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Financial Envy

Wanting what others have can be a good motivator. 

Everyone feels envious from time to time. It’s human nature, especially in this day and age of 24/7 media bombardment and celebrities who are famous for simply being famous. Everywhere we look, there’s someone who has more, bigger, better, stronger, nicer. While I would never advocate for “keeping up with the Joneses,” and despite the fact that envy is one of the seven deadly sins, I do believe that a certain amount of envy can be a good thing.

Think for a minute about the last time you felt a pang of wanting something that you don’t have. Maybe it was the new car your business-owning cousin drives, or the six-pack on the guy a couple of machines over at the gym. Maybe your college roommate speaks three languages while you don’t know when to use “who” and “whom.” Envy does not only happen with material things – skills and lifestyle envy are the ones I know I feel the most often.
Now, think about how you react when you feel those pangs. You probably feel a surge of….what? Anger? Resentment? Or do you feel excited about all the possibilities life has to offer? Motivated to go out and work to get those things for yourself?

The key when you feel that surge of envy is to channel that energy into something positive. We all know that guy who sits around complaining about the trip his friends are taking, or how embarrassing his 20-year-old car is. Nobody likes that guy, am I right? That’s the person who’s more likely to say “I deserve” than to say “I can do that!” He probably has a lot of credit card debt too. This guy is looking for the easy way out, the get-rich-quick scheme that will result in no more satisfaction from life than he has now, as he sits complaining.

Keep in mind that, especially on social media, those vacations and fancy cars are often gifts from overindulgent parents, or are indicative of large amounts of debt. Then, take a good, hard look at what or whom you’re envious of (see what I did there?) and use those pangs to determine what you want from life for yourself, and what goals you want to set and work toward. Create your own version of your future self to be envious of, and then create an action plan to make that person a reality. That way, you’re not keeping up with the Joneses (or anyone else) and you’re not chasing someone else’s dream. Society, family and friends will put pressure on you to be a certain way. Carefully picking those things you want for yourself will put you on a path of your own choosing – and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

So often when I’m working with new clients and I ask them what they want in life, or what they want their money to do for them, I hear, “I guess I want…” or “I think maybe I want….” The fact is, most people haven’t truly asked themselves what they’re working for and building towards, and they certainly haven’t asked themselves why they might be envious of certain things or lifestyles. They’re coasting through life without a direction or a plan.

Today, right now, I challenge you to ask yourself those questions – what do you want? What are you working towards? Why do you want to work towards those things? If you’re like the clients I see who can’t find an answer, use your envy to channel yourself and guide you as you start to envision your future self. Then, write them down, bring them to your next planning meeting, and start working instead of wishing.

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