How to overcome envy and purify your soul



AMERICAN actress and professional model Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) said: “Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing the envy in the eyes of those around you.” Truly, envy can destroy any and every one of us. If you can’t check or control it, sooner than you can imagine, that bitterness can consume your entire being.

Explaining the folly of envy, author Rolf Dobelli tells a Russian tale in his book The Art of Thinking Clearly (2013): “A farmer finds a magic lamp. He rubs it, and out of thin air a genie appears, promising to grant him one wish. The farmer thinks about it for a while. Finally, he says: ‘My neighbour has a cow and I have none. I hope that his drops dead.’”

Dobelli describes this story “as absurd as it sounds” but still reeks of reality in one’s everyday life. Imagine your neighbour buying a brand new Toyota Innova, while you’re still stuck in your 15-year old Mitsubishi Adventure that you bought second-hand. You feel envy, right?

In the workplace, your best friend whom you introduced to the company gets a promotion, a new car, and a higher salary, while you remain stuck as a clerk. This happens despite the fact that you’ve logged in more years of service in the same company and you thought you’ve done a good job. Now, how would you feel?

You’ll be green with envy, right? The trouble is that according to Dobelli, this same envy “creates a chain of irra-tional behavior: You refuse to help (your friend) any longer, sabotage his plans, (and) perhaps even puncture the tires of his Porsche.”

That’s an extreme. Yours may not go to the extent you’d be committing illegal acts. As a writer, I also envy well-read local writers and bestselling authors who share my interest in business management, especially the kind who cornered national recognition at the annual Catholic Mass Media Awards. But it’s a different thing when it comes to foreign management writers. I don’t envy them. Instead, I regard them as my models, like Dobelli is.

“Envy is the ulcer of the soul,” according to Greek philosopher Socrates. It may appear to be selfish, but it’s a hu-man thing. Whether you like it or not, you tend to be envious of the success of other people.

And so how would you control your envy? The Positivity Blog by Henrik Edbert offers five strategies, and they’re followed by my parochial interpretation of his prescription:

One, “focus on yourself when it comes to comparing.” Comparing yourself with others who have achieved some-thing great can always make you miserable in life. It will never end. The list can be endless because there are many successful people out there. Therefore, a better approach would be to compare yourself with what you have done before and not with what other people have accomplished.

Two, “be grateful for what you’ve got.” Count your blessings is a familiar refrain. And it’s also good for the soul. Start the day by saying your morning prayer. Do the same thing when you go to sleep. Remember all the good things you’ve done for the day. Take stock of your daily accomplishments. Then plan to beat your past accom-plishment the next day, no matter how trivial it may appear to be.

Three, “develop an abundance mentality.” Focusing yourself on the few and scarce opportunities can make you agitated and miserable. Waiting for the next one can make you impatient. Instead, believe that the world has a lot to offer. Enlarge the pie, instead of fighting for your little share. Prepare to create one opportunity after another. That’s one best way to invent your future.

Four, “think about of what’s in it for you.” It helps you to rethink your position on anything. It can lull you into a negative space, but it can also help you reassess the validity of your own stupidity. The sooner you think that you’re being stupid again, then move out of the rut right away.

Five, “get a life.” Rock the boat if you may, without offending other people. Leave your comfort zone to discover other things, preferably the road less traveled. Don’t go where the crowd is. However, you can get many lessons from other models, but not to copy them hook, line and sinker. As long as you don’t sit mindlessly, you’ll soon dis-cover other things.

And if I may add, here’s the last technique for you. Win based on your unique strength, and not on the weakness of other people.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing on human resources and total quality management as a fused inter-est. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts on Elbonomics.


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