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How to Stop Complaining & Start Living

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Most of us complain all day everyday.  The average person complains between 15 and 30 times per day.

Some of us are addicted to complaining.

Why?

Because it makes us feel better (in the short term)!

Because other people can agree how crappy and hard we have it!

Because it is what everyone does!

The Joy of Complaining: It Hurts so Good

We are programmed to complain since the day we are born.  We are so conditioned to complain that most of us have no idea just how much we whine about our lives.

Your boss?  An incompetent jerk who’s out to get you!

Your parents?  Two good for nothings that only taught you how to lie and have dysfunctional relationships!

Your kids?  Ungrateful, spoiled brats!v

I could go on forever with the people, places and events that we complain about on a daily basis.  One of your primary targets may even be yourself.  We often complain about ourselves, even if only to ourselves. That’s why nobody knows how to stop complaining.

Often we complain about things we can’t control. The weather?  Traffic?  Waiting in line? Complaining about something that you have no power to change is counterproductive and does not help.

You may temporarily feel better after going off about how you have been wronged, shafted, victimized, used, manipulated, disrespected, etc.

Despite your initial relief, complaining is like a virus eating away any sort of happiness, responsibility, and purpose in your life.

Contrary to popular opinion, blowing off steam is not healthy.  In fact, complaining and blowing off steam usually lead to greater unhappiness, negative thinking, and relationship problems.

When you complain you will usually get more of what you are complaining about!

vComplaining by its very nature is an obstacle to you finding solutions to problems.  Anytime you are hyper focused on how hard or unfair something or someone is, you’ll have a hard time finding solutions.

But what if your complaints are really true?

What if you really don’t have enough money? What if you really don’t have enough time?

These may well be problems you’re encountering, but counterproductive complaining only makes them worse!

What is a Complaint?

We would say that your complaining any time you are focused on talking negatively about a person, place or event and not offering any solutions to fix the situation.

The following are examples of counterproductive complaining;

My job is terrible.  My boss is always yelling at me and I can’t stand it that he never gives me any credit for doing a good job.

My wife always nags me the minute I come in the door.  She’s always on my case about helping out more around the house.  She should just leave me alone.  I help when I can.  She’s so demanding and unfair.

How to Stop Complaining

What do you do when confronted with a situation that you would normally complain about? You want to direct your conscious focus on what you’re grateful for, what you want and solutions.

The first step is to not complain!  There will be many times throughout the day when you may feel like complaining and you may have complaining type thoughts, but instead you will stop yourself short of repeatedly verbalizing your grievances.

Second you’ll have 4 alternative options:

  1. Change your behavior
  2. Change the way you look at the situation
  3. Speak out and offer possible solutions
  4. Accept it as something you cannot change and recognize the futility and destructiveness in complaining about it.

The purpose is to train your mind to focus on solutions, what you’re grateful for, and what you want instead of complaints.

Here are some helpful questions to help you choose an option:

  • Is there anything I can do about it or is it outside of my control?
  • What do I want instead?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How can I avoid this in the future?
  • Can I change what I’m doing to help the situation?
  • If I can do something, who do I need to talk to about it?  What do I want?  What are some possible solutions I could offer?

So let’s say you choose option #3.  You decide to speak out and offer possible solutions.

Remember one of our previous examples of complaining?

My wife always nags me the minute I come in the door.  She’s always on my case about helping out more around the house.  She should just leave me alone.  I help when I can.  She’s so demanding and unfair.

Instead of complaining to your best friend about your wife you decide to speak out and talk to your wife about the situation.

First, make the issues you have with the person, place or event very specific.  Don’t label something or someone as completely awful, but instead get specific about the behaviors or events you would like to see change.

Next, tell the person what you’re grateful for and what you would like.

Finally, offer possible solutions or brainstorm with the person about how to change the situation.  This is where most of your focus should be.  Direct most of the conversation towards possible solutions and collaborative brainstorming.

Example:

Honey, I know you want me to help out more around the house, but when I come home from work that’s the last thing I want to talk about.  Maybe we can talk about it at another time. When I come home from work, I would like to relax with you for 10-15 minutes and spend some quality time together.  Maybe we can talk about the best parts of our day, maybe I can just walk in give you a hug, take my suit off and enjoy a few moments of intimate silence with you.  I’m willing to talk about me possibly helping out more, but when I come home I just want to relax with you for awhile.  Any suggestions?

Again, the idea is to train yourself to move from counterproductive complaining to solution focused thinking and action oriented problem solving.  You’ll direct your conscious focus on what you’re grateful for and what you want.

When you learn how to stop complaining, something amazing happens.  After you quit verbalizing most of your complaints for a long enough amount of time, complaining occupies less and less of your thoughts.  You start to see annoying and frustrating situations for their potential.  You start to see that all situations have solutions no matter how difficult they may currently seem.

30 Day Complaint Free Experiment

Rev. Will Bowen of One Community Spiritual Center in Kansas challenged his congregation to go 21 days without complaining to help foster a habit of gratitude.  He based his challenge in research suggesting that it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit.  His idea took off like a wildfire and he has appeared on Oprah and The Today Show attempting to spread his message of a complaint free world.

We are also attempting to reduce our complaints and to increase our focus on what we are grateful for, what we want and possible solutions.

We disagree with Bowen in that we believe you should be able to disagree with someone or point out something you would like to see change. Constructive criticism is okay as long as you focus primarily on what you want (instead of what you don’t want), what you’re grateful for and brainstorming possible solutions.

For example we wouldn’t consider this a complaint:

My Parmesan Chicken was really good.  I didn’t like how long it took to get our food at the restaurant. (so far a possible complaint)  I would’ve preferred to be in and out in one hour.  I think next time I’ll either let the server know ahead of time if I’m in a hurry or I’ll go somewhere I know it will be faster (focuses on what she wants and what she could possibly do next time).

So the challenge is to go 30 consecutive days without complaining.

Wear a ring, bracelet, rubber band or something on your wrist to remind you of the challenge and your commitment to it.

If you complain, switch the ring or bracelet to your opposite wrist or finger and start over at day 1.  Even if it happens on day 25 you start back at day 1.

If you state something you would like to see changed once and with possible solutions it is okay.  As long as you’re focused on what your grateful for, what you want and possible solutions you’re going in the right direction.

This is not an easy experiment and could take you a very long time to make it 30 consecutive days.  Please don’t be too hard on yourself.  You’re most likely trying to change a habit that is deeply ingrained in you.

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