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I rarely question the things that I want until I see another person with something else. In that way, I realize I’m not much different than a five-year-old.

I noticed this the other day when I was babysitting my 5- and 7-year-old nieces. The younger niece was eating a sandwich and asked if she could color. I told her that when she finished eating, she could get her coloring books and crayons. With that end goal in mind, she happily continued eating.

My 7-year-old niece was already done with her food and didn’t want to color so she asked to play games on my iPad instead. When I handed the device to her, my youngest niece’s voice rang out across the room “Oooo I wanna play with the iPad!”

Confused, I wondered, What happened to wanting to color?

A few minutes later, when she was done eating, she began trying to share the iPad with her sister. The device is only so big, so I told my eldest niece that she could play games on my laptop instead if she wanted. My youngest niece got the iPad to herself and the eldest niece was clicking away on the Macbook. Not ten minutes later, the youngest had abandoned the iPad in favor of staring over her sister’s shoulder at the laptop.

Granted, when you’re 5 years old, there’s little more intriguing than whatever your older sibling is doing. But as we grow up, do we ever lose the desire to abandon what we’re focused on in favor of staring over our neighbor’s shoulder?

I find myself doing this sometimes. I have a set path, clear goals in mind and have had success along the way, but when I spy a friend (or even a stranger via social media) accomplishing something then suddenly I’ll wonder if I should be doing what she’s doing instead. I nearly applied to graduate school because of this sort of thinking gone wild.

A master’s degree is not something I need to achieve my particular career goals, but seeing a college friend in all of her grad school graduation garb made me think I went the wrong way after undergrad and should have went on to higher studies like she did. A few months later, I had selected a school, printed out the paperwork and was brainstorming my essay when I finally admitted to myself why I really wanted to go to graduate school: because others my age were doing it and I didn’t want to feel left behind. And that, I resigned, is not a reason to do anything.

They say if you don’t know where you’re going then you’ll end up somewhere else. I’d like to add that if you don’t remain focused on where you’re going you can also end up somewhere else.

Looking at what other people are doing can be motivating as long as I maintain perspective. I know the every day ins and outs, ups and downs of my own life and therefore shouldn’t be comparing that to someone else’s highlight reel. Constantly stopping my grind to observe another woman’s is counterproductive and only serving as a fatal distraction. I need to remain focused on what it is that I’m doing and remember what I want out of my life and why. If I’m constantly adjusting the things I want to mirror what I think other successful people have done, then how soon before I wake up to a life filled with activity, accomplishments, and plans that don’t remotely interest me?

Besides, finding success by copying another woman’s life isn’t really finding success at all.

What do you think? Have you ever been distracted from your own goals because you were focused on what someone else is doing?

*Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life.

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