We are living in very interesting times. It takes less than a second to turn on our phones and find opinions and voices incessantly complaining. Usually, these voices are placing responsibility on someone else, something else or even some events that occurred years ago. The degree to which we have become comfortable with listening and attending to others, while they do little more than complain and whine about life—well, it’s a bit much.
For some of us, it’s even more torturous. We wake up every day, and we must listen to these voices continuously as they ramble on in our heads, finding an endless array of things to complain about or opine about. Often, to the exhausting dismay of others, we offer these complaints or judgments to the world around us.
Everyone gripes and complains—what’s the big deal?
Complaints take us down a very familiar path, and the fact that it happens frequently, and we find camaraderie in these familiar paths hides the toxic influence of this harmful habit. Let’s explore:
Victims by complaint. As long as we are complaining, we have positioned ourselves as the victim. It may not appear that way, but it’s true. Perhaps it’s just a tiny victim statement, by complaining about the weather or how many parties we attended over the holidays. These are not so obvious. However, if we just expand the complaints a bit, we start to see how a complaint about my work or my spouse starts to make them responsible for my misery. I am a victim of their bad moments, their lack of sleep and their moodiness. Watch carefully and you will start to see that every complaint leaves us the victim of the focus of our complaint.
Immobilized by complaint. With every complaint, comes the mind’s invitation to expand upon it or to have someone take up the slack and continue. Each leaves us reeling in some argument against our life in some way. And remember that our attention is focused OUT THERE, not on us. That leaves us in an immobilized state. Our energy is going to other people or to other events, and we begin to feel more and more helpless the more we complain.
Misery and depression by complaint. Have you noticed that it’s impossible to be grateful and happy while complaining? Likely you have. And likely you find it down-right miserable to be around someone who seems to be continually complaining. This not only makes us victims and immobilizes us, but also robs us of the opportunities to be in a positive state of mind.
Life does not get better by complaint. When we add all this up, we see that the misery, the victim stance and the immobilization lead us to a stagnant life, where my complaints get most of my attention. I am, by default, focused on events and things outside of my control, leading to the thought that I am no longer responsible for my unhappy, miserable life. Someone else caused it. Something else caused it. Some event is the blame. I didn’t get what I wanted, and that is to blame. Someone treated me poorly, and that is to blame. However, you spin it, there is tendency to get stuck because we focus on these events beyond our control, and fail to devote attention to what we can control.
Always an excuse by complaint: Untimately, complaints take us down a path where we are dangerously close to having an ever-ready excuse for any failure, any lack of action or any outcome we do not like. Yet, with enough complaining about the situation, whining about the variables outside our control and concluding that “it wasn’t fair,” we end up with the perfect excuse from taking the necessary action to change our lives.
Instead, step into your power: ‘I am responsible for my better life.’
There is something magical when I take responsibility for my life and for my happiness. I turn away from complaints and shift my focus to me, my choices, my beliefs and, most importantly, my actions. This directs all my resources back into the world where I can make a difference, rather than wasting them on opinions and complaints for events out of my control.
Let’s be clear: I am not responsible for your choices, your happiness or your life. I am responsible for mine. I am not to “blame” for my poor choices. I choose not to feel bad for them. However, I am responsible for those choices. And if I seek change and a better life, then I make new choices. We must learn to separate the concept of blame from that of responsibility. I can take responsibility for my actions and my choices, but blame is about the emotional manipulation where I am supposed to (and often do) feel bad when “blamed” for something. Feeling bad does not lead to doing good. Making yourself or others feel bad (i.e., blame) does not lead to more good in the world. Just more bad feelings.
No excuses. No complaints, no whining. Start there for that better life
When discussing this topic with clients, many agree in theory but struggle to bring change to the day-to-day moments of their life. They find themselves complaining and blaming others around them, and their resulting emotional state is misery once again. They never strongly resolve to the joy that is awaiting when a true decision is made to have a complaint-free life. That’s a life in which you choose to abandon interest in the complaints and whining, whether coming from inside (your brain) or outside. This is not a casual decision. This is life changing.
Take action where action required
One final note. This does not imply that you become blind to real-life problems. What is clear is that you no longer become one of the complainers. Instead, you develop your own action plan, and at whatever level and in what way you can, you take action. You do your part.
The final magic topping: Be grateful for the opportunity to do your part. Be grateful for the insight to see what action can be done, and for the wisdom to focus on that which is within your power. This can, and will be a better year if we all take responsibility for our better lives and stop our interest in the voices of negativity, complaint and placing responsibility on someone else. Have a great year!
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.