After a rash of immature decisions in my late 20s, I felt relegated to the ranks of the clueless and broke. I envied friends with partners, families, real estate and emergency funds. But ultimately, I brokered envy into profit by listening to the lessons of my discontent.
1. Find the hidden pattern: Sometimes downward spirals are prompted and enabled by a hidden pattern of self-sabotage. For example, when I constantly missed deadlines, arrived at work late or deliberately axed promising relationships, I realized that the envy I was showering on friends was a reflection of my own discontent and lack of direction. In the book, Why Women Earn Less by Mikelann R. Valterra explores the different ways women (and men) sabotage our lives. Related post: Are You Frugal or Just Downwardly Mobile, in Denial or Just Poor?
2. Find mentors: Friends with savvy skills are often more than happy to share their how-we-did-it stories. From financial management to industry networking, I've gained a lot by swallowing my pride and asking for honest tips and feedbacks. Friends, family and other mentors have also provided valuable insights about areas where I can stretch and grow.
3. Learn patience: Sometimes envy is a veiled lesson in the need for more patience. In following the trail of envy, I've often reached the conclusion that I just need to be more patient with my acquisition of skills, knowledge and assets. Life is not a one-size-fits-all adventure. I've learned to respect my personal timetable.
4. Time to Upgrade: Do I need to take a class, seminar or workshop on finance, technology or some other area of personal development. Is life passing me by because I have fallen behind in my skills? Trent at The Simple Dollar has written a great series on self-investment: Investing in Yourself: Personal Growth
5. Honesty required: Am I in the right industry? Do I need to rewrite my resume? Should I cancel my annual trip to Paris in order to pay for groceries? Sometimes in a fit of envy, I've been forced to ask myself very difficult and uncomfortable questions. The answers weren't pretty, but through envy I have often found a path to improvement.
6. Try gratitude: In one of my poor-little-me moments, I once complained to a woman, who I thought had it all: luxe car, huge house, elaborate vacations. But she nodded and disclosed that she was also caring for a dear, but ailing relative. Faced with the poor health of a loved one, she would have traded the keys to her car and home for my healthy family. I took the hint and focused less on my deficits and more on the tangible and intangible assets in my personal accounts.