Ever get jealous of someone else's career?

If you're in your 30s or older you're likely to be jealous of other people's career and financial success more than anything else, a recent study suggests (if you're in your 20s, looks, social status, and relationships spark more jealousy).

In fact, researchers say that career jealousy persists well into our 50s and even into retirement.

Maybe you've been jealous of a friend's promotion. Or a colleague's bloated salary. Or when someone beats you to the marketplace.

Jealousy isn't the most glamorous or commendable emotion, and some feel shame about experiencing it. But while envy is an unpleasant emotion, tapping into it in the right way can actually help you learn, grow, and perform.

There's a part of envy that makes this possible. Ahem! Not the part that makes you want to throat punch your colleague in the middle of a meeting, or "accidentally" spill your hot coffee on them (that's the unhealthy part). I'm talking about the healthy desire part.

Research shows that malicious envy (when you have destructive feelings about others) doesn't actually improve performance, but benign envy (the kind that spurs self-reflection and self-improvement) is actually a healthy motivator and leads to better performance.

In other words, if you can access the yearning, burning desire part of your jealousy, you can use it to motivate you to do better.

Think of the people whose career you're jealous of. That jealousy is telling you something about what you want.

Maybe someone you're jealous of seems like they're having way too much fun to be earning so much money (perhaps that tells you that you want to have more fun at work...or make more money). Maybe another person you're jealous of is really good at something you struggle with (perhaps that tells you that you want to master that particular skill). See where I'm going with this?

Jealousy isn't really about the other person. It's always about you.

You don't have to let your jealousy get the best of you. Let it teach you something about your own desire and suddenly it becomes a tool. It can help you notice what you want. Once you're clear on that, it's up to you to find the guts to go out there and get it.