How to Learn from Envy: The 6-Step Formula

How to Learn from Envy: The 6-Step Formula


The following exercise will help you manage envy. It borrows from the philosophy and science of positive psychology and will put you on the right path on dealing with envy. Strong emotional thoughts such as envy cannot be cured with a quick 10-minute exercise, but you do need to start somewhere, and this exercise provides the right structure to start with. You can make it into a habit and slowly chip away at envy.

Envy can come to blur the vision. If unchecked, it grows in your mind. You start feeling that you don’t actually mind if something bad happens to the person you envy, that somehow your life is second-rate and possibly not really exciting to go through. What follows is depression, lethargy and a sense of being a failure—all unhealthy stuff.

To address envy, you must first understand what it is about. By gaining perspective, you can take steps to turn it around and benefit from this emotion. The powerful 6-step formula provided here helps to achieve that.

Even admitting that you are envious of someone isn’t easy. This exercise is not something that should be carried out in a group. If you are a trainer and running a course, provide this exercise as a handout and ask delegates to go through it after the course in their own time. It would not take too much time; they should go through the exercise in a way that won’t make them feel judged for their answers.


Identify who you envy and follow the steps provided to gain insights on what this strong emotion means and how you can use it to benefit from it.

What You Need

  • A copy of “Envy Handout” for each delegate.


  • Provide the “Envy Handout” included below to each delegate.
  • Ask delegates to go through the handout in their own time after the course.
  • The form is self-explanatory but provide any assistance as required.
  • In a future session, ask the delegates to share their experience, but not necessarily their exact answers. You don’t want to put anyone on the spot or ask them to share something they don’t want to share. Ask delegates to share what they have experienced and how they felt while going through the exercise.
  • Follow with a discussion.


  • Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes
  • Activity: 20 minutes
  • Group Feedback: 10 minutes


What insights did you gain from the 6-Step Formula on handling envy? Did it make you feel calmer and more in control? Did you draw up a series of qualities that will help you become more accomplished, just like the people you envy? What part of the exercise was most useful to you?



Envy Handout

Step 1: Acknowledge Your Envy

Acknowledging who you envy can be quite freeing. The first step is always about admittance.

  • Make a list of people who have recently triggered the emotion of envy in you.
  • Complete the following sentence to come up with the names:

“I admit I am envious of…”


A: I admit I am envious of the guy who has a coffee chain with 400 branches around the world

B: I admit I am envious of the actress who comes to the tennis club

C: I admit I am envious of Svetlana, the Russian blond, who lives in Kensington, London



Step 2: Identify the Reasons Behind Envy

  • For each person, write down what makes their life so fantastic in your mind.


A: I listened to a podcast he was a guest on, and he appears so confident and knowledgeable about running such a large business

B: She is extremely athletic and sociable, seems to be able to make friends with anyone very easily

C: She lives right at the centre of London, can use so much of what the city offers just by walking from her house and she is so rich!


Step 3: Identify Why it Would Be Undesirable to Be That Person

On the surface it may seem that you like to be the person you envy, in all aspects of life. You feel you just want to be in their position. On closer examination, however, you will see that your desires, talents and capabilities are likely to be different from the person you envy.

  • Identify several reasons why it would be undesirable to be the person you envy.
  • Avoid criticising the person you envy. Keep your focus on why it would be undesirable for you to be that person rather than trying to bring that person down.


A: I like drinking coffee, but I hate to be in the catering business.

B: I just don’t like to be the centre of attention and don’t feel the need to constantly chat with people.

C: I know Svetlana’s parents are super rich, and so naturally she has access to a lot of money and lives the life of a princess. I hate to be seen as a rich kid because a lot of people would associate my achievements with my money.


Step 4: Identify What You Admire in the Person You Envy

Your envy isn’t random and is certainly not irrational. There is something there that makes you envious of someone. By acknowledging and looking for deeper signs of why the envy exists in the first place, you can gain insights into your own psyche and better understand what it is that you want.

  • Examine the people in your envy list and seek to find something that you really admire in each person and learn from that.


A: He is very determined, decisive and hard working. Seems to take calculated risk rather than jumping at the first idea or some new trend.

B: She is calmly confident no matter her skill level. She doesn’t seem to get anxious easily or at least doesn’t show it. She is articulate. She is always smiling.

C: Svetlana is always immaculate and looks after herself. She eats well and exercises a lot. Being a rich-kid, she could have easily ended up fat and lazy. It seems she has a great positive image of herself that she wants to portray to the world, and she works tirelessly to achieve it.


Step 5: Convert Each Person to a Series of Adjectives

  • Using what you have already analysed, identify a few neat adjectives to describe what you like about that person


A: determined, decisive, focused, calculating, controlled

B: calm, confident, articulate, positive

C: immaculate, image-conscious, tireless


Step 6: Imagine Yourself with the Qualities

Now, that you have identified a series of qualities that you admire in people you envy, see how you can integrate these qualities into your current life.

  • First identify what you like to gain from the person you envy. What genuine qualities do they have that you seek? Complete the following sentence for each person:

“Like person X, I could…”

  • Next, personalise it and draw up an action plan. If you want to gain the qualities you identified, do something about them. Complete the following:

“Now that I can be like person X, I will…”


A: Like the businessman, I could be more goal-oriented, know what I want and do everything it takes to get there.

B: Like the actress, I could be more positive, and capitalise on what I have so I can look confident. Just like her, I can always smile.

C: Like Svetlana, I could put effort into looking physically healthy and appearing stylish in public.

And then A, B and C draw up a series of actions based on the insights gained over the six steps, their goals and their priories:

“Now that I can be like person X, I will…”

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Praise Yourself: What Is Good about You?
Motivation Exercise: What Word Describes You the Most?
Positive Affirmations: Turn Negative into Positive
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