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The Cost of Envy

The Cost of Envy

In our competitive environment today, it’s very easy to become envious of others’ successes. In the startup field, there are always a few phenomenal individuals who bloom quickly in their respective industries. I know of one that produced an app that quickly gained 20 million users, and another that won several outstanding business awards and garnered lots of attention from the media. Another small startup quickly grew to have 200 employees.

When a colleague outperforms you, a friend has a bustling social life, or when someone has a seemingly perfect relationship, it is easy to turn to resentment.[1] Most of the time, we don’t admit to these feelings, but the green-eyed monster lurks beneath the surface.

Whether or not we’d like to admit it, we’ve all felt jealous of someone else in the past.

Competitive and jealous feelings are an adaptive strategy. Humans are naturally inclined to compare to others because it was essential to outperform others in order to survive.[2]

While it seems natural to become envious or resentful of others, the feeling does more harm than good.

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Envy Costs Your Entire Mind

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    Envy interferes with people’s ability to think and act. Instead of working on attaining a high level of success, it focuses a person’s energy on what they lack.[3] An envious person is blind to their own progress since their only aim is to have what someone else already has. Without benchmarks for their progress, envious individuals quickly lose their motivation altogether.

    Those who worry about the final outcomes that others experience don’t think about the journey that their competitors had to take to reach that level of success.[4] Envious people are blind to their own strengths, and they’re unable to see the weaknesses of rivals.

    If you spend your whole life envying others because you think they are more efficient, more easily promoted, or better at solving problems, you’ll never become better. A person who wastes time worrying about others’ successes will not be able to see his or her own potential. Even when the envious person succeeds, he or she will likely still be so focused on the other person that there is little cause for celebration. The vicious cycle continues, and the envious individual never feels satisfied.

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    The reality is that there will always be someone smarter, better, or stronger. Enviousness condemns people to lead lives in which they constantly hope to have more. The green-eyed monster can never be satisfied. Intrinsic motivation for success yields better outcomes than resentment of others’ accomplishments.

    Cut the Chord and Stop Depending on Envy

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      I understand that even the most altruistic and optimistic among us may be tempted to envy others from time to time. When I face envy, I revisit my purpose and desire to succeed. I find motivation through grounding myself in my vision.

      When I first started Lifehack, it was a struggle. This was during a time when the web was becoming exponentially popular each day, and lots of new companies were popping up everywhere to fill in the space.  During that time I heard about a startup close by that quickly grew to fill a huge office. Their building had four floors, a fancy layout, a big canteen, and a rec room with a pool and a dartboard. Almost immediately I thought, “Wow! That sounds cool. I wish I could have those things too. It must be nice.” I was impressed, but started to have that uncomfortable feeling comparing myself to this suddenly successful startup.

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      I could have allowed this feeling to fester, but instead I turned inward to remember what was important to me. I reminded myself that I am most interested in creating an environment that boosts productivity. Anything that doesn’t increase productivity is superfluous, and could actually create distractions.

      Then, I thought about the goals of my work. I want to create a product that has a positive influence on others. It doesn’t matter whether my office space seems cool. What is truly important is how the work that we do in these offices can change lives.

      My team doesn’t need all those bells and whistles to create a fun work environment. My team members are fun and creative all on their own. If I spent all my time worrying about how big their offices were, I’d be upset with myself for not being able to offer them what that other startup has. I’d be too busy worrying about my feelings of guilt to push my mission forward.

      When I focus on my aspirations and work to improve myself, it brings me closer to achieving my mission. Knowing what I really want is the best motivation, and it wards off envy better than vain attempts to have what everyone else has. There’s just no reason for me to envy what others have because those things don’t align with my vision for this company.

      Freeing myself from the control of envy has liberated me from unrealistic and counter-productive desires. I can see the progress I’ve made as well as the areas in which I’d like to grow, and I allow my work to stand on its own merit instead of constantly comparing it to the work of others.

