In the early years of our business, I woke up one day to fully realize I had a real problem that was affecting my personal happiness and the progress and success of our business. It had eventually started to surface as growing bitterness and frustration. And it became a huge distraction for me and our team.
Ultimately I realized it had paralyzed and stalled the forward movement of our journey. It included a growing discontent, a sour attitude and deep lack of gratitude for what we had and were doing.
When I started to really dig down to the core of it all (or to just be honest with myself), I realized it was jealousy.
I was jealous and envious of what other people were doing and other people’s success.
The definition of jealousy is “the feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.”
Simply put: We want something someone else has or is getting.
And that was me …
I had gotten consumed in seeing other people succeed with less effort and honesty, by taking shortcuts, getting more acclaim and traction while we toiled without our proper due. And I was mad. I felt it wasn’t fair. I felt we were justly entitled to that success. So I grumbled. I groaned. I got angry.
And it affected everything in my life and business. It crippled our progress and prosperity.
Sadly, it took maybe a year of this self-inflicted misery and self-sabotage, to realize and fully embrace one simple yet ironic truth about it all:
It’s not about them.
It was never about them. And it should never have been about them.
But for that entire time, wrapped up in my jealousy, I had made it (my life, our business) completely, 100% about them.
But the truth was and still is:
It’s about me.
It’s about my team.
It’s about my customers.
And our story, our journey together.
But by wallowing in my jealousy, and making it about others who weren’t on our journey, I betrayed that truth, deeply. I betrayed myself and our team and our customers. And the journey we were on and the progress we had made and were making.
You know … I’ve always looked at my life and my work as a journey to the summit of a mountain. I am an achiever. I like to always be heading somewhere. And I look at our team as all of us in unison, pulling, striving together for one purpose, one goal.
But being consumed in jealousy of other’s journey meant as the leader of ours, I had stopped and stalled myself and our team on a mountain pass in order to watch someone else’s journey.
I became a spectator.
A bitter one at that.
And because I stood watching, my team became part of the audience too.
Instead of a climber and a leader, I became a mere observer, watching others move forward while going nowhere ourselves. There was no real progress because in my foolish distraction I had put my energy and effort elsewhere. And began to seep into my team.
(Sidebar: In my experience as a leader, your health and happiness infects your team. If you’re miserable, your team will be miserable. If you’re distracted, they will be too. If you’re focused, happy, plugged in, they’ll likely follow your lead.)
Looking back, it was so wasteful. I’m embarrassed thinking back about it. I had squandered the finite, valuable resources of time, energy, talent and yes, money focused more on what someone else was doing than what we were doing.
Jealousy, you know, is really dumb.
Smart people don’t succumb to it. Good, focused, purpose-filled people don’t allow themselves to drown in it.
I had and I knew better.
But I know I’m not alone … I realize it’s part of the human condition — to be caught up in what other people get or have at the expense of your own prosperity and progress. And I’ve seen it in in our team, in the WordPress community and in our customer community as well as every other facet of my life.
So we have to battle our natural tendencies (as I still do every day).
That’s why I wanted to share my story and tackle this topic today because here’s the blunt truth:
Jealousy is an obstacle to your purpose, your progress and your prosperity.
So I want to help blow up jealousy in your life with this post and give some more thoughts and tools I’ve used to combat it and turn it into positive, productive progress toward my journey.
How I Rewire Jealousy for Productive, Positive Purposes
When jealousy creeps up, here are 5 ways I use to combat it and direct the energy it draws up in me:
1. Refocus and realign your thoughts, emotions and energy back to yourself, your journey, your story, your hopes and dreams, your goals and success, your progress and prosperity.
Say to yourself: “Hey, remember, it’s not about them. It’s about me. It’s about us. It’s about our journey and story together. Let’s get back to work on it. I am a player in my own game, not a spectator of someone else’s.”
I choose instead to put ALL the focus on us. Because as my dear friend put it, “Everything else is noise and distraction” to our journey.
Sometimes, I have to go back to ground zero and the roots of my purpose and passion and ask myself, “Why am I doing this again?”
More importantly: “Who am I doing this for?”
The biggest bump I get from refocusing and realigning myself is remembering the bigger purpose for my life and our business — to make people’s lives awesome.
I reflect on the stories our customers have sent us saying we’ve changed their lives in some way. I think about specific people I’ve met and their stories they’ve shared with me. I think about my own unique talents and strengths and contribution to helping make people’s lives better as well as those of our team. And like a fog lifting from the air, I find the gloom, misery and destructive force of jealousy start turning into the bright, positive, inspiring, energizing vision of the journey we’re on together.
2. Reset your expectations. Happiness and success are not a fundamental right. You are not entitled to them. You are not owed anything in this world.
In fact, I know I’m merely a steward of anything I have or get.
