During my Pilates class, I notice someone else isn’t doing a particular move “right.” That observation takes me out of the moment and I lose my balance. In scrolling through my e-mails or visiting a website, I spot a typo. My mind starts to wander with ideas about how others can improve their writing… or design… or approach. I think of all the many ways that people could live a better life if only they would just [fill in the blank]. Then I remember that old adage from childhood: “MYOB.” Mind your own business.
While I’m kvetching, critiquing or judging someone else’s output or performance, I’m missing out on the opportunity to improve my own. Sticking my nose into other people’s business robs me of the opportunity to work on my own output and performance. Investing my precious resources, whether it’s time, energy or brain power, in analysis and (let’s be honest here) judgement about someone else and their business is a colossal waste of time. Those kinds of distractions can lead us down some dangerous roads.
While judging someone else’s posture in Pilates, I suddenly notice another person, one with perfect posture, a lithe body (no cellulite in sight!) and effortless ease. Judgment of a person in one moment can turn to envy of someone else in another. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” according to Theodore Roosevelt. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re either going to be disappointed or bathed in misguided superiority. There will always be someone taller, richer, thinner. There will always be those who have so much less. And how many times have we envied someone, only to learn later that what we envied was all a façade?
One of the reasons social media is so destructive is that our observations (obsessions?) about how others live inspire not only envy but a classic case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). For me, it brings back those wretched feelings from high school where I knew there were parties I wasn’t invited to, groups I wasn’t included in, conversations I was missing. Those were the days when having nothing to do on a Friday night = Loser. FaceBook and Instagram posts can lead me to the often erroneous conclusion that everyone is having way more fun than me.
Heaped on top of envy and FOMO is that ultimate curse, regret. Looking back, will I have regret that I spent time looking outward instead of inward? Will I rue the hours I spent peeking into someone else’s backyard–their luck, their success, their awards and achievements? Every moment spent in peeking over that fence is time I’m not spending on my own endeavors and pursuits. I’m burning daylight. MYOB. Or, said another way that goes with the backyard analogy (and one that’s a little gentler with just a hint of a British accent), “Mind your own garden.”
Benchmarking can be productive, but the best kind of benchmarks are those we establish for ourselves. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there? I guarantee, it won’t be by spending any time on comparison, fear or regret. Time to look in the mirror during class to see if my posture is straight. I remind myself that social media is a lens that can be distorted, a powerful gift that also requires responsible interpretation. I remember that the only garden I can really grow is my own. If we mind our own business, business will flourish.