How You Turn Your Triumphs into Failures — and How to Stop
To feel fulfilled, you must break the habit that transforms “more than enough” into “not enough.”
In a previous article, I shared the top three things that block our ability to feel grateful: comparison, vision, and expectations.
The Missing Gratitude Block?
Some people asked me about the obvious thing that was missing from this list.
What about “lack mindset?”
In personal development circles, we often speak about “lack mindset” versus “abundance mindset.” Many teachers teach gratitude practice as a way to get out of a lack mindset. This is the philosophy that “what you’re grateful for grows.”
This is certainly true. When we are grateful for what we have, we no longer feel lack.
But the challenge that some people find with gratitude practice is that often they don’t feel that feeling of abundance, so it doesn’t feel authentic to express gratitude.
In part, this disconnect that you may feel in your gratitude practice comes from the belief that the lack mindset blocks gratitude.
But feeling lack is an effect, not a cause.
Let me explain:
Cause and Effect
My mentor Gary King often says that one of the biggest problems in our culture is that we spend too much effort trying to solve “effects” and not causes.
This is a great example of that principle.
On the surface, it might appear that a lack mindset inhibits feelings of gratitude. But when we look deeper and ask, What causes the feeling of lack? We find the culprit:
Consider that if you didn’t compare yourself to anyone else you wouldn’t feel that you lacked anything. If you were stranded somewhere alone, without any contact with the outside world, you would only know what you have and your current situation. You would not have the context to feel lack.
Lack is an effect of comparison.
How My Biggest High Turned into Not Enough
Here’s an example of how this plays out.
At the beginning of July, I wrote an article about what I learned when I stopped checking Facebook for a year without deleting the app from my phone. I published it on my personal blog and to Medium. A few weeks later, I returned from a weekend away to find it had 3,000 views. To date, it has now been viewed over 50,000 times and read by over 10,000 people on Medium. Over 600 people gave it hearts/claps (Medium changed its system since the article was first published).
I was flying high. 3,000 views are more views than I’ve received on everything else I have ever published, combined. That 10,000 people read this, commented on it, applauded it, felt really awesome. More than the number, though, what really impacted me was the comments. The fact that I had touched people with my story truly moved me to tears. I was — and still am — profoundly grateful for the opportunity to impact people through sharing my experience.
But then something shifted. The feelings of gratitude and open-heartedness around that article and my writing, in general, didn’t come as easily.
What happened to change that?
What happened was that as I spent more time on Medium, reading other articles and engaging in the community, I started noticing — and comparing — my claps to the applause level on other writers’ articles. I can’t see the views and reads they received, but I can see the claps. Some writers get a lot of claps on their articles. And when I noticed that, it changed my perception of my own results.
Just like that, the feeling of making a difference evaporated, and I was left with a feeling of not being enough.
Comparison is Dangerous …
Comparison is an insidious disease that turns our triumphs into failures.
This happens even though we know, intellectually, that we compare selectively, and often we create a comparison mismatch. Even when we know that the images we see in our friends’ social media feeds are only the highlights, we still fall into the trap of comparing those images with our worst moments. We compare other peoples’ results with our sacrifices, without looking or asking what they sacrificed to get those results. We see only the work they do in public and not the hours they toiled in private.
Even when we know this in our minds, we still succumb to feelings of not being, having, or doing enough.
And yet it is human nature to compare, and in our current culture of living life in public, it is easier than ever to do. We can’t help but compare our lives to the lives of others.
Comparison creates a hole, and it’s our nature to try to fill the holes.
The Antidote: Celebrate Your Enough-ness
The only sustainable way to fill yourself — to feel full-filled — is to reinforce your enough-ness. When you remind yourself that what you have, who you are and what you do each day is enough, you dismantle the comparison bomb.
This reminder comes in the form of gratitude. Focusing on what you have blocks comparison. At this level, gratitude is not about “feeling abundant” but about recognizing the truth that who you are and what you have is enough.