Complaining is a popular hobby. More of a lifestyle, really, but few people seem to recognize this. Even fewer realize how important it is to have the gripe-worthy problems in your life in the first place.
Yes indeed. These problems are a gift.
This is where we go back to our old friend: gratitude. Which is a requirement when cultivating a practical optimism – it is not, however, required to simply get by.
If you want a life where you’re living paycheque to paycheque, each one feeding what seems to be a never ending car loan, you have a wardrobe that makes you look like a rejected runway model for a garage sale, and you feel like your only viable professional options are all just as undesirable as the last… then gratitude needn’t be in your tool belt.
That’s right folks, the dream I just described can be attained simply by coasting through life without any thankfulness whatsoever!
But that’s not all! Along with this package deal each and every applicant will receive an unlimited capacity to complain!! That’s right, each and every one of you can choose a life that will feel like it was thrust upon you and then spend the next seventy five years complaining about the details! Until you’re dead!!
I know this sounds too good to believe. So what’s the catch, you ask? Well, let me get you up to speed.
Complaining is just but one of the options available in this position. But some of the other options will take all the purpose right out of complaining. In fact, it won’t even be fun to gripe about your problems any more. What a bore, right?! Let’s take a look at the most critical of these options: choice.
This one can be a tricky option to activate if it isn’t already in place. Even if you hate the life that has grown itself around you, it’s probably familiar to you. And one of the tricks of the human mind is that it will always go with what’s familiar much more easily than it will anything else, even if the familiar is terrible.
Ever find yourself in the same kind of relationship you have in the past, unsure of how you’re ending up with such similar partners? Have a string of friends that have disrespected you or straight-up screwed you over in the same way as the others? Why are you attracting these losers? How could you not be learning from the past?!?
Well, for one thing, it’s human nature. So your biggest mistake here is one of simply being alive.
Sucker! You fell into that trap by being born!
Sticking with what’s familiar has a survival aspect to it: you’ve done it before and you didn’t die, so it’s probably worth repeating, right?
The survival part typically goes back to the earliest parts of our experience. As we grow up we take after whatever behaviour is taking place around us. Whoever raised us did it without killing us, so our brain figures that’s a pretty good way to keep doing things. This is deeply ingrained into our personality and will happily run on autopilot.
But if you go around ambling through life without taking any time to notice or understand what you’re doing with yourself, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll keep repeating whatever it is you’ve already been doing. But if you realize that every single thing you do is a choice – this is a game changer.
Many people believe their power of choice only goes so far. “Sure, I can choose what I wear to work. But what about the shirts I have on hold online? They’re too expensive. You’re saying I can just choose to buy those and wear them, right? Then I can’t pay rent.”
Well, yeah. That’s an example of choice. A limited and bitter one. Let’s see if we can’t open up a little different perspective.
First off, the words you use are your choice. Those shirts you want aren’t too expensive, you just can’t afford them. There’s a difference, and only one of those phrasings contains any personal responsibility.
Next, you can choose to buy those shirts and come up short on rent. Or you can choose to buy just one or two, or use your wish list that you saved on Shirts-I-Can’t-Afford dot com as inspiration to shop around at places that have prices that don’t make you wince.
These are just a few examples. Your choices truly are infinite.
Each choice does have consequences, however, and whether they’re good or bad they will affect all of your subsequent choices. Let’s take a look at the consequences of complaining.
Complaining is stressful. I’m sure it seems that you’re simply letting off steam because you’re already stressed, but where it’s doing damage is it’s reinforcing whatever negative situation you’re wishing to escape. You are actually spending more time with it than you were in the first place.
Let’s say every Monday at work, Tybalt calls you right at the start of morning coffee break to get last week’s timesheet summary. It takes up half the break and if you don’t get it over with then he’s just going to be in a bad mood for the rest of the day, and that makes him a real bear in the sales meetings.
So you complain. Not to anyone that deals with him, and not in a way that spreads it around the office. Not even to another human being. But to your dog when you get home. Your terrier cross, Reinhardt McScruff, gets the rundown on how selfish and ignorant the timing of Tybalt’s call is every single week.
But now you’re spending time at home talking to Mister McScruff about this for, what, ten minutes? And Tybalt has already taken eight earlier this morning, then you spent the following twelve being mad, now another ten at home talking about it, then five more thinking about it until it bubbles down and stops taking up real estate in the front of your brain.
That’s thirty five minutes total for an initial eight minute offense.
And now you’ve wired yourself to be upset the next time he calls. Those thirty five minutes on Mondays are practicing being mad. And you know what, that hour and twenty minutes spent every month practicing hating something will guarantee that you get pretty good at it.
Congratulations on your hobby.
So what if we flip it around? How could you be grateful for Tybalt’s Monday morning call?
Let’s take the low hanging fruit and point out that you said it yourself: if you don’t take the call he’ll be difficult in meetings for the rest of the day. So it’s in your best interest to take the call. On top of that, maybe you can make him laugh during that dreaded phone exchange. Who knows how those meetings could go if grumpy old Tybalt was in an atypically good mood.
Then you will have practiced how to handle difficult people, and how not to run away with frustration when something undesirable happens. Also, since you will have been focusing on your own skills so as to handle this situation in a new way, you’ll be too distracted to fall all too easily into that old familiar rut of behaviour.
Even if you fail to make the call any better, you won’t feel as stuck as you did before because you took conscious action. You broke the pattern of taking the call, not trying anything different with it, and stewing about it. An attempt followed by missing the mark is still an attempt. And there’s more power in that than in just letting something float on by.
And if you’re itching to tell me that it wouldn’t be this way if you weren’t stuck at this job, then I implore you to make use of your choice and choose to do whatever is necessary to find another job. An even better job! Sooner or later you’ll figure out that there’s always something worth complaining about in every job, and salvation from that hell lies not in another job, but within your chosen attitude.
The bright side here is that everything that could leave you wanting to complain is an opportunity for reflection and improvement. Imagine if you could improve that one nagging part of your life. It wouldn’t be a problem any more! And when it’s replaced with the next problem, which it definitely will be, you’ll be just that much better at solving it.
So what about it? Do you have something worth complaining about that you feel is bulletproof? You truly believe you’ve exercised every option and there’s nothing left to gain? What is it?? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll just see about that!