The way different societies and cultures exist is fascinating. For example, countries like America tend to be very individualistic, while Asian countries like Thailand tend to be more communal.

Through noticing these differences in thought and how people view other people, along with themselves, I began thinking about how and why it is this way, and how it affects how we live our lives.

The dominate emotion in society is envy, driven from the idea of equality. It’s easy to believe that anyone can do anything, and that we are all equal. This drives envy, and it plays a huge role in how we view others in society today, how others view us, and how we view ourselves.

When you can’t relate to someone, you don’t envy them because you don’t see them as being equal to you. The closer people are in age, background, and process of identification, the more likely there is to be envy.  Modern society is especially good at pushing this on us – the spirit of equality is there, but reality isn’t. People aren’t equal, don’t have equal chances, and everyone is different. Some people come from wealthy backgrounds, others don’t.  Some people are talented in certain ways which shape their opportunities, others aren’t.  These differences have huge implications as to where and what people do in society.

As a whole, you can make some general observations about society, such as children of wealthier families tend to earn more throughout their career. This, for example, could be because wealthier families tend to have better education, and better education typically leads to better careers and more opportunities.

However, there are obvious outliers and it’s worth considering them, especially when anyone can become an outlier.  You hear stories about people from poor backgrounds building incredible things for the world and thus becoming rich, and while it is rare, it does happen.

It’s worth thinking about trends in society, but they say nothing as to how you will turn out. Defining your own mission, values, goals, and aspirations may be helpful in guiding you in a direction to see fit.  If you begin directing most of your daily actions toward those things, you’ll notice a much lower burnout rate and whenever the question of “why?” comes up, you’ll have it answered.

In an age when everyone is trying to capture our attention, stepping back regularly to look at where you are in life can prove to be enlightening. What things you can improve on? What can you do to help people? Being grateful for all the things that fill your life certainly helps relieve pressure on the dominate emotion of envy.

Choosing a career? A business to build? A lifestyle to live? Don’t envy people. Work with others. Learn from others. Listen to others. Help others. But be independent and question things.  Something that is right for one is not necessarily right for another.

In his TED talk which inspired this post, philosopher Alain De Button suggests that we aren’t living in a world that is necessarily materialistic, we instead peg social rewards from material possessions.  He argues that it isn’t the materials we necessarily want, it is the social rewards from the materials.

Next time you see someone driving a Ferrari, think of them as someone incredibly vulnerable and in need of love
– Alain De Button

Never before have expectations been so high in society, and to an extent, for the right reasons.  We live in a day in age with huge amounts of opportunity, which arguably is shown through the rapidly growth driving massive income inequality.  “Anyone can do anything”, and with this comes spirit of equality.   And out of this comes envy.

In individualistic societies, people own their successes, but they also own their failures.  Since you can’t be successful at everything, this leads to a lower self esteem.

Because of all the unknowns about the future, our existence, the universe, consciousness, among other things, we constantly question ourselves and others.  In a day in age of opportunity, but also of more envy than ever, it’s important to stop and reflect on our own ambitions and worry less about what other people do.