Use Your Envy for Good
Back in the early days of starting my first business, I had some pretty ugly moments. I would find myself looking around at the other founders I knew and wishing for a piece of their action. There always seemed to be someone else doing more, making more, and achieving more than I was. And when I wasn’t careful, those comparisons would deflate me and cause me to wonder if I should just give up and throw in the towel.
Maybe you’ve felt that way, too. Maybe you’ve watched friends, colleagues, family members, someone else do something you’ve wanted to do and hated them for it. Or maybe in the face of their success you’ve criticized the trade-offs they had to make along the way (“I would never give up my social life like they have…”). Or maybe you’ve just cursed your own “bad luck” and left it at that.
Believe me, I get it. Achieving things is hard. Succeeding at things we care about is hard. And when you’re climbing a hill, it’s so easy to look at others and think of how much easier/better/luckier they have it, and then to want some of that for yourself. And despite the fact that it’s pretty universal, we’re never taught how to treat our comparisonitis. We’re never given the tools to manage our envy responsibly.
But like so many things in life, envy doesn’t have to be bad. It’s just a feeling. A signal. And it’s what we do with that feeling or signal that makes it “good” or “bad.”
When I found myself in my envious-woes all those years ago, my partner said to me: “It’s normal to be jealous. But what can you learn from other people’s successes that will help you create your own?” And just like that, I was given a formula to turn something potentially ugly and destructive (envy) into something productive and helpful (ideas/stimuli for progress).
Jealousy is okay. But we don’t have to wallow in despair and self-pity when we see others being successful. We don’t have to see their success as a reason to give up on our own. (There is enough success out there for all of us.) We don’t have to quit just because someone else already did what we want to do. And we don’t have to stop just because someone else is ahead of us.
We can choose to be inspired instead of jealous. We can choose to open up instead of shut down. We can choose to see a role model instead of a rival. And, most important, we can choose to use our envy to fuel us and drive us instead of stopping us in our tracks.
It’s not easy, but it can be simple. We can use our envy for good.