You are a direct reflection of your values and priorities. Aside from the uncontrollable circumstances of where and to whom you were born, what you value and prioritize dictates much of where you are in the world. I’d even say that in most areas of life, those intangibles count for more than genetics. Because every activity you engage in – from reading a book to going to the gym to climbing a mountain – has an opportunity cost. And your values and priorities are what guide you in deciding what costs are acceptable to you as you pursue your goals, and how far you’re willing to go in that pursuit. If you don’t know what your values and priorities are, now’s a good time to start figuring it out; they should be the bedrock of your life, guiding you to the interests that will lead you to the jobs, hobbies, and relationships that will give your life meaning.
Framing your relative position in life in terms of values and priorities creates a wonderful check on jealousy and self-deception, as well as a powerful motivator to improve. For example, when you see the person at the gym that has the body you wish you had, realize that you’re (probably) seeing the end product of specific dieting, exercise, and lifestyle choices. Maintaining that body is a priority for them and has associated costs that they’re values dictate are acceptable. Don’t be jealous, just do what they do. Or don’t and accept that it’s not as high a priority for you as it is for them, and that the two of you have different values.
In the law, the same principle applies to journals and clerkships and jobs. The Editor of the Law Review or the partner with the corner office probably had to sacrifice plenty of things that you might value more than what she has to get where she is. Maybe you’re more relationship- than goal-oriented and would rather spend time with friends and family than burn a Saturday night tightening up citations in a journal article or wrangling clients at a trade association event. So again, don’t be jealous; either do what they do or don’t and wish them well as they pursue values that you don’t share. But be honest with yourself about when it’s a genuine difference in values and when you’re just being lazy; don’t use “value differences” as a copout.
And of course, there will be times when you share the same values and priorities as someone and they’re just more successful than you. Unless you’re Anderson Silva or LeBron James, that’s going to happen. And eventually it will happen to them too. Keep working to be your best, and don’t worry about being the best.
Adopt this mindset and there is no jealousy, just differences and motivating models.