Stuck in a Comparison Trap? Here’s How to Get Out

We’re able to see into people’s edited lives from anywhere in the world, and it can often feel suffocating and stagnating.

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Tom Kolossa / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Tom Kolossa / EyeEm/ Getty Images

Do you ever compare yourself to others? Do you compare their success, fame, wealth, accolades, looks, or talent? If you never do, send me a note, because I’d love to meet you. You’re a unicorn.

For the rest of us, as we’re able to see into people’s edited lives from practically anywhere in the world, it can feel suffocating and stagnating.

I spoke with John Lee Dumas, award-winning host of “Entrepreneurs on Fire,” a daily podcast with over one million listens per month and 2,000 episodes. In his role, Dumas has a front-row view of this phenomenon both from the lives of the inspiring entrepreneurs whom he interviews, as well as the response to them from his large audience.

Dumas shares, “We live in a world where everyone is sharing one perfect second of their imperfect day, and we’re interpreting that perfect second as a life of perfection. However, the reality is much different. They are living a life of quiet desperation like the rest of us.”

John Lee Dumas hosting “Entrepreneurs on Fire,” an award-winning podcast. Photo credit: Matt Bouvet

Whether or not your life feels “desperate,” the comparison trap is painful and often results in the hope for perfection, which is the enemy of progress.

Dumas experienced this himself when Tim Ferriss launched his podcast: “I had already been podcasting for two years, had over 700 episodes published, and from day one, Tim’s show just crushed mine: way more downloads, higher ranking, more reviews. It felt like my two years of hard work were just dashed on the rocks when Tim published one episode.”

He continues, “But then I realized what I was doing: I was comparing myself to Tim Ferriss. He’d been inspiring entrepreneurs for over 10 years. He had multiple New York Times best-selling books. He’d been featured on every media outlet. We were at way different stages of our entrepreneurial journey. I was a mere two years in. Why was I comparing myself to him? Why was I comparing the success of my podcast to any podcast except mine yesterday? Was my podcast growing? Yes. Was I adding value to the world? Yes. Was I accomplishing my goals? Yes. Was I helping people? Yes. So, I re-focused on what mattered.”

If that resonates, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or afraid to take action as a result of comparing yourself to others, here’s how to flip those feelings into motivation and direction:

Put on your blinders

Tune out any of the distractions that cause you to compare. Unfollow if you have to, or stop looking altogether.

Dumas adds, “The only person you should compare yourself to is you yesterday. If you are winning that comparison, you are winning at life.”

It’s an important distinction. Would you yesterday, a month ago, a year ago, or as a child be proud of where you are today?

Make incremental change

“Focus on getting one percent better in three areas of your life every day: health, relationships, and business. If you do that, you will be amazed at where you are in three years,” suggests Dumas. This is actionable, measurable, and within your control.

Choose a north star

There are plenty of cliches about this, and in this case, they’re true. If you have no destination in mind, it’s tough to draw a map. Dumas echoes, “You need meaningful goals that towards which you are driving. Without a north star, you are a ship without a rudder.” Choose whichever cliche you prefer, make a goal, and start moving. Small steps are usually what it takes to build the momentum you need to achieve it.

Choose whose input to ingest

“You need to have people you look up to and admire. Learn from their actions. Emulate their successes (where it feels right) and avoid their failures,” says Dumas. There’s a difference between comparing yourself to anyone and everyone, and actively choosing whose actions and counsel you’d like to take as input. These people may evolve over time as you grow and/or your goals change.

Take some time to do an audit of what you’re ingesting and how it’s impacting you. What are you watching, listening to, reading, and with whom are you surrounding yourself? Is the impact up-leveling you, or making you feel poorly about yourself?

Dumas laments, “Instead of comparing ourselves to our neighbor or small village, we are now comparing every aspect of ourselves to the world. Our looks compared to Brad Pitt, our finances compared to Richard Branson, our fame compared to Oprah Winfrey. Is it any wonder we always feel so unaccomplished?”

Choose your “village,” choose your future.C

Click here to access a masterclass with Deepak Chopra and me on creating a more meaningful life. It comes with a guided meditation!

This article was originally published on Forbes.

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