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Be a reference point of one

Checking what's happening on the Internet has become automatic for many of us. We check the news in the browser, check social media on our phones... check check check. We don't think about it. We just do it.

This has radically expanded our reference framework—the collection of people, events, and other things we can use for comparisons to our present circumstance.

We can't help but compare ourselves to others, especially when we're unhappy about something.

In the past, people in our village or town were our reference points.

Back then, we compared ourselves to people we actually met. People we saw day to day.

Then the comparison loop started to lengthen as information technologies developed. And that's where things got interesting.

Our references became more extreme

Extremification of reference points

= replacement of everyday, experiential, and local reference points for people, ideas, activities, etc with stellar, mythical, and global reference points.

Writing? You compare yourself to famous authors, not your writer friends.

Physique? Arnold, Chris Bumstead or other world-famous bodybuilders.

Business? Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett...

Anything—work, vacations, relationships—will be in our mind constantly compared to the people everpresent online or in popular entertainment.

Instead of living in the local down-to-earth reality, we we're pulled into an exagerated digital one.

Essentially, in the past the base for comparison was the tribe, the village, the town,...

Now it's the globe. On top of that, entertainment and social media show only the epic and the spectacular, not the mundane.

Minimize the amount of comparisons

I'd tell you to stop comparing yourself to others, but I'm not certain that's something most of us can actually do.

So my advice is to limit your exposure to such comparisons to a productive degree.

This kind of "productive exposure" means that you take in enough to get inspired and to act on, but only in short bursts. One might call it the minimum effective dose of inspiration.

Here's a heuristic for you:

If you're ever getting discouraged, instead of encouraged by success stories of others, it's a sure sign to shut out everything and take action.

When you don't browse and don't scroll, outside reference points fade. The longer you go without too much outside input, the more you start to become your own only reference point. This is a good kind of self-centeredness.

When you have more time to think about what you're doing. Your strategy, your process, or your trends. No outside interference.

More attention to your own efforts means more actual growth, not just posturing on social media. More growth means greater self-esteem and a more positive outlook on the future.

Become a reference point of one.