Measure the number of times you workout each week. Another idea is to track the total duration of time spent working out per week.
Fat Loss: Track the number of calories you ate this week. Or, if you don’t want to log your food, could you track the number of meals you made at home this week.
Strength Training: Keep a workout journal. Each time you come back to a workout look for where you can increase sets, reps, or weight used.
Don’t limit your dashboard to just health and fitness. If you want to work on your relationships what could you track each week to improve those?
Keep a simple spreadsheet and sit down each week to review. If the numbers are moving in the wrong direction, you can make adjustments for the next week.