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How Envy Demotivates You From Becoming What You Want to Be

How Envy Demotivates You From Becoming What You Want to Be

Do you ever fall into the wormhole that is Instagram-stalking? You know what I’m talking about: you see a photo (perhaps someone you know, perhaps something on the popular page) and you tap it. Before you know it, you’ve been stalking this person for hours, trying to better understand their life. They have a great body, a cute significant other. They take pictures in front of gorgeous scenery (maybe because they travel a lot) and they have selfies from glamorous corner offices.

What started as a fun time-killing photo binge turns into a sad ego-killing hour or so that ends in you resenting your body, your less-than-glamorous job and maybe even your single relationship status. How did you get here? Weren’t you just having a perfectly happy day? A small voice in your head tells you those people only post the pretty-seeming aspects of their life, but they leave out all the bad days and embarrassing moments. But the louder voice tells you that you don’t measure up to this person inside your phone.

Envy — the Demon and the Angel

Envy. We know it as one of the 7 deadly sins, but what is it really? Jealousy in itself is a biting emotion that makes us feel bitter and even hateful toward a person (whether we know them or not). Envy has to do with feeling unhappy about someone else’s happiness. Be it professional success or personal, when you see their achievements, you instantly start comparing them to yours.

Interestingly, envy helped us evolve as a species. It’s all about the competition and social comparison that forces us to self-evaluate. In a healthy scenario, we would see someone’s success and find motivation to match their achievements. But when it comes to envy, we instead want what that person has and we desire it so much that we feel unhappy and even angry about it.[1]

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Even if you don’t think you’re guilty of the social media envy I mentioned earlier, there’s a high probability you’ve still envied someone recently. Maybe you found yourself envious of the coworker who got a raise? Perhaps you scoffed at the announcement, knowing they slack off most of the day. Or maybe you envied your friend’s weight loss success, even though she worked hard for months and you haven’t been to the gym in a year. Sometimes we feel we have the right to be jealous or upset, but other times, we can’t exactly justify our feelings.

How Envy Is Slowly Killing You

So we’re all guilty of envying others. Fine. But here’s the thing: when you allow that feeling to permeate all of your thoughts or emotions toward that individual or yourself, you lose sight of your own reality. See, when you can only focus on what those other people are doing on their greener grass, you fail to realize yours only looks darker because you’re standing under a rain cloud.[2]

You only have one life, yours. And if you waste it comparing yourself to other people and feeling envious about all the things they have that you want, you won’t have room for motivation because you’ll be so consumed with all that negativity.

How to Stop Envy From Taking Your Life

You don’t have to experience envy on such a negative level. There are ways to see things people are doing and view it as a motivator rather than a murderer.

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First, take a moment to realize how you react.

When you see a close friend achieve something great, do you cringe because you’re envious, or celebrate their victories? Alternatively, if something bad happens, like a job loss or failed test, do you commiserate with them, or celebrate that your life is better than theirs?

Delete your Facebook.

Okay, fine. You don’t have to delete it. But you should limit your time with it and be hyper-aware of how you use it. If it’s a time killer while you’re standing in line at Starbucks or a way to share pictures with that one distant aunt that feels like you two are closer than you are…then fine! But if you spend an excessive amount of time on the site envying your acquaintances new job or baby or boyfriend…then you might need to take a step back.

Remember you’re impressionable (sorry, but you are).

If you spend most of your time with people who value materialistic items and social status, then it won’t be long before you share the same values. This spirals into a constant need to have the most and the best amongst those people and anyone else you encounter. It’s exhausting, unrealistic and not to mention expensive! There are so many important things to care about in this life. Don’t get caught up in the false idols.[3]

Instead of comparing with others, compare with your past self.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the illusion that everyone seems to have it better than you. They’re thinner, prettier, more successful, happier…but you don’t know any of that for sure. Instead of getting so wrapped up in the idea that you are lesser, compare yourself to something tangible: your past self. I know I look back at photos of me, old articles I wrote, clothes I wore…and I realize how far I’ve come. My weight has gone up and down, but I’m more driven now than I ever have been to get healthy and stay healthy instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for myself.

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I look at the group of friends I have and I’m so grateful I got rid of the toxic “friends” I once cared so much about. And of course, I dress much better! The point is to recognize the aspects of you that are better now than they were before. Keep the comparison healthy and personal, not fantastical and bitter. When you are comparing present-day-you with your own self, you see the progress you’ve made and you gain the satisfaction. No envy, just happy!

Put yourself into the others’ shoes (the people that you envy).

There’s a saying that I’ll paraphrase here: Don’t ever envy someone. You don’t know anything about their journey.

The idea of the saying is simple: someone may appear to have it all, but behind closed doors, they could be broken and struggling. Though you can never truly know what someone may be going through in secret, you can still try to imagine what it would be like to switch places with them. If you were to become the person you envy, imagine what it would be like (the good and the bad).

To make this example generic, let’s pretend I’m super envious of Lady Gaga. If I were to be her, I would have fame through music (pro), an attractive lover (pro), constant body shaming (con), no personal space because of all the paparazzi (con), a struggle to make the music I want vs. what my label demands (con). While this is obviously a fictionalized take on her life, it could very well be accurate. And really, I don’t think I’d want to switch places with her.

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When you can imagine both the upside and downside of something, you’ll stop envying people you may not actually know anything about and start to appreciate what you have more and more.

Practice gratitude.

Recently I found myself guilty of envy and some negativity in general. I was too “in my head” about things and it was resulting in a lot of unhealthy stress. I love to journal, so I decided to devote one page to gratitude. The premise is simple: when I think of things that make me grateful, happy, joyful, I write them down. And it’s not an intimidating list at all (think: cold brew, rainy days, sleeping in before a big brunch date), so when I say you can practice gratitude right now, I mean it.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Envy: The Emotion Kept Secret
[2] StartUpBros: Killing the 7 Motivation Murderers
[3] Becoming Minimalist: A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Envy

More by this author

Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

The 7 Types of Learners: What Kind of Learner Am I? What If All the Choices You Make Every Day Aren’t What You Need Most? What To Eat (And Not To Eat) When You Are Suffering From Inflammation! Yes Life Can Be Boring Sometimes. But There’re Some Tricks to Make It More Interesting Why Our Personal Values Matter More Than Ever Today

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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