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Why Career Envy Is Actually A Good Thing

When you’re coveting your coworker’s natural skills, you’re also learning and building your own.

Why Career Envy Is Actually A Good Thing
[Original photo by Flickr user Jaap Joris]

Every human being has something unique and important to offer while they are alive. It is up to each one of us to figure out what that is and to have the courage to pursue it. If we don’t, it’s lost forever.

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In our culture, we spend a lot of time getting education and training on skills to help us earn a living. However, we don’t get much help when it comes to building a life. We lack training on important life skills and are often left wondering, “What in the heck is my special gift and how do I find that out?”

I hear time and again from colleagues–very talented and experienced professionals mind you–that they need such life skills. They bemoan the fact that they don’t have them and have little idea where to turn to start discerning answers for themselves.

A Simple Solution

What it takes to get started building life-skills is a curiosity about yourself and a willingness to believe you are worth being curious about, which I assure you is true.

Begin by asking yourself some key questions: What is important to me? What is not important to me? What makes me happy? What does not make me happy? What am I trying to achieve? What am I willing not to achieve? Another important clue is honing in on what makes you enthusiastic.

But one of the most effective ways to get a clue on the direction you should take your life is to inquire, “Who am I jealous of?” Without filtering, without discounting what comes to mind, write it down. The more unfiltered the better, because that is likely the most real answer.

You’re likely be thinking to yourself, “Why would I intentionally want to make myself feel jealous? Jealousy is not a fun emotion.” Instead of thinking about jealousy as an emotion with a negative connotation, consider the possibility of what that jealousy means. On a deep, fundamental level, the person you’re jealous of can be an indication of where you want your life to go.

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The Jealousy Evaluation

There are a few stipulations of course to uncovering your gifts through your jealousy evaluation. If you are jealous of a particular person because of their wealth, fame, age, or beauty, then you need to dig deeper.

Researchers have found that there are two different kinds of envy: Malicious and benign. Malicious envy causes individuals to have destructive feelings against themselves or others. But we’re aiming for benign envy, which can motivate you to improve yourself. How you’ll know that you have hit benign jealousy is if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or even confused why that person came to mind. This uneasiness is a sign that you’re onto something.

Once you have your person in mind, it’s time to do some research. For example, when I set out to discover whom I was jealous of, the first person that came to mind was Gandhi. This made me pretty darn uncomfortable, mostly because I was afraid of what it would tell me about my life and what might be asked of me (by me) if I looked into this further. And would I have to wear the robe?

I knew so very little about him, so I decided to find out if there was anything to this jealous emotion by reading more about Gandhi. The more I dove in, the more uncomfortable I felt. That is, until I read his quote: “If you think you can separate faith and politics, you don’t understand faith.”

This idea perfectly embodied the reason why I launched a startup: to build a company based on my beliefs, even at the risk of being rejected or misunderstood. Channeling Gandhi, my quote then would be, “If you think you can leave your beliefs at the door of your business, then you don’t understand beliefs.”

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One of the surest ways to unhappiness is to live separate from your beliefs. While I’m still exploring here, it has helped me realize I am not alone in wanting to make things better in my little corner of the world. And I can practice courage in living this daily, like Gandhi did.

Oftentimes our gifts go undiscovered and unclaimed for fear of rejection, embarrassment, or being misunderstood. In order to discover your gifts, sometimes it takes stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking a deeper look at who on an unconscious level you want to emulate.

Ask yourself this simple question: who am I jealous of? These simple words can lead your mind in a direction that your truest self wants to take. The journey may be uncomfortable and irrational, but it will make sense on a gut and heart level. Stick it out. See what unfolds as the next step in your career and your life.

Sara Gates is CEO and founder of Wisegate. She is on a personal mission to bring transparency to the Information Technology (IT) industry and give professionals a powerful voice in their own industry. Prior to starting Wisegate, a personal IT advisory service, Sara served as an executive with Sun Microsystems, Waveset Technologies, Microsoft and several start-ups.

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