I read a post at Steady Mom last week entitled, “Why We Are Addicted to Complaining and How to Stop It“. It resonated with me, and I found myself thinking about it quite a bit through the weekend. On my first read, I thought to myself, “Yeah, I know those people.” And I’m sure you do too. Those people who are downers to be around, constantly complaining and finding the worst in any otherwise ideal situation. Isn’t it interesting how much easier it is to see flaws in other people?
I was on my long Saturday run, pounding the pavement while my thoughts streamed at twice the pace of my own two feet. As I headed up a hill I found myself building in confidence and thinking to myself, “I am going to crush this hill!” I felt strong and sure. And then it struck me. I was running alone that day and my thoughts were totally confident, pushing myself on. Yet, when I was running with my friends, I often filled the roadside banter with comments like, “I’m totally dragging today.” or “Who’s idea was it to take the course with the all the hills?”
I spent the next few miles thinking about this difference. I can’t attribute it to the fabulous pack of gals I usually run with. They’re certainly not the “downer” type. And I don’t think I’m a “downer” by nature. It was right about the time I had my last shot of Clif Bloks that I figured it out (sugar has a way of making things clearer). I complain when I’m afraid I may fail. It’s a way of softening the fall, of giving excuses “just in case”. When I run with others, I worry that I’m holding them back, so I complain about how little sleep I got the night before, or how hard the route may be. I’m not a hard-core complainer, but the negativity is definitely there. And I can feel the physical result of that draining energy and negative imagery.
I thought about this for a few more miles, about how preparing to fail can never lead to success. And I wasn’t just thinking about running now, but life in general. Why do we complain and focus on the negative when we have the potential to be truly fantastic if we choose it?
Think about the common complaints. What is really at the core? Often it is fear of failure. Whether it’s a complaint about a difficult child or a difficult chemistry test, lacking sleep or lacking funds. We often complain as a pre-emptive excuse for failure.
It’s almost as though we think we might get to call a Mulligan if our hardship is worthy enough. But in all actuality, all we’re doing is verbalizing our belief that we are ultimately destined to fail. Complaints about a difficult student=Fear of failing to reach her. Complaints about a house that won’t stay clean=Fear of failing to create a welcoming home. Unfortunately our minds are so suggestible that our fears and complaints can become self-fulfilling prophecy.
Rather than pointing out the negative, why not make a conscious effort to verbally point out all the reasons we have to succeed? I’m not suggesting we ignore the challenges in front of us, but acknowledge them and our ability to overcome them. The hill is still there, but we can take it on!
Some may think this post belongs somewhere else, but I think it applies in every way to those raising and teaching children. So often we become frustrated with behavior, with funding, with policy, and with people. But we can also choose to find the bright side. And the children we love and teach reap the rewards right along with us.
So try it, even for one week. Whenever you think or speak a complaint, follow it up with a positive statement, a reason why you are more than your circumstance. You’ll find that when you stop putting your energy and focus into failure, the strength and aptitude for success was there all along!
Top photo by John Nyberg.