So say to yourself: “I’m not entitled to anything, and I refuse to feel entitled about anything in my life. The only thing I can control is what I do with the time, talent and treasure I have. And I choose today, this day, to apply them for maximum impact in order to make progress on my goals and my journey to make people’s lives awesome.”
My business mentor gave me this amazing quote: “Anger and frustration come from unmet expectations.”
Whenever I feel jealousy, or anger, or frustration creeping up in my situation, I reassess my expectations and ask why I feel that way.
Most of the time, the reasons I have unmet expectations are completely and utterly out of my control. And I choose instead of seeking to control something that is uncontrollable, I focus it more positively and productively – the things I can control: my emotions, my focus, my energy and effort, my time.
But I also seek to ask: Am I seeking to lay claim to someone else’s achievements and advantages?
And I remind myself … I have been given today. This moment. These resources. With these set of rules to play by. Everything I have, these things, are my only advantage. How I elect to utilize them creatively, innovatively, strategically, uniquely for the benefit of others is all on me.
How will you choose to use your allotment of time, talent and treasure?
Don’t squander it in buried in entitlement.
3. Redirect the energy and effort produced by jealousy to make great, more meaningful, positive progress toward your own goals for the benefit of others.
Jealousy summons an enormous amount of energy within us. We get mad and angry. And if we use that energy for jealousy, it’s simply a draining resource hog, depleting our precious resources that could be used for worthwhile progress. But since the jealousy energy engine is already revved up, I say we should simply utilize that energy for good, positive, constructive progress of our own.
In this way, I seek to use every emotion as fuel for my fire. Leaving nothing unused, I throw it all, positive or negative, onto the fire of my passion, my drive, my focus, my vision.
When jealousy wells up within you, say to yourself: “This is just more fuel for my fire, my journey, my story. It’s a reminder that I need all of my energy for this effort. And I’ll use this amped up negative energy to make positive and productive progress toward my journey, to get refocused on what I’m doing and to take it to the next level.”
4. Reorient yourself to thankfulness for your own achievements and advantages. For what you have, or done. And most importantly, who you have in your life. All of them.
This is my favorite action against jealousy and the one I’m seeking to use more deeply in my life.
Gratitude is the perfect antidote to the negativity of jealousy. They are mortal enemies.
Deep, sincere thankfulness destroys any attitude of entitlement.
Ask these two questions to prompt gratitude:
- What are the achievements you’ve made in the past and present and will most likely be making in the future?
- What are the advantages you have had and enjoy now?
My thankfulness in the face of jealousy often centers on the opportunities and advantages I have now that millions and billions do not, from living in the most prosperous time in history where I daily enjoy clean, ever-available water, electricity for light, heat, and cooking elements, fuel to travel virtually anywhere I want, abundant food sourced literally from all over the world but available minutes from my home, and access to the best healthcare in history, among many others ….
(By the way, you’re reading this post via the most innovative communications tool ever devised, the web, on a computer that is likely more powerful than those that were on spacecraft that orbited the earth — oh yeah, while living in the era of space exploration! — created and accessed with free software.)
But most of all I’m thankful for WHO I have in my life. The most valuable thing I have are the people in my life and who by their presence in it make me infinitely wealthy.
Ask: What are you thankful for? What opportunities and advantages do you have that others do not? And more importantly, WHO are you thankful for in your life (past and present)?
5. Recognize bitterness and reject it for what it is — poison.
Jealousy leads to anger and then bitterness. Learn to be watchful for the early signs of it in your life and attitude and make it your enemy. Thankfully, I got to it before it led to fully poisoning me.
For me, I think those emotions come to the surface when I feel powerless to do anything about my situation.
But that’s a lie. I can always do something about my situation but more importantly especially my attitude about it.
One remedy for bitterness, beyond the many of the previously mentioned steps, is to simply take one or two meaningful, positive actions toward your own dreams and goals.
Progress makes me feel more in control of my situation and attitude and it shrinks the feelings of bitterness in me.
No one wants to feel helpless and powerless. But when we succumb to jealousy we will feel more helpless and powerless and inevitably the most bitter are the ones who feel like victims because of it.
I choose action. I choose to stand up, take one step in the direction of progress and prosperity.
So those are my thoughts, ideas and tips for you on how to counteract the negative force of jealousy in your life.
I hope you’ll put them into practice as I seek to do every day and remove this obstacle so that you can make maximum progress!
My life has changed drastically for the better because of these positive actions and when I decided to shift my thinking, energy and focus onto things I can control and things that matter most.
When I practice these truths in my life, I’m not consumed by negative energy and thoughts. But I use that energy to make great forward progress toward my own prosperity.
And I’m healthier and happier and yes, wealthier.
Founder of iThemes.com