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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

How to (Realistically) Be Happy For Friends Who Are Doing Better Than You

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Your friend just achieved something awesome in his career. Maybe it was a big promotion or a major raise. Perhaps it was a brag-worthy new job altogether. Or, maybe he just launched an awesome side hustle.

Regardless of the specific circumstances, you find yourself left with this weird mix of emotions. You’re glad he’s doing so great, of course. But, you’d be lying if you said there wasn’t a piece of you that was insanely jealous.

It makes sense. Careers are competitive. So, feeling enthusiastic when someone else reaches a big accomplishment isn’t exactly second nature.

But, however understandable that envy is, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s productive. Here’s how to get past your own feelings of inadequacy and truly be happy for a friend who’s more successful.

1. Recognize That Their Success Isn’t Your Failure

Here’s a question I like to ask myself when I discover that I’m feeling jealous of another person’s announcement: How does this impact me?

In nearly every case, this question forces me to realize that my feelings of resentment are totally unfounded and unnecessary—that other person’s recent accomplishment has absolutely zero bearing on what I’m doing in my own professional life.

It’s easy to confuse other people’s success with your own failure. But, that’s hardly ever the case. A step forward for your friend doesn’t automatically equate to a few steps backwards for you.

Once you realize that someone else’s triumph isn’t their passive-aggressive attempt at poking holes in your own ego, it’s a whole lot easier to be happy for them.

2. Refresh Your Goals

While career comparison can be a nasty trap, there’s no denying that it can also provide the kick in the pants you need to refocus and continue making forward strides yourself.

For that reason, this is a great time for you to turn a discerning eye to your own career goals and figure out what you’d like to accomplish next.

Whether it’s something as small as revamping your personal website or something as momentous as making an entire career change, sit down and outline some of the things you’d like to achieve in the next six months or so. Don’t stop there—also jot down some specific action items you’ll need to make those things happen.

It might seem odd to use somebody else’s success as a stepping stone for your own career (even if they’re none the wiser!). But, take it from me, it works wonders. We might all hate to admit it, but we’re constantly matching ourselves up against the people around us—so, there’s really no better motivation.

Plus, knowing that you have your own plans and objectives in the works makes it that much less painful to celebrate your friend’s recent accomplishment.

3. Learn From Them

When we’re all so focused on competition, it becomes all too easy to forget the value of collaboration. But, if you neglect to take notes from the successes of your peers, you’re missing a great opportunity. Instead of resenting that person’s success, why don’t you learn from it?

Maybe that friend of yours just landed a new gig at an up-and-coming tech startup. Rather than feeling bitter about the fact that you’d like to do the same thing, why not ask her about the application process and what she did to stand out?

Or, rather than simply envying the person who scored a big raise, have a conversation with him about how that played out. Did he approach his boss? What sort of justification did he have in his back pocket to support his request?

Experience is a great teacher—and, that sentiment applies to the experiences of other people as well. So, don’t miss the chance to extract your own value and lessons from their achievements.

Not only will it push you forward, it’ll also give your friend a chance to further celebrate and discuss her own big milestone.

While we all like to think of ourselves as the eternally supportive and encouraging friends who cue up the marching band whenever our loved ones accomplish great things, that’s often not the case. As you already know all too well, your congratulatory feelings can easily be overshadowed by jealousy and resentment.

Ultimately, though, that gets you nowhere. Use these three tips to adequately honor and applaud other people’s big wins and you’ll not only be a better friend—but a better professional.