As I was reading through as section of Ecclesiastes this morning, the writer says in chapter 4:4, “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.”
I put down my Bible and pondered that thought for a minute. Is it true? For a lot of people it is. As I started to think about my motivation for success I began to think of how envy had impacted my own life. Sure enough, envy had been a big motivator. And it still is.
If we are truly honest, I think most of us would acknowledge that as well. We see what other people have and it drives us. We want the best for ourselves, and for our family, and when you see the best, and want the best, you strive to get it. You get frustrated because other people have it and you don’t. Too often we want to keep up with or keep ahead of others.
And while that can motivate us to success, it also can be truly unhealthy for us.
What are the dangers of having envy as the primary motivator for success?
- We can put ourselves in positions to cheat to get what we want. If we have to be ahead of the game, we may need to game the system to make it happen. So we take shortcuts in order to achieve.
- We overspend trying to meet that external standard. That creates other issues, such as debt, and bankruptcy.
- We risk our integrity. This goes back to number one.
- There seems to be no end. Nothing is ever enough. We are never satisfied.
- Our anxiety increases. When you are constantly trying to keep up or keep ahead, you are constantly worrying about what others have. This will wear us out because we are constantly having to figure what will keep us ahead of others.
- Everything turns into a competition.
Nick Saban is one of the most successful coaches in college football history. Saban constantly speaks of helping his players find self-gratification. He doesn’t want them to worry about post-season accolades or awards. He even urges them to not worry about the scoreboard. He wants them to win the next play, to do whatever the player can within the rules and spirit of the sport to succeed one play at a time. When they do that, good things happen for the players. And good things happen for the team.
We should strive for success because we want to be successful, not because we want what others have. We should put in the effort, do things the right way, and seek to be kind and honoring of others as we strive for success. Otherwise our success is meaningless. It really is temporary.