A few years ago, I was shopping in a used book store near my cottage. Even though I try not to judge books by their covers, it’s sometimes inevitable. I ended up buying a book with a bright blue cover. Not only did the cover draw me in, but the title did, too. The book was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve written about the book before on my blog; the idea that you can take purposeful steps to invite happiness into your life has had a big impact on my life.

In one chapter in the book, she writes about asking her sister, a TV writer, how she feels when a friend writes a successful movie. Her sister responds that, “It’s great for him to have a big success, and his success is also likely to help me to be successful.” In other words, “People succeed in groups.”

That line has stuck in my mind in the years since I’ve read the book, and I often find myself reciting it to other people. My university program is competitive to get into, and it’s filled with amazing, ambitious people. Sometimes it can be hard to see people getting internships and achieving other amazing accomplishments; but when I remind myself that people succeed in groups, the success of my classmates simply reminds me that I can achieve those things if I work hard, too. I love the idea that the success of one person can simply be an inspiration to you—proof that you can do great things and achieve your dreams.

When you think of things in this way, life becomes less about competing with other people in your field and more about you wanting to help them to succeed. And if you’re not competing with other people, then you have the opportunity to compete with yourself; which I think is much more helpful in the long run.

Instead of trying to mirror other people’s paths to success, focus on your own. What did you accomplish last week? Try to improve upon that success this week. What did you accomplish last month? Set a bigger goal for this month. What did you accomplish last year? How can you “compete with yourself” to improve upon that success this year?

These considerations can help you be better than your past self; you can learn from your successes in the past to be even better in the future. Competing with yourself allows you to continue working on your own unique path to success, without worrying about what anyone else is doing, while still pushing yourself with the motivation of trying to outperform what you’ve previously achieved. You might just find that this makes you more productive, or leads to greater feelings of success—focus on making yourself the best you can be, and give yourself something to compete against.

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