Contentment: Celebrating Personal Growth Vs Comparing Self With Others

Perspective…. it’s a funny thing, isn’t it?

Five years ago,  searching for a new job after a 2 year break, this was my thinking:  “If someone would just interview me and give me an opportunity…..I would be so happy with $60k total comp, some 401k match and health benefits. I would not need anything else!”

Well, I nearly cried of happiness when, after many rejections, I was offered $98k plus bonus, over 10% 401k match and ridiculously good benefits, for a job with lots of growth potential. I was so excited, thankful and relieved!

A couple of years and two promotions later, I was making significantly more that I ever expected. I felt engaged and valued. I was learning new things. I felt SO lucky and humbled!  Until….. I learned my total comp was $30-40k less than my peers who got lower review scores and held less responsibilities, had less schooling and experience.

I felt bitter and, as embarrassing as it is to admit, it became a constant thought.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

How was this possible? I was making more money than I ever dreamed of, I loved my job and my peers and yet I felt bitter and unhappy? What happened to my old self, known for her joyfulness?

I had to do something about this. This was absurd and painful.

I was determined to stop defining my worth and happiness from things OUTSIDE of me (how did this happen?). I was to find contentment from within. “The rich man isn’t the one who has the most, but rather the one who needs the least” became my motto.

Taking action

I did two things.

I switched jobs internally and negotiated a nice bump. I felt immediately better having done one of the few things in my control in this situation.

Second, and most importantly,  I made it the top priority to focus on bettering myself from within. Holistically. Purposefully. I made a life plan. Contentment was my new goal.  I began minimizing my possessions and emotional clutter. I got to work. Relentlessly.

Almost a year later, I felt like en entirely new person. The transformation was gradual but evident not just to me but to those around me.

The results

This month, I hit 3 big milestones:

  • Despite a mediocre review, I got an unexpected raise and the largest bonus I have ever received! Total comp is now around $190k plus 401k match and fantastic benefits.
  • This is the first time that 100% of my bonus will go to our ‘buying our freedom’ fund!
  • We crossed $600k in liquid assets (excluding 529s)!

The biggest win

My boss sounded nervous delivering my bonus information, especially after the review (worse I have ever had). He offered that my colleagues were disappointed with their comp, so he was not sure how I was going to react (he is new to this group). I knew some colleagues still make more than me, so…

How did I genuinely feel?

I paused. I took time to let this sink in.  I smiled.

I had made it.

I had once again become that grateful human, experiencing the contentment of not wanting more…..

How about you? What milestones are you celebrating.




2 thoughts on “Contentment: Celebrating Personal Growth Vs Comparing Self With Others”

  1. This must be the year of mediocre reviews! You are totally kicking-A. I had found that I get no joy anymore from receiving more money in the form of raises or bonuses. It always falls flat. Another sign that I need to move on and quick!


    1. Interesting – I always wonder how others feel and if I am the only one. I really really now need to focus on that expense side, I just re-read your entry on the 55k income and savings rate and the budget you provided, I am giving myself some challenges! I am embarrassed that I find it hard to go under $70k and yet SO MANY people do this easily and comfortably…. I know most of it is a matter of habit and feeling like something is taken away, so I am making slow steps towards that goal.

      I actually just re-did my projected expense numbers by reducing my 3% inflation assumption to a 2% (so that I challenge myself to stay within that spending range as the years go by, even if actual inflation differs). Man, that cut down an entire year of work! I am going to see if I can further cut down and take another year off that plan… Thank you for the continued inspiration!


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