Stumbling Block Series: 3 Steps to Stop Comparing & Start Cultivating

Have you heard of The Grass is Greener Syndrome?

I’m discussing this, the comparison trap and our misconceptions about others’ lives over on the Productivity Paradox podcast in episode 069.

That ‘Grass is Greener’ feeling – Whether it’s within your relationship, career or where you live – constantly makes you live as if you have one foot out the door because you aren’t experiencing stability, security, and satisfaction in your current environment. You’re often feeling like there’s something better and bigger out there – but guess what? This feeling is based almost entirely on  fear and fantasy.

Fear comes from several different possibilities: fear of commitment, fear of missing out, fear of boredom, fear of loss of individuality, and fear of oppression.

Fantasy is projection – when we want what we don’t have, we project onto potential changes and imagine that we’ll get everything we want and what we already have won’t be sacrificed with this change.

We determine external factors are the cause of internal happiness. We try to focus on bettering our external environment to soothe deeper internal unhappiness, but after a brief internal high the dissatisfaction is the same.


How Comparison Hurts Us & Why We Do it

Before we dive into how to turn the comparison trap into a starting block, we first we need to understand where it is coming from.

It’s rooted in the patterns of our lives:

  • Repetition: the pattern of continually wanting better and changing relationships, jobs, and environment.
  • Perfection: constantly searching for the fantasized ideal. It’s one thing to go from a terrible environment to a positive one, but it’s another to move through a string of supportive and healthy environments that are never good enough.
  • Wanting to have everything: this is part of the fear of compromising, so you want to have everything. But even if you have everything you could want and need, you’ll probably still feel like something’s missing.
  • Wanting to run away: a pattern of being unable to settle in one geographic place, relationship, job, etc. There are usually deeper reasons than just not being in “the right place.”
  • Ultimate dissatisfaction: there’s nothing wrong with a living an ever-changing life if it fulfills you, but if the reason behind this constant change is from repeatedly being dissatisfied and you want to be more secure and stable, then there’s a deeper problem at hand.


3 Steps to Make The Comparison Trap a Starting Block:

 1. Stop. Sometimes all you really need when FOMO hits is to be still. When you stop for a moment and take in the good things in your life, you realize all you really have is the present moment, and that’s enough.


2. Instead of reactive thinking and over simplifying the process, ask yourself some tough questions:

  • What do they have that I wish they had?
  • What do I admire about them? What are they modeling for me?
  • What have they done to get where they are today?
  • How does this relate to my own values?
  • Where do I currently embody these values?
  • How might my expression of these qualities differ from theirs?
  • What can I learn from my desire to embody these qualities more fully?
  • These questions help flip comparison mode to inward reflection of our own desires and fears.
  • Admiration and envy help point us toward what we value most.

If you’re not as happy as you could be, then you’re probably paying attention to the wrong things. Embracing happiness can be as simple as paying attention to the more positive things in your life.

If you admire someone who takes creative risks, find the part of yourself that wants to be more daring. If you envy those in your network who easily promote themselves, reflect on how you might share your work and wins in a way that feels comfortable. If you’re obsessing over athletic accomplishments, it could be a sign you need to revamp your fitness routine.


3. Cultivate gratitude for the things you already have. If you’re aware of and grateful for those things, you won’t be bothered as much by what others have. While the cliche advice “look on the bright side” doesn’t seem helpful, it is scientifically valid.
Paul Dolan, who teaches at the London School of Economics, explains in his book, Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think, that your happiness is determined by what you pay attention to. Attention is “the glue that holds your life together,” but our mental energy depletes over time (decision fatigue), so you need to spend your mental energy just like you spend money. If you’re not as happy as you could be, then you’re probably paying attention to the wrong things. Embracing happiness can be as simple as paying attention to the more positive things in your life.
This really is as simple as cultivating gratitude. It’s been found that gratitude can point to a higher grade point average, life satisfaction, social integration, and absorption, an lower envy and depression.


What’s Next?

I know I say this a few times each season and throughout my blog posts… but your mindset is the game-changer. If you can shift your mindset and dig deeper to discover what is at the root of your comparisons and what will actually make you happy, you’ll be on the right path for YOU.


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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton