How do I stay motivated when everyone is doing better than me?

In my first part of my 4 articles on motivation, I discuss the influence of the people around and how you can use them to help you find, keep and stay motivated.

Staying motivated when ‘everyone else is doing better than you'.

Stop comparing yourself to other people.

This is probably the most important one to remember. The perception is the same for all of us. You are struggling to make progress in what you do, but it appears that everyone else is doing really well. But this isn’t true, it’s all about your perceptions and the projections you put on others. We all are struggling and the sooner you acknowledge that and stop putting pressure on yourself the better. 


Ask anyone and they will tell you of their own struggles. It’s all shot through a filter of how we want people to perceive us, not how we are really doing.

Embrace Failure

"Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something." Morihei Ueshiba

Without struggle and failure there is no progress. It’s a critical part of the learning process. In her book Mindset Prof Carol Dweck talks about the difference between a 'Fixed Mind-set’ and a 'Growth Mind-set’. It’s a fantastic book which stresses the importance of rewarding hard work over talent.

Watch her brilliant TED talk to learn more.

Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.

You can’t worry about what other people are doing, it’s a waste of energy. Instead you have to focus on what you can control.

So, what can you control?

  • The time you get up to work on your project.
  • What you work on.
  • The environment in which you work in
  • The people you work with

You can’t control the progress of everyone else, so stop worrying about it.

Do athletes win by watching their competitors? No, they focus on winning the race first, then they think about the opposition. It’s when they start to look over their shoulder or at the crowd, they end up losing first place to someone else.

Notice how Moron Simon focuses on his race and his race only. Be Moron Simon, not the unfortunate Tangy Pepiot.

People need to respect you and your work.

You need to explain to them how important it is. Why you need to do it, why you love doing it and how it will help you achieve success in the future.

Although you can tell them, actions speak louder than words. Make your work important by prioritising the time needed to do it. Take a wall planner and deliberately schedule in time that will be spent on it. Start with 1 to 2 hours a day and let those around you know that during that time you will be working and you must not be disturbed. 

This helps in two ways. Firstly, they can see you are serious and will respect that by leaving you alone. They may even want to help and encourage you. Secondly, you will make sure that all of your other jobs have been completed beforehand, giving you a far better chance of achieving your goals as you are minimising distractions and making time to get it done.

Get some accountability

We all struggle with staying motivated, especially with self initiated projects as they aren’t ‘real’. Nobody is expecting them, theres no official deadline and nobody knows or cares if the project doesn’t get finished. 

So fix this by finding someone who is expecting to see your work. All of a sudden it matters if the work gets done and is finished on time. 

This can be done several ways. Firstly, you can get an 'Accountability Partner’. This could be anyone, but it helps if they are in the same industry as you so they will understand what you do. They will keep you on track and you can help motivate each other if you have a similar goals.

Secondly, find someone you admire and make an appointment to show them the finished project by a certain date. An example of this might be the Creative Team at an Ad Agency that is responsible for work placements.

Quite often they will set you the task of coming back to them 2 weeks later with an improved portfolio. Providing the work is good enough, you could put yourself forward for the chance of a placement in the future. 

Now you have a deadline, someone to impress and a reason for impressing them. 

Get around positive people

Or equally as important, get away from negative people.

Being able to analyse who is pumping you up and who is dragging you down is very important. It may be that a friend or family member is a dream-crusher without them even knowing it.

Step back and objectively write a list of who you regularly interact it and decide if they make you feel good or bad about yourself. I’m not talking about their intentions or how much you like them, but how they make you feel.

For example, it may be a parent who you love dearly, but they don’t understand your goals or what you do and will continually tell you to ‘get a real job’. They do this out of love because they are concerned about your future. But if it gets you down, then you need to either stop being around them or stop talking about what your goals are as they just don’t get it.

Find positive people that leave you pumped and inspired. Hang on to them, value them and acknowledge their influence. 

By stopping hanging around the negative motivation sucking vampires and spending more time with positive people, you are giving yourself a much better chance of staying motivated.

Find a mentor

A Mentor will provide inspiration and reassurance. Their tales of struggle before finally achieving their success will teach you so much. Not only that but they will have numerous useful contacts and I’m sure will be happy to help you if they can see your progress and dedication.

As always, respect their time and be generous with yours. Understand that they are helping you, so be worth helping - work hard, follow their advice and thank them for their contribution to your improvement.

Here are some useful articles:

To sum up:

  • Stop comparing yourself to other people.
  • Embrace Failure
  • Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
  • Respect your work
  • Get some accountability
  • Spend time around positive people
  • Work with a mentor.

In order to offer as much value as possible in my articles, it would be really helpful if I know a little more about your situation.

What is your biggest struggle when it comes to design?

Thad CoxComment