Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies. – Gore Vidal
Of all the things I’ve done, one of the rare smart moves I made was this: many decades ago I actively worked to defeat the emotion of jealousy. I honestly can’t say when the last time was I felt jealous.
Many years ago, I noticed jealousy creeping in when a friend succeeded or had great fortune. I hated the feeling. That’s no way to live, to be irritated when the people you love the most do well. I analyzed the emotion and realized jealousy wasn’t a problem with the friend. They weren’t gloating over their good fortune. They were simply enjoying it. I realized my jealousy was a problem with me.
Being jealous is no way to live, to be irritated when the people you love the most do well.
So I fixed my attitude. I believe the key to emotional hacking is to replace one emotion with another. You can’t stop emotion, but you can reprogram it. Use your neo-cortex to bombard thoughts into the amygdala until the emotion you want becomes your instinct. In short, fake it until you make it. Or, think as you wish to be.
Surprisingly quickly, I found myself enjoying others’ successes, instead of coveting them. I was able to experience genuine joy at their good fortune as well. I suspect they were relieved at my enthusiasm on their behalf. Usually when you succeed, there’s a least one person along the way who (intentionally or not) brings you down from your high with a belittling remark. It’s a delightful change of pace to have someone say, “That’s great! I’m happy for you!” and be real about it.
This is still a bit abstract, so let me mention as many specifics as I can to achieve this hack. First, be sure to appreciate what you have. Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate like an Olympic gold-medalist of appreciation. Be thankful for what you have and so glad you have it. That will keep you from thinking, “Shucks, everyone gets the breaks but me.”
Second, be honest. A lot of success comes from hard work. Usually jealousy activates when you see someone reach a milestone, but you weren’t there when they were staying up late and/or getting up early to get where they are. They got there by doing something you were unwilling or incapable of doing. Congratulate them on reaping the rewards of their efforts.
Of course, maybe they just got lucky, like say, won a drawing and scored a new car. Regardless, you should be happy for them. You wouldn’t want them angry at you in the same situation. You’re friends, they’ll share with you and if the roles were reversed, you would share with them.
Jealousy is deadly. It combines some insidious thoughts: you want something, but you don’t want to work for it and you dislike a friend for their success. Jealousy is toxic on many levels and it can and will destroy relationships you could just as easily be enjoying.