Problem Finding/Reassessing comparisons

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—Compared to what?

We often want to become smarter, richer, braver, bolder, thinner, fitter, healthier, cooler, sexier, or funnier. Pause to ask “-er than what?” Carefully choose the standard or reference model used as basis for comparison. Before investing in such a goal, it is useful to ask, “Compared to what?”

There are many possible reference models we can chose as a basis for comparison or goal setting. A list is provided below. In any case it can be helpful to ask:

  1. What standard or reference model was chosen?
  2. How was that selected?
  3. Why is that a pertinent reference standard?
  4. What other standards were considered?
  5. Why choose this reference model?
  6. How much -er will be enough?

Candidate Reference Models

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  • Historic performance,
  • Peer, exemplar, or benchmark performance,
  • Planning goals, stretch goals, aspirations, forecasts,
  • Deadlines,
  • Externally originating requests or imposed goals,
  • Improvement goals,
  • (Industry) standards, regulations, contracts, agreements, legal requirements,
  • Imposed by use of power (the boss wants this),
  • Following orders, respect for authority, demonstrating loyalty,
  • Pleasing others, social or cultural norms, tradition, habit, fitting in, impressing others, prestige,
  • Should (What standard is implied? Whose standard is implied?),
  • Fun,
  • Keeping promises, meeting obligations, meeting expectations (whose?),
  • Scientific models, reality, scientific findings,
  • Ideological models, dogma,
  • Worldviews, values (purity, patriotism, honesty, personal responsibility, piety…),
  • Beliefs, Misconceptions,
  • Moral reasoning,
  • Revenge, justice, fairness, caring, regret, shame, guilt,
  • Prevention, repair, remediation, reparations,
  • Hopes, dreams, aspirations, and fantasies,
  • Stories, the dominant narrative,
  • Survival constraints,
  • Safety,
  • Deception, chicanery,
  • Demonstrating team loyalty,
  • Comfort, convenience, stasis, egocentrism, pride, fear, hate, spite,
  • Aesthetics,
  • Whim