I am sure you have had the experience of realizing that you thought you were getting good at something only to realize you were measuring yourself against a relatively small sample.
I know I have. That realization can be quite intimidating and many people shy away from it, but I think it is one of the most valuable experiences we can have.
When we step out of our comfort zone and enter a bigger world with more competition, I believe we have three choices. We can shrink our pond again so we can maintain our higher standing, we can stay in the big pond but give up and accept our lower standing, or we can rise to the occasion and grow to the challenge.
I hope it seems obvious that I think the latter is the best option. Looking back on my experiences, I know that I always grew the most when I was surrounded by people that were far better than me. Part of that growth is caused by my ego not wanting to be last, which forces me to work harder. But another, and I think bigger, reason is that I realize what is actually possible.
In 1954 Roger Bannister ran the first 4 minute mile. Within the next three years, at least 10 people also broke the 4 minute barrier that was previously unreachable. Just knowing that someone could do it gave confidence to the others that the same goal was achievable and that created amazing growth in the running world for the decades to follow. Now, in elite running events, a 4 minute mile is expected.
By entering a bigger pond, we realize what is possible and that can give us the confidence we need to reach the next level in our development. It can be an incredibly scary and humbling process, but growth is always worth it in my opinion.
Spend some time honestly looking at where you stand in the scheme of things. Are you still growing in your current environment? Do you need a bigger one to continue your growth? Are you sure you have reached your potential? Would competing with others that are better than you drive you to grow? I know I have a long way to go and a lot more to learn, and I hope I have the courage to continue looking for bigger ponds to jump into.