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It’s A Trap! How To Stop Feeling Like You’re On The Hot Mess Express

In Ask Coach Tony, you can put my Operation Melt coaching to the test by asking me questions about how to achieve your goals. 

Because a question asked by one is often a question had by many, I am regularly sharing these answers via the Operation Melt blog.


Before we jump into today's post, I offer you this "dad joke" as a light "amuse-bouche" to entertain your mind before we get serious. Like any other amuse-bouche, you may hate it, but it is worth every penny you paid for it, right?

Alligators can live up to 100 years… which is why there is an increased chance that they will see you later.

It’s A Trap! How To Stop Feeling Like You’re On The Hot Mess Express

Coach Tony: I’m struggling! All my friends seem to have their shit together and are making progress with their lives. But I feel like I’m a hot mess: I don’t have a plan, I’m dealing with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, and I am just trying to keep up with life. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I figure it out like everybody else has?

How many of you have felt this way before? You are struggling with living your day-to-day life while all your friends seem to be flourishing… they’re killing it, and you feel like it is killing you!

The feeling that you’re a “hot mess” is driven by the story you are telling yourself. In this case, the story is “that person is doing great; I should be more like them and I am not. I’m broken!” Is that a fair summary of the story in your brain?

Unfortunately, the story that you are telling yourself that’s making you feel miserable might be bullshit!

You Are Letting Your Joy Be Stolen

There are two problems where you compare your journey to somebody else’s. First, as Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy?” You and the friends you are comparing yourself with are like apples and oranges. You are completely different. Neither one of you has a life that is inherently better or worse.

It’s a trap!

You are falling victim to the comparison trap when you use someone else as your standard for what your life should be.

This comparison trap gets even more dangerous when you compare yourself to a work of fiction!

I will share a story from my life (an excerpt from my book Reflections on Leadership) that will illustrate what I mean.

Reflections on Leaership
Click to learn more about Reflections on Leadership

Your View is Limited

One warm, late summer morning, I was training for my first half marathon. I went for a long weekend run. 

My plan for this training was to run a distance of eleven miles. And yet, I ended up running the full 13.1, my first half marathon distance. The second half of my plan was to practice my pacing strategy. For my first half marathon, I had a plan to alternate between running a mile and walking a mile. 

I had reached the ten-mile point or so and had entered a walking period. There I was walking while multiple super fit people were running past me at Goodale Park in Columbus, a very popular running location.

Suddenly, I got self-conscious. I was walking, and they were running. Do they think I am less fit or less of an athlete? Should I start running so I fit in?

Are you kidding me?! What was I thinking?!

I was ten miles into my run, I was in training, I had a plan, and I was not going to deviate from it. Not to mention that I had only been running for about four or five months and was over three hundred pounds about a year prior. 

Who cares what the other runners think?! They didn’t know me, and they didn’t know all of the facts. Their view of the situation was limited. 

This is the perfect metaphor for leadership!

Leaders are like the onlookers who don’t know if that runner just started their run or if they are ten miles in. They don’t know the backstories or the other facets of the lives of those around them. The best leaders understand that their view is limited and are careful about their assumptions and judgments.

When you are a leader, you don’t know if that person who just showed up late did so because the line at the coffee shop was too long, because there was traffic or because they decided last night to get a divorce and had to move out of their house. You just don’t know. 

I had an HR partner who summarized this situation very well, “Everybody has stuff and you have no idea what that stuff is!” 

You only get to see the face that people want to show you!

Reality or “Reality”

Who are you comparing yourself to? Is it someone on tv or social media or even the perfect life your friend told you she has?

What if that comparison isn’t reality?

I’m not saying they are lying to you per se; it’s just that they aren’t telling you the full story.

The things you see on television and social media, or, in some cases, that people boast about, aren’t actual reality. They are a curated, made-for-television highlight reel of their lives. They are probably not rushing to tell you how their life is a hot mess, just like you think yours is.

The truth is that we all have parts of our lives that are messy… we all have “stuff” we are dealing with every day. As a long-time coach, mentor and leader, I assure you this is true. I know I have my fair share.

How to Feel Better

If you want to stop feeling like the hot mess express, there are some steps you can take.

  1. Change your mindset. The first step to feeling better is changing how you think about comparison. Give yourself a daily reminder (while journaling, through an affirmation or daily reminder on your phone) that you don’t need to compare yourself to anybody else. It is also helpful to remind yourself that you are likely only seeing their highlight reel.
  2. Silence the lies. Is your brain continuing to tell you stories about ways you are failing at life? Those stories are probably false… it’s just your brain’s natural fear of change. Download my Silencing the Lies worksheet from the Operation Melt Resources page to silence these stories and replace them with the truth.
  3. Refocus Your Energy. As I explained in Why Goals? 3 Ways Goals Have Hidden Magic Powers., “Life is a little different when you are pursuing big goals. Your goal becomes your vision for the future… your north star…. you will quickly start feeling like you are back in the driver’s seat of your life. Who doesn’t want that?” Instead of focusing so much energy on comparing yourself to others, redirect that energy to setting and pursuing your goals. It’s a shortcut to derailing your hot mess express and getting onto the happy train.
  4. Celebrate Progress. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate your progress… you’ve come so far! Focusing exclusively on what you have NOT accomplished instead of your wins is a recipe for frustration.

Do you want some help with changing your mindset, silencing your lies and refocusing your energy? These are all things I can help you accomplish through coaching. I am a Master Life Coach and have lots of experience with the negative stories we tend to tell ourselves. I would be honored to help you rewrite your story!

I believe in you and want to help YOU believe in you!

Click here to schedule a chat about your goals.

Meet Coach Tony

My name is Coach Tony, and I am a coach, author and project manager on a mission. I am working to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

I almost allowed one of my biggest life goals to die without ever being attempted for forty years. My goal almost died, not of failure but of loneliness. But, I took a risk and leveraged a simple, logical process that helped me wildly exceed my goal. 

I transformed my life, and you can do the same with the help of Operation Melt. 

Operation Melt provides engaging, practical content and hands-on coaching to inspire, motivate and equip project managers and other left-brained high-achievers to pursue and accomplish their biggest goals. 

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Disclaimer: The Operation Melt website and blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health and nutrition research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.

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