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      Not only is freeing oneself of envy critical for staying focused on what is important, it also makes life much more pleasant. Being able to applaud another person’s success without having a negative reaction has led to more opportunities and partnerships than if that success had created an adversarial relationship.

      When you start to covet the success of others, realign yourself with your vision, and recognize that we are all on a journey to become the greatest versions of ourselves.

      Featured photo credit: chibird via chibird.com

      Reference

      [1] Emotional Competency: Envy
      [2] Psychology Today: Envy: The Emotion Kept Secret
      [3] Huffpost: How to Keep Jealousy and Envy From Ruining Your Life
      [4] Fast Company: How To Turn Your Career Envy Into Motivation

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on October 22, 2019

      Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make)

      Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make)

      You’re struggling to find this elusive thing called “happiness.” Most days, you feel either overwhelmed, anxious, angry, depressed, or flat. Or, maybe you experience quick shifts of mood.

      You can remember times when you were happy, but they seem distant, and your life circumstances are different now.

      But what if I told you that you can actually choose happiness? And, that it’s easier than you think?

      In this article, I’ll break down the basics of how you can lead a happier life, just by following a few basic principals. These are easy to implement in your own life, which means happiness is just around the corner!

      Ready to find out more about how and why happiness is a choice? Let’s dive in further to gain a deeper understanding.

      Happiness Isn’t an Idea, It’s an Experience

      The idea that happiness is a choice seems to be just that, an idea, and one that doesn’t apply to you. How can you choose to be happy when someone has treated you so badly, when circumstances beyond your control are bombarding you with pain?

      Many people feel this way.

      Each year, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases the World Happiness Report.

      This measures the overall happiness of different countries. The 2018 report finds that residents in Finland rank first place, while the residents in the United States are all the way behind in 18th place.

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      Despite the fact that Americans’ incomes have more than doubled since 1972, we’re not even in the top 10 of happiest countries.

      Understand the Easterlin Paradox

      Americans have continuously made more money, yet we’re not reporting an increase in happiness. This disparity between income and happiness is called the Easterlin Paradox.

      Chances are you see more money now than you ever have in your life, yet you’re still trapped in the paradox, struggling to understand why you’re unhappy.

      What explains the paradox?

      The answer to this question can help you understand what happiness is. Solving this dilemma seems complex — it is a paradox, after all. Yet the answer is a lot simpler than you might expect: happiness is a choice.

      It’s as Simple as Choosing Happiness

      Happiness is a state of being that you can seize, such as when a runner takes in air with her lungs. Each inhalation is essential, and with every inhalation, exhalation must follow.

      If happiness is a state of being, then you could say that happiness is simply an experience, or a set of experiences.

      Amanda Pinnock is a college student at Arizona State University who experienced this type of happiness without ever expecting it. To earn her degree in global health, she needed to do a study abroad program, but she was worried she was going to be disconnected from her group as a nontraditional student earning her degree online. [1]

      To her surprise, the other students in her group were inclusive and eager to connect. Then there were the locals in Fiji, the country she’d chosen for the program. They seemed to truly understand how happiness is a choice. According to Amanda:

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      “Fijians are probably the happiest and humblest people in the world. They welcomed us with open arms and made sure we were fed and had the accommodations we needed. It wasn’t until I talked further with the group leader and tour guide that I realized they were giving us more than what they have for themselves on a daily basis.”

      Plenty of Fijians don’t have running water, but Amanda noted that they felt they lacked for nothing. She says:

      “They live off the earth and they all help one another … They may not have had nearly as much money as an average American, but they are wealthy in their lives, and I think Americans can learn a lot from that. It really put into perspective what’s most important: family, loved ones and the environment.”

      For the Fijians Amanda encountered, happiness isn’t a concept, it’s the act of supporting each other.

      Happiness is the act of finding joy in everyday experiences with other people.

      Communities of people who give to each other and share the value of generosity, the value of love—a love which expects nothing in return—are the happiest.

