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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

The Cost of Envy

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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

    Photo credit: Source

    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 November 18, 2021

      10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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      10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

      We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

      A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

      So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

      • honest
      • reliable
      • competent
      • kind and compassionate
      • capable of taking the blame
      • able to persevere
      • modest and humble
      • pacific and can control anger.

      The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

      1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

      All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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      But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

      2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

      How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

      I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

      “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

      Abigail Van Buren

      3. How does this person take the blame?

      Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

      4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

      You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

      5. Read their emails.

      Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

      • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
      • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
      • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
      • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
      • Too many question marks can show anger
      • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

      6. Watch out for the show offs.

      Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

      7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

      A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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      Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

      8. Their empathy score is high.

      Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

      People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

      9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

      We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

      “One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

      Stendhal

       10. Avoid toxic people.

      These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

      • Envy or jealousy
      • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
      • Complaining about their own lack of success
      • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
      • Obsession with themselves and their problems

      Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

      Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

      Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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