Do you ever sit back and think I wish I complained more?
I don’t either. And it’s weird. There are lots of things I do – that I love – that I wish I did more of.
Taking long walks or hikes without caring what time it is.
Listening to full albums by new artists, savoring every detail.
Going on trips with my better half.
Heck, I even wish I read more!
But I’ve never once wished I complained more. So why do I do it at all?
There’s a bit Gary Vaynerchuk uses frequently in his talks and blog posts. When he was younger, he spent a lot of time in a senior care center. So he’d ask the residents questions. Well, one question:
What do you regret?
Not one of them ever regretted taking a chance. No one ever said “I wish I hadn’t started that business” or “I traveled to [Paris] for a year and that was terrible.”
Of course they didn’t. Paris is wonderful.
I’ve spoken with lots of older adults in my time, too (though not as many as I would like), about their life and things they did and reasons why they did them. I’ve never heard any one person say they wished they complained more. So why do we do it?
“It’s good for you” you might say. “You need to get the stress off your chest. Psychology says so.”
Psychology says that letting out a little steam reinforces your anger. It heightens whatever frustration you have in the moment, and prepares a neural pathway that makes it much easier for you to complain again in the future.
It’s like an addiction.
You do it once, and you probably won’t get hooked. Do it a few times, and you need to be careful. Do it every day, and what does that make you?
I’m terrible about complaining. I do it far too often. But – because I’m much better at seeing the splinter in someone else’s eye than seeing the plank in my own – I notice when others do it.
That’s when it hits me. Who does complaining help?
I think for awhile, and I can never come up with an answer. So it must be no one.
Then why do we do it?
I could offer dozens of excuses. I’m sure you could, too. But if doesn’t help anyone – there’s evidence to believe it actually hurts you and those around you – and if no one would ever wish they complained more, why not stop complaining?
It’s easier said than done. I’ll grant you that. And there will always be injustices in the world worth doing something about. But why gripe or mope or whine?
The days I feel my best are the days when I add a positive spin to everything.
Traffic sucks? Oh great! I enjoy listening to the sound of rain against my windows.
That one person is being overbearing again? Meh. It’s good that I don’t egg them on (or antagonize them).
Life isn’t fair. It’s broken and disproportionately shells out punishment to the least deserving. But complaining makes it worse. I don’t want to be worse!
I want to be better.
So what could help me be better? What could help anyone be better? That’s the real question we need to answer.
There are probably a thousand-and-one ways to do it. Smile. Ignore it. Donate money. Create a come-to-Jesus moment.
Which will you choose? What will you do to combat complaining?
And what advice do you have for me to do the same?