“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
― Maya Angelou,
“I can’t believe he…” I switched the band to my other arm. Twenty minutes later, in frustration, I began to share my important observation of the situation, “Good grief, can’t they…” I caught myself and moved the band back to my other wrist. I’ve never really been a complainer, but apparently, I had more to say about the things wrong in the world than I had thought. The wristband was moved back and forth often the first week I had it, and no one was more surprised than I that I easily fell into complaining, but by the second week, I learned to hear the words in my head before letting them escape my mouth. The idea was that every time a person wearing the purple wristband complained, they would move it to the other wrist in an effort to bring a little more positivity to life. Maya Angelou probably didn’t know about the purple wristbands when she penned her words, but her advice is noted — change what you don’t like, and when you can’t, change the way you think about things you don’t like instead of complaining.
Some people seem to enjoy complaining, but research shows that it’s not as much fun or as good for us as we might think. How often do we say, “I’m just venting,” and launch into a lengthy rant? While I think venting is not all bad, the science says true complaining is a different story, and it seems that you and I need to take notice. There is a really long explanation about the fact that our brain develops connections based on our thoughts, and the more often we have complaining type thoughts, the more we will develop somewhat permanent complaining thoughts. But the short of it is this: the more we complain, the more we’ll complain, and people don’t especially enjoy being around complainers.
What better time than now, as we head into spring, to make a plan to change your thinking and your speech, to complain less and enjoy more. Ready?
- Laugh — let yourself laugh and enjoy something funny that crosses your path, or just learn to laugh at yourself instead of casting blame for a problem on someone else.
- Ditch the toxic friends — people who are major complainers are also a major drain on your energy level. We wouldn’t stay in our homes if there were something toxic that made us not feel well, so why do we keep people around who make us not feel well with their constant complaining?
- Stop judging people — it’s that ability to quickly judge another person that feeds our ease of complaining. Maybe the server who is taking a long time to check on your table at the restaurant has run into issues in the kitchen or had a personal crisis they need to deal with. How would your trying to consider the reasons for their inattentiveness change how you feel about the situation?
- Try the but-positive approach — suggested by Jon Gordon in the book, The No-Complaining Rule, this takes what begins as a complaint and transforms it into a positive thought. “When you realize you are complaining, you simply add the word but and then add a positive thought or positive action.Example: I don’t like that I’m out of shape but I love feeling great so I’m going to focus on exercising and eating right.”
You don’t have to have a wristband to remind you to not complain and criticize, although it makes for a tangible reminder as you go through the step of moving it from one wrist to the other. Today is your new beginning! As you and I pay attention to what we are thinking, we’ll be paying attention to the words we are speaking. Pretty soon, we just might discover that we are more pleasant to be around, and that can be life-changing.