I had a smart and successful client use a fabulous phrase with me last week during our Happiness Hacking™ coaching session. We were discussing the downer she had got on at the weekend seeing perfect families out walking with their perfect children, which felt super painful because she is currently single. All totally understandable. It’s like rubbing salt into the wound when you see people effortlessly living that which seems so elusive to you.
It’s often the way isn’t it? If we are single all we see are perfect couples walking along hand in hand. Café’s positively over run with them. If we are trying to conceive and struggling then the world seems to be full of women sporting baby bumps at every turn, and every other Facebook photo is of someone else’s child. If our job is less than stellar or our business is struggling then all of a sudden the world seems filled with people making great money doing what they love when we can’t even work out what our passion is, let alone make a living doing it!
Any of that sound familiar?!
My client said she was suffering from a severe case of “Life Envy”, and I think that’s something that most of us can relate to.
Here’s what you a) need to know about Life envy, and b) what to do about it.
1. Life Envy can be POSITIVE. It can be an awesome force for good in that it can help you identify what you want in your life. That clarity is great. Once the goal is set however, its purpose is done. You don’t need the Life Envy anymore; you just need to get busy making that goal a happening thing rather than dwell on what you don’t have.
2. Whilst you are being envious of that person’s life, or let’s be very clear, WHAT YOU IMAGINE THAT PERSON’S LIFE TO BE (which might be a whole different thing), there are many people being envious of YOU! Maybe you have a beautiful home. Or a fantastic ass. Or hell, maybe you got a straight 8 hours sleep last night. If you can focus on the GOOD STUFF you already have going in your own life then the Life Envy will drop away. Look at YOUR OWN LIFE and figure out what might inspire some Life Envy in others and give thanks for that shizzle right now.
3. One of my favourite poems of all time is “Desiderata” written a 1927 by American writer Max Ehrmann. One of its most beautiful lines is:
“If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter, for always
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
Ain’t that the truth? There will always be people to whom you come off better in your perception, and some worse. Once you have a goal identified it really is best to drop the Life Envy. Who wants to be vain or bitter, right? It’s a game you can never really win.
4. Perspective Shifter. Next time a bit of Life Envy pops up – which is ALWAYS about a perceived LACK in our own life – have a think about what a Syrian Refugee would think of your life. Would they swap in a heartbeat? For sure. What about some of the poorer countries you have visited, what would the waitress in Fiji who brought you your long island iced tea think of all that you DO have? Feel the perceived lack start to recede.
5. Then get busy turning the energy of Life Envy around. Turn it into a positive energy in your own life. How? By instead of seeing every example of the LACK in your life demonstrated by the couple/baby/job/size 10 jeans/beachfront bach/whatever you have your heart set on – see it as EVIDENCE of the ABUNDANCE of the thing that you want, and BLESS IT. Yep, we are talking a 360-degree turn around in energy here. APPLAUD people for having the thing you want because it shows it’s possible. CELEBRATE them having that fantastic thing because you know how precious or important or glorious it is and take it as evidence of its achievability. Bless them. Congratulate them. Applaud them. (In your own head doll, not out loud, you don’t have to look like a nutter :)). So in your own head start saying “well that is so wonderful, what a happy looking family” or “she is blooming, good for you sweetie, I hope you are feeling well and getting lots of rest” or “I am so happy for you enjoying that fabulous bach, enjoy every moment of summer fun, just shows anything is possible” or “go you getting out running, you look amazing!” Can you see what a massive energy shift that is? To come from a place of praise, celebration and abundance rather than envy and lack? It feels SO much better, and can almost be like a little mental game to play with yourself. If you watch closely you might find that “Life Envy “ has become your default setting in your brain. If you can routinely take other people’s circumstances as EVIDENCE OF THE ABUNDANCE OF THOSE POSSIBILITIES (“Couples everywhere! That’s such a great thing to see, it does just show that there is someone for everyone!) rather than as evidence of lack, you are well on your way to creating the space to attract exactly what your heart desires into your life. The more you celebrate what is going on with others, the more you will have to celebrate in your own life. Works like a charm every time.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”