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Mental Models
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Jealousy as a Map

Imagine this: It’s Monday morning and you shuffle onto the train to kick off another working week. The train grinds towards the grey chaos of the city as you scroll through random feeds on your phone. You notice a post from an old school friend who's pictured reclining on a tropical beach with a cocktail. You play the video despite yourself and hear how their first book has become an international bestseller and transformed their life as a result.  If you were a better person you’d rejoice for your friend and get on with your day. Back to the reality of our flawed humanity, and you’ll more likely feel pangs of jealousy grip you. But, before you get annoyed with yourself and stuff that emotion into the dark pit of denial, consider applying this mental model instead. In her popular book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron argues that you should reframe your attitude towards jealousy by using it as a map to identify your heartfelt goals and desired life direction.  JEALOUSY & ENVY.  If you want to be technical about it, the story I described earlier was more about envy. That's the discontent of wanting what someone else has. Whereas jealousy is based on the fear that someone will take something you have. But the original framing of this model used 'jealousy’, and they’re often used interchangeably in practice, so I’ve gone with it.  Either way, jealousy and envy are potentially debilitating emotions that are disdained in our culture. From being one of the seven deadly sins, right through to the go-to plot driver for countless murder mysteries. So reframing them is both powerful and provides a practical release for what otherwise might be a negative experience.  DIGGING BELOW 'NEGATIVE' EMOTIONS. Here’s how Cameron described her approach: “Jealousy is a map. Jealousy is always a mask for fear: fear that we aren’t able to get what we want;  frustration that somebody else seems to be getting what is rightfully ours even if we are too frightened to reach for it. At its root, jealousy is a stingy emotion. It doesn’t allow for the abundance and multiplicity of the universe. Jealousy tells us there is room for only one — one poet, one painter, (one photographer), one whatever you dream of being. The truth, revealed by action in the direction of our dreams, is that there is room for all of us.” A NON-VIOLENT COMMUNICATION TWIST. As can be seen from the image for this model, I have given Cameron’s approach a slight tweak, inspired by Non-Violent Communication. In particular, I suggest maintaining compassionate curiosity when you identify jealous or envious feelings. Importantly, rather than focusing on the specific trigger as the solution that you must pursue, I recommend digging deeper to uncover your unmet needs. By doing so, you're effectively using jealousy as a map to living a more meaningful and fulfilling life. See the Actionable Takeaways below for an example and the Toolkit for a downloadable template to apply this model.  UNLEASH CREATIVITY AND MORE. This model was initially presented by Cameron to support people to unlock and pursue their creative dreams, however, it applies for any context. If you use it as I’ve suggested, as a prompt to explore your unmet needs, you'll also do well to refer to the downloadable tool at the bottom of the Non-Violent Communication page which lists a range of universal needs. That model and list essentially expands this concept to see all emotions, in yourself and others, as signals for unmet or met needs. IN YOUR LATTICEWORK. Beyond NVC, consider combining this model with Parkinson's Law to timebox how long you embrace jealousy, and Covey's Circle or Concern and Influence to remain proactive and focus your energy on things that you can actually impact. And, if you're still nervous about embracing what it takes to move towards your unmet needs, you might also want to combine this model with Jeff Bezos' Regret Minimisation Framework. 

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