A Coaching Power Tool Created by Teresa Andronikou
(Life Coach, Single Moms, CANADA)
Growing up, I was always provided all the things that I needed and wanted from my parents. When I got a little older and would hang out with my friends, I started to see how their families operated in their homes. There were certain things that I wish I had or I wish my parents would be a certain way with me like my friend’s parents were with them. This feeling which I would call envy carried into my adult life. I became so used to feeling envious, I didn’t realize it was taking over who I was and because of this way of being it cost me my marriage.
That low point in my life allowed me to examine myself and see what I could do differently. One of the biggest shifts came from practicing gratitude. I started a gratitude practice every day where I would focus on what I was grateful for and did this until it became a habit. Life began to look different to me, it completely changed my life for the better. This is the reason behind my motivation for this power tool. I want to be able to support my clients should they ever be in the position of feeling envious and helping them shift their perspective towards gratitude.
Gratitude vs. Envy
Gratitude turns what we have into enough ~ Buddha
Gratitude from the Latin word gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’ is about being thankful and showing appreciation. Gratitude is a state of being where one focuses on what they have versus what they don’t. In a world where we are always rushing and trying to do the next thing on a list, gratitude allows us to stop, reflect and be present. It allows us to be in our lives as opposed to spectators looking in. Gratitude can increase our state of positive emotions and change our view on the world and also can change how we respond to things that are thrown our way. Coming from a place of gratitude can also shift us into action.
Some of the benefits of gratitude include:
- An increase in happiness
- Happier with life
- More energy, less tired
- Better health
- Better sleep
- Less materialist, happier with the simplest things
- Less likely to experience burnout
- More patient and resilient
So why not practice gratitude it seems like an easy thing to do? In our world filled with social media where we are bombarded daily with things that we want or people we wish we could be, we can easily feel a sense of lack. This feeling of lack can lead to envy. This envy arises from focusing on what others have that we don’t. In the Oxford dictionary, envy is defined as “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.”
In time one can have unconscious envy where one can be complacent, unhelpful, mean and self-centered. Someone with this envy will feel that they are inadequate and missing out. These feelings consume their whole being and are how they operate with others.
Some of the negative effects of being envious are:
- Not happy, always wanting more
- Very stressed
- No patience
One theory of why envy exists is that it is part of our human evolution. It helps us to strive for better. When we are assessing ourselves against others it is part of our development and allowing us to grow. Envy can motivate us to take what someone else has and achieve the same or better.
I believe there is a fine line though, I do agree that it is important for us to always strive for more and envy can motivate us to take action and to become a better version of ourselves. On the other hand, envy can be viewed as a demotivator, especially if someone is just focusing on what they don’t have with no intent to change. At the end of the day, what it comes down to is a mindset. Depending on one’s mindset, they may need other tools to shift their perspective and help them to focus on the good and how they can move forward.
Barb had an amazing day at work, she has been recognized for a project she worked hard on. She came home that night super excited and after celebrating her successes over dinner with her husband decided to go chill on the couch. She got out her phone and immediately went onto Instagram to see what she missed throughout the day. As she scrolled through she came across a post from her friend Sue that she went to school with. Sue had just posted that she just landed her dream job and coincidentally was the job that Barb always wanted. Barb was taken aback by what she had just read. As much as she was happy for her friend a huge part of her was envious of Sue. Barb was totally bummed out and starting to feel sorry for herself. Everything that had happened during the day had just been wiped out and all that was left was this feeling of pain and envy.
Barb’s envy came from a friend having what she wanted. This is a very good example of what most individuals deal with at some point in their life. Even though she had an amazing day that one moment changed the entire outcome of the day. If Barb had stopped and focused on what she had accomplished that day or what she was grateful for, this would have helped to shift her perspective on how she was feeling. The feeling of envy might have still crept in but her gratitude might have allowed her to just be present and happy for what she has. This could have opened the opportunity to remind her that she really wants that dream job and now she can focus on what she has learned so far in her current role that can prepare her to transition her to that role. The shift in perspective can have a positive effect on keeping us accountable and getting us into action.
Take a moment and think of a time where you felt a lack in your life, the envy towards another person and what they have, how did it make you feel? What did you do about it? Now think of the same moment but this time think about what can you be grateful for right now? How do you feel now?
It may not come naturally to you or you might not think that you need it, but finding a gratitude practice that works for you, will help to improve your mental state and overall health. Dr. Alex Korb in his book Upward Spiral states “Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.” When you just think of things to be grateful for, it can spark brain activity that is critical to sleep, mood regulation and metabolism.
There are different ways to practice gratitude, you can start with one or incorporate a couple that you feel would work for you.
- A gratitude journal– Write down 5 to10 things daily, that you are grateful for in the last 24hrs. It could be your warm bed, the person that held the door for you. The key is to focus on the little things. In time you will find that you will pick up on these moments a lot quicker because you are focusing on the good.
- Focus on the good– Next time something bad happens to consider 5 good things that happened as a result of this event.
- Acknowledge others- Tell a friend, co-worker or family member what you appreciate about them.
- What went well today journal- Take time out of your day and think about what went well today and how did it make you feel?
- Mirror work– Look at yourself in the mirror and state something that you are grateful for about yourself.
These are just a few suggestions, there are many ways you can add gratitude into your day.
- How do you see your life related to Gratitude vs. Envy?
- What do you do in moments of a sense of lack, whether it be the success you want, how someone looks or their wealth?
- How do you see gratitude helping you in your daily life?
As coaches, we need to recognize when our clients are sharing their feelings of envy so that we help them transform those feelings into gratitude. Feelings of envy can allow our clients to feel stagnant and stuck which does not allow any room for action but being aware of their feelings, we can help to address what they are dealing with. You might hear your client say something like: “I wish I could be as smart as my best friend, she always gets whatever she wants”. “If only I could be like my co-worker then I could get a promotion.” “He has way more friends than me”, “I wish I were successful like the blogger on Youtube then I would not have to worry about money”.
If you notice all these statements are self-defeating comments with no intention to improve.
As a coach, it’s our role to be aware of this and help to shift our client’s perspective from a place of envy to a place where they can take action. One main form of this is to have them focus on what they are grateful for at that moment. This will help to shift their perspective to be present. Ask them how they are feeling now? Depending on what their response is you can ask them what do they admire about the person they are comparing themselves to? Then it’s about helping the client explore if this is something they would like to have for themselves, exploring their strengths and goals and seeing where this fits within that. Moving our focus from envy isn’t hard to do, it is about keeping practice in place that will help when those feelings rise to the surface again, Supporting your client into exploring what those tools could be are important for your client’s success.
Questions to ask your client?
- What do you admire about x?
- Who would you be without that thought?
- What are you grateful for right now?
- If you have x in your life right now, what would be different?
- What are you most proud of?
- How can you bring gratitude into your everyday?
Doximity. (2015). Dr. Frank Ninivaggi, MD – New Haven, CT | Psychiatry on Doximity. [online] Available at: https://www.doximity.com/pub/frank-ninivaggi-md [Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].
Korb, A. (2019). The upward spiral workbook. Oakland, Ca: New Harbinger Publications.
Oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com. (2019). envy_1 noun – Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com. [online] Available at: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/envy_1 [Accessed 10 Dec. 2019].
Smith, R.H. (2008). Envy : theory and research. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
Thriveglobal.com. (2018). How Gratitude Actually Changes Your Brain and is Good for Business – Thrive Global. [online] Available at: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-gratitude-actually-changes-your-brain-and-is-good-for-business/ [Accessed 29 May 2019].