I think at some point, we all get caught up in the trap of comparing ourselves to our peers based on our income and what we own. Back when I was a high school band director, I did it constantly.
Any time I found out that someone made $100,000 a year or just bought a really nice car, it totally bummed me out that I was nowhere close to that life with my teaching salary.
It definitely didn’t help that my wife and I were living at her parents’ house after college, and both drove (and still do) cars that are worth less than $10,000 combined.
Fortunately, over the past few years, I’ve been able to completely change my mindset and avoid money envy altogether. Now when I see people around me doing well, I’m legitimately happy for them. It’s a much better way to live.
Here’s how I stopped being jealous about money:
1. I realized that every single day I wake up is a day in the bonus round
This might be the most important mindset shift that I’ve ever had in my life (and no, I’m not just saying that for effect).
It’s too easy to get caught up in worrying about how you compare to other people, or how much stuff or money you’ve acquired in life so far.
Here’s the reality – none of that matters very much when you take everything back to the most important event in your day.
You woke up. There were a lot of people in this world that probably would have liked to have that win today as well.
I know this is a personal finance blog – but forget about money for a second and really think hard about how crazy it is that we’re even alive and get a chance to do anything. It’s nuts.
Student loans, investing, online business, growing (hopefully) bank accounts…all of those things are obviously important in our day-to-day lives, but don’t really hold a candle to just being awake in the first place.
Related: The Real Reason I Live Debt-Free
Once I started to begin my day with gratitude, It permeated everything I did and snowballed into making more money and enjoying life without worrying about what everyone else is doing.
It’s pretty freaking cool. You should try it tomorrow morning. 🙂
2. I realized nobody *really* cares if I complain
All of us have those moments where we feel down about where we are compared to other people. ALL of us have also had moments where we complain about it to the people around us.
But do the people that we’re complaining to actually care?
If I had to guess, I’d say no. When I was teaching and complained about not making enough money (which is a common one in the teaching world for good reason), it’s not like the magical money fairy came down and handed me $100 to make me feel better.
My peers didn’t pull out their checkbooks, and it would have been a mistake if they did.
In fact, nothing happened. I just kept working, getting my paycheck, complaining about said paycheck, working, getting my paycheck, complaining about said paycheck, and on and on.
You know what did work though?
Making the decision to tackle my student loans. Getting off of my butt on the weekends and starting this site. Deciding to completely change careers to pursue my dream of working for myself. Challenging myself to learn more about personal finance and entrepreneurship.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you can’t ever complain. But if you don’t pair it with some kind of action, what’s the point? You might as well just keep doing whatever it is you’re doing that sucks if you aren’t willing to try something different.
3. Now I compete against myself
Over time I’ve just realized that there’s no point in trying to look at what other people have or what financial goals they’ve hit and compare it to my situation.
Everyone has a different path, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe some people were born into a family with money. Maybe some people were born dirt-poor and have more drive and motivation than me.
Truth be told – you can’t ever tell how people are doing in life by the stuff they have anyways. It’s too easy to borrow money for things to use that as the benchmark.
The second you start focusing on everyone else instead of finding a way to create your own success, you’ll get stuck in the rat race.
Now, I focus on how I can beat myself.
Can I work harder than I did yesterday? Can I work smarter? Can I put 10% more effort into my business than I did last month and/or 10% more money into my brokerage account this year?
I haven’t quite perfected it yet (might not ever do that) and it’s a really slow process…but it works.
Over the past two years of approaching things this way, I’ve been able to 3-4x my old teaching salary, set my future family up for a better life, and ultimately create a legit path to wealth and financial independence.
I’m not saying that everyone that reads this site can have the same results that I’ve had, but I guarantee that you can at the very least make your life exponentially better by focusing on you instead of them.
With all that said, for me it all still comes down a very simple concept:
I’m just happy to wake up every day. If you start there, you’ll become 1,000% more appreciative of everything you have.