Has this ever happened to you?
You notice something about a friend, something they have that you wish you had.
The perfect body - I wish I looked more like that.
Effortless success at work - why is everything so hard for me?
Their annoyingly upbeat mental state - I wish I had that energy.
Or maybe you experience this with another couple you know.
They go on amazing trips – we never go on vacations like those.
Their seemingly relaxed and stress-free life – why are we so rushed and overwhelmed all the time?
Their ability to keep their house looking like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine - why is our house such a mess?
We all have friends, couples, or even celebrities that spark this painful experience of comparison. It's that feeling of missing out mixed with not being enough. At its core, it’s the feeling of envy, the sting that comes from wishing we had someone else's something...body, discipline, success, or marriage.
Where do you feel envy? Who sparks this feeling in you? It's worth asking these questions so you can become more aware of the force of envy in your life.
How can you dissolve envy? It's worth asking this question so you can put an end to this painful inner experience. Here's how.
Several years ago, we experienced couple envy ourselves. This other couple seemed to have it all: lavish vacations in cool places, ample time to rest and relax together, and abundant financial resources.
That's when we noticed something interesting. We noticed that we only really wanted a small slice of their life. We wanted their vacations and financial resources. But we didn’t want their careers, family situation, the complicated dynamics of their life, or the pressures they faced.
In short, we just wanted the dessert, not the full meal. What we realized that day is that envy is a selective desire. And the cure for envy is to see this -- to see that you just want one small part of what someone else has, without the complicated and messy life that goes along with it.
Test this for yourself. Choose that person or that couple that gives rise to this feeling of envy. Now imagine that you can’t just get that one thing you want – their model-like physique, their boundless energy, or their outrageous financial success. No, imagine you have to have the “full meal”: their strange quirks, self-destructive habits, and all the pressures in life that they face.
The moment you do this thought experiment, envy usually disappears. Because most of the time, we just want that one dazzling quality without everything else that comes along with it. We want the dessert, not the full meal.
The second step is to simply appreciate the life you have. It’s the shift from placing your attention on all the things you wish you had to placing it on what you actually do have. It’s the practice of gratitude.
To do this, just think of three things in your life right now that you feel grateful for: your connection with your spouse, where you live, the time you get to spend with your children, or the sense of purpose you get from your work outside or inside the house.
The science on this is clear: the shift to gratitude is perhaps the most powerful and efficient way to experience greater wellbeing. It's also one of the most powerful ways to finally put an end to comparison and envy.