      That’s why, according to the World Happiness Report, generosity and social support networks are two key factors that lead to happiness. [2]

      Every second you’re alive and conscious, you have choices to make. Amanda Pinnock chose to experience another culture even though she was worried about fitting in. She was happy to share the experience with the other students and the Fijians that welcomed them.

      Each day of your conscious existence you can choose to support others, to accept their support, to engage in activities that are good for you.

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      All of these acts will bring happiness. You can choose to trust others and do things that help them to trust you. You can choose to build up the community around you and be a part of it.

      The Art of Sisu Can Change You

      In Finland, famine wiped out 9 percent of the population during the 1860s —hardly an event that would engender happiness. The Finns have made a point of recovering by embracing a philosophy called sisu, which is a shared value of grit, determination, and rational action, even when life is painful.

      Sisu is also about powering through exercises that are challenging and uncomfortable, such as taking a swim in an ice-cold river, running a marathon, or biking to work in the rain. [3]

      According to This Is Finland, “Sisu is extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity … Sisu is embodied by people everywhere who defy the odds and hold on to hope when at first there seems to be none.”

      Sisu is simple: seize life, do it with courage, and build your courage by engaging with the world in challenging ways.

      Be Proactive in Your Happiness

      You can be happy by being proactive. People who choose to recover from addiction choose to take proactive steps toward recovery.

      You can think of choosing to be happy as choosing to recover from depression. As it turns out, exercise benefits recovery in a number of ways:

      • Exercise imitates the effect of drugs on your brain (or rather, drugs imitate the effect of exercise) by releasing endorphins.
      • Exercise helps you sleep better and increases feelings of well-being.
      • Exercise helps you cope with stress, structure your day, and improve your physical fitness.
      • This lines up very well with sisu, although sisu asks you to take it to another level and challenge yourself beyond your comfort level.

      Even if you don’t take it to that extent, start small and exercise on a regular basis, then build up to greater challenges. Work on making connections with other people based around your exercise routine.

      What the Buddhists Know

      Buddhism is particularly concerned with cultivating happiness through constant practice.

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      First, Buddhists acknowledge that existence lends itself to pain and mental dysfunction. This is the wear and tear of the world that comes from desiring and expecting what you don’t have.

      Buddhists follow a set of practices towards enlightenment:

      • Clear the mind of negative thoughts: Recognize negative thoughts, redirect them positively, and act on positive thoughts.
      • Practice mindfulness: Without applying judgment, contemplate how your body feels and pay attention to your breathing; pay attention to your own thoughts; pay attention to “phenomena” — the world around you.
      • Meditate and concentrate: Let random thoughts go while you’re sitting and concentrating on one single thing, such as the sound of water, your breathing, or a humming sound.
      • Have compassion: Personal happiness is directly related to the happiness of others. Contemplation of others and their suffering leads you to a place of true compassion, and compassion for others is a simple path towards happiness.

      Buddhists choose to live neither in the past or future.

      Thoughts of the past can bring brooding and depression, and thoughts of the future can bring anxiety. Contemplation of the present and compassion for others in the present can help alleviate depression and anxiety, freeing your mind to accept happiness.

      People choose many creeds, philosophies, and religions in the pursuit of happiness. In any situation, you can choose to concentrate on what makes you happy.

      You can choose to accept the most excruciating challenge as an opportunity to be good now and to create happiness.

      Make the Smart Choice of Happiness

      Happiness is finding joy in everyday experiences.

      When you choose to include other people in your happiness, then with it comes community—in both social networks and shared experiences.

      Happiness is the smart choice because deep down it’s what your being strives for; it’s what other people want, too.

      When we’re choosing happiness together, we’re choosing to care for each other, and the whole world opens up to infinite possibility.

      More About Happiness

      Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Arizona State University: Find Yourself by Getting Lost
      [2] World Happiness Report: World Happiness Report 2018
      [3] This is Finland: Sisu Begins Where Perseverance Ends

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