An Insidious Habit Holding You Back

An Insidious Habit Holding You Back

There is one thing that is holding many of us back.  I know I struggle with it sometimes.  It’s an insidious habit that has a negative impact on our relationships, our attitude, our goals, and our happiness.  And the biggest challenge is, once we develop the habit, we don’t always know that we are doing it.

That insidious habit is complaining.

For those that know me, it’s no secret that winter is not my favorite season.  I am more of a summer guy.  I enjoy being outside as much as possible and I don’t love being cold.  It’s also important to note that I choose to live in Ohio.  We have winter in Ohio.  So every year I “suffered in silence” through the winter months, excited to get to the next season.

I suffered in silence…or so I thought.

One day at a staff meeting in November, we did an icebreaking activity where I asked everyone what their favorite hobby in winter was.  Everyone shared what they liked to do best and then it came to me.  It was my turn to share.  I jokingly said, “My main hobby in winter is to complain about the cold.”

No one laughed.  Not even a polite laugh because I am the boss.  One of the team spoke up and said, “Yes…and you are SO good at it!”

Wow.  That hurt.  I didn’t say anything.  We just moved on with the meeting.  But at that moment I made a silent vow to not complain about the cold that winter.  I had no idea I was doing it that much!  But my team had just silently spoken.  I had become a complainer…and I didn’t even know it.

What happened next was very interesting, at least to me.

Winter still came…and it was still cold.  But each morning, as I took the dog out, I intentionally changed the way I talked about it to myself.  Instead of saying “Oh my God!  It’s so freaking cold!  I hate this!”  I told myself “Wow…it’s brisk!  How refreshing.”  I just would not allow myself to complain…even to myself.  This was a big step for me.

I also changed the way I talked about it to anyone else.  No more did I lament the fact that I lived in a cold state.  It was just another season of life.  And since it was a season in Ohio, I changed the way I dressed.  Since I didn’t want to be cold, I started to layer up and really prepare for the weather.  Then, in a very real way, I was not as cold.

The change was powerful.

No, I did not immediately want to jump in and do the Polar Bear Challenge. But I did find that was in a much better mood.  I was not (unintentionally) filling my brain with complaints first thing in the morning…and throughout the rