Writing my book The Calling: Why Healthcare Is So Special was a journey. The original concept of the book was that leadership is an inside job. This means that the better our “insides” (emotions and thoughts) are working, the better the external outcomes will be.
I presented the talk “Leadership Is an Inside Job” at a large leadership session for TriHealth in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 6, 2019. Afterward, TriHealth President/CEO Mark Clement was very complimentary about the message. What changed while writing the book was the COVID-19 pandemic. It threw the world into turmoil. Healthcare was hugely impacted. As a result, the book became more of a hybrid. I did not want to lose the message of leadership as an inside job; in fact, the pandemic added to that need with the focus it brought to self-care. However, I also wanted the book to be helpful to people in moving through the pandemic, which is why a large part of it shares replenishers.
To not lose the original concept, the book’s early chapters covered characteristics that are barriers to someone’s being the best they can be. I am a big fan of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The fourth agreement is “Always do your best.” When I write about being the best you can be, that is exactly what it means. With my books, I do the best I can, fully knowing that many people are much better writers than me. All my material comes from everyday life: talking with and being with people and reading material others have written.
Someone recently described an individual as being eaten up by envy. This brought me back to the issue of leadership and the fact that all self-development is an inside job. Life is often about getting rid of things more than getting things. What do we want to get rid of? Thoughts, emotions, and actions that keep us from being the best we can be.
It is my observation that people tend to not get rid of what is often an unhealthy characteristic until the pain of the characteristic is just not worth whatever “joy” we’re getting from it. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. (The other six are pride, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth.) As a noun, envy is a feeling of being discontented or resentful by someone else’s possessions, qualities, lifestyle, or luck. As a verb, it’s a desire to have what someone else has.
In The Calling, I write that people often do not achieve what they would like due to emotions like blame, rationalization, denial, etc., as well as not being skilled to the point needed in the role. We can add envy to this list. What is great is that all of these issues are fixable. Some people feel envy can be a “good” emotion in that it may motivate a person to adjust their action to achieve the outcome they covet. My experience is that envy harms relationships and eventually leads to one’s own pain. The person who is eaten up with envy will not say, “Oh, it is just me being envious.” Instead they may degrade the other person. If someone cannot bring themselves up, they can turn to putting others down. Gossip is a product of envy. Also, envy can lead to not taking needed action. For example, one may think, That person’s only reason for success is luck or The person did not work for what they have. Even if this is true, or partially true, that thinking can keep someone from taking their own action.
In working with people for years, I’ve found helping a person gain self-awareness is key. Chapter 1 of another one of my books, The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places That Thrive, shares that the door opener to performance is self-awareness. Envy leads to not owning one’s own issues and often not learning from others.
Here are a few tips on recognizing and healing your own envy:
- Do a self-inventory. Are you envious of others? Why are you envious? Is it that you feel your self-esteem or security is being threatened?
- People who fall into the trap of envy tend to gravitate to people with the same characteristic. That way, when they send a text pointing out something negative about someone, their envy is reinforced. It’s better to surround yourself with people who are willing to point out actions that are not helpful. Twelve years ago, Beth Keane, a dear friend, passed away from cancer. There is a video on YouTube of her doing a talk called “Spinach in Your Teeth.” Look it up. The message is that if you love someone, you let them know when they are doing something that does not serve them well.
- Pause before saying or writing something negative about someone else. Don’t do it. It only makes the sender of the message (you) look bad.
- Pray. I was advised years ago to pray for someone I was envious of. I did not say to the person who suggested I pray, “I am envious of the person.” However, I was very negative about the person. The person I trusted advised me to pray for the other person for 12 days. While I was not excited, I was ready to pray that the person got what they deserved. (Of course, I assume what I felt they deserved was not positive!) My friend knew me well enough to even give me this prayer: “Pray that the person receives what you hope to receive yourself.” While I did not see the value of this prayer at the time, I did it. So have many others. Try it: What do you have to lose? Most people will find that after 12 days of praying this prayer, the envy and resentment will be gone; for others, it will at least be greatly lessened.
Realize that envy and gossip behave like a boomerang. The thrust of throwing a boomerang is exhilarating. However, if you are not careful, it can come around to hurt you. It’s better not to pick up envy and gossip to start with.
When the insides get better, the outcomes get better. It is why the best step to achieving great customer satisfaction is to work toward great employee satisfaction. What I do know is that when one gets better on the inside, they make better decisions.
We are all a work in progress on this journey of life. Thank you for letting me be on it with you through these columns.