A lot of my clients come to me because they keep catching themselves complaining. About work, certain individuals, a lack of motivation, their personal relationships or how they spend their leisure time. And while they know it is in their hands to change the situation, they struggle to break this habit of complaining. They keep talking about their desired change – but they do not take action.
Why do we complain so much?
Constantly complaining is like being locked in in a room full of negative voices. It is hard to move away from it, particularly once it becomes a habit. This is when moaning starts happening unconsciously. We keep feeding our negative thoughts while not being fully present.
Another reason to keep complaining is that it keeps us from being responsible, for example for taking action. When blaming situations that we believe are out of our control, we can no longer be held responsible for the problem and wash our hands with that excuse. Taking action often requires us to step out of our comfort zone, which our brain does not like.
There are a few other reasons that psychologists have researched; People using complaints as a means to connect with one another, jealousy, lack of empathy or to brag about their superiority.
In this article, I would like to share some practical tools that I use with my clients, for those who genuinely want to take charge of their lives and break the cycle of complaining.
Top tips from my coaching practice
Acknowledge the issue and move on
Consciously acknowledging the issue at hand is much more effective than constantly going over the same annoying topic again and again. By giving attention to the issue, we are not overstepping our frustration. Instead, we give our negative thoughts a voice but do it with full awareness and intention to move away from it.
Most problems are temporary and don’t effect the big picture of our journey. When we acknowledge them, they will quickly vanish.
Choose your perspective
When we complain, we are holding a certain perspective about the topic. Our perspective is likely to be negative, destructive, and pulling us further down the spiral. However, we can actually choose our perspective and it doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, it really is our own responsibility how we see life and its obstacles. Let me give you an example.
It is a rainy day and you have to drag yourself out of bed to walk to the station, in order to attend a job interview. You are unmotivated, complain about the weather, blame the company for being based so far away and think you don’t really want the job anyway. You make assumptions that you will not be accepted for the role and that you won’t get along with the person who invited you for the interview. That is a fairly demotivating outlook on the day.
Try this instead. Imagine how this job opportunity could open doors for your career. You may not be sure if the job suits you fully, however it could also exceed your expectations once you hear more about it or you may connect with people who will play a major role in your future life. Instead of making assumptions, you are fully open to whatever may come your way on this day. It could be life changing.
When working with my clients, we practice to create new perspectives and they get to make a conscious choice about how to see the situation.
To open your eyes for new perspectives, think about your idol. Really connect with it and ask yourself what character traits you love about it. Chances are you have exactly those character traits hidden within you, so use them. How does the topic you are complaining about look from this new perspective? What new information can you see from here? Make a conscious choice and take responsibility for how you see the topic.
“You are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life.” Anais Nin
Test your curiosities
A lot of complaining comes from beating ourselves up for not doing what we say or think we want to do. There may be many reasons for procrastination; We may not really want what we say we want, we are overwhelmed with the possibilities or we are just excellent at moaning. Whatever it is that holds us back, it is just an avoidance mechanism for stepping out of our comfort zone. If we don’t give our curiosities a chance, we will never find out if they may actually transform our lives into something better.
A practical tool to test your curiosities is to write a list of everything that you were ever interested in. Bring everything down on paper and then see which ones catch your attention most. Pick one, for the time being, and give it a timeframe. For example, if you were always intrigued by writing, you may decide to put this on your front burner for 6 months. Start with a first blog and send it to your friends. Publish it through social media. Start a Word Press page and set yourself targets as to how many blogs you will write each week. After 6 months, evaluate the process and decide what is next for you.
Is complaining resourceful?
Constant frustration about the same subject may raise the question about underlying reasons. Complaints are usually just the response to certain triggers, but they are not the actual source.
When we complain, it means that we deeply care about something in the situation that is upsetting us. It is likely that we are overstepping some important values and therefore, complaining is like a signal from our body that something needs to change (see also Beginners guide to happiness)
In my former role as Events Manager, I was brilliant at blaming people or situations for my unhappiness. I changed companies several times for whatever reasons I believed were true for my deep frustration. But somehow, the complaining didn’t stop.
Today I am grateful that my brother made me aware of this very situation: I wasn’t actually addressing the underlying issue. Only after spending a considerate amount of time with questioning my anger, I found ways to deal with work that were acceptable before I changed my whole career.
Complaining is a useful alarm that goes off when we are frustrated. Get curious about it and don’t let it destroy the possibility of living a fulfilling life. It may be the starting point of a life transforming journey.
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