by Mark Sichel, LCSW and Alicia L. Cervini
"My boss doesn't know how to do his job," says the administrative assistant who hasn't been promoted in five years. "Meryl Streep is a lousy actress," says the aspiring actress/waitress who hasn't gotten a part since the Subaru commercial she did three years ago. Let's face it: sour grapes don't make nothin' but sour wine. How will you put yourself in a position to excel and achieve in YOUR career if you're focused on what everyone ELSE is doing?
You might be brilliant, ambitious, and talented, but expending energy being envious of those around you will throw the brakes on what might otherwise be a high-speed career. We've all succumbed to the Green-Eyed Monster at one time or another, but the question is: do you let envy consume you, or do you ward off the Green-Eyed Monster with a good hefty dose of personal achievement?
So where do you find the energy to achieve when you feel like you're firmly in the grasp of ENVY? We have discovered, through years of clinical experience, that the only reasonable cure for envy is emulation. Choosing to envy your boss because you covet her position leaves you exactly where you are -- in a place where you do not feel satisfied. Deciding to emulate your boss, on the other hand, by focusing on what enabled her to rise to her position and trying to embody those qualities yourself, will empower you and put your feet on your own path to success.
Learning to admire, copy and aspire to be like those whom we envy, enables us to change our own behaviors for the better. If you don't tend to feel envious of others, emulation can still be an extremely helpful tool for advancing your career; simply choose to emulate someone whom you admire or respect. You will find that it brings out the best in you. Our clients have found it helpful to select models to emulate and focus daily on copying those models. Some people prefer to emulate famous and celebrated achievers, while others choose to emulate accomplished and self-actualized individuals with whom they are acquainted.
Jared*, a successful young actor, was going through a career slump and wondered how he could change his approach to his work in order to revitalize his acting career. He told me about an interview he read with the actor, Giancarlo Giannini. Jared reported that Giannini prepared for a role by focusing on each and every word of a script: thinking about it, pronouncing it, reviewing each and every way to fit the word into his overall interpretation of the character. Jared realized he had never done such painstaking preparation of his scripts and decided he needed to emulate Giannini's approach in order to improve his work. Jared's new approach inspired and motivated him so much that he felt exhilirated by his career again for the first time in a long time.
Emulation is a great skill because it is even transferable from one career to another. I once treated a dress designer who was so committed to his craft that when he would get an idea for a dress design in the middle of the night, he would jump out of bed, rip the sheets off and make the dress out of the bed linens. So, maybe you're not a dressmaker, the point here is that sometimes great ideas come to all of us in the middle of the night and there is no reason not to get out of bed and at least write them down. This dress designer's drive, determination and willingness to take risks are all qualities you might choose to emulate, regardless of what your chosen profession is.
To begin shedding the scaly skin of envy:
- Pick a person whom you admire and would like to emulate.
- Write down the qualities of this person that you feel you can emulate.
- Keep a log for yourself about your daily progress in emulating your chosen mentor.
- Keep a log for yourself about the ways in which your new behaviors are improving or enhancing your career.
- Remember that qualities to emulate include mostly intangible qualities like perseverance, bravery, strength, fortitude, stamina, focus, determination, courage, or self-reliance. Emulation is not about, say, getting the same kind of car as your mentor, for example.
Figure out what makes your mentor a success and YOU can find success, too!
*The names of all clients have been changed to protect their identities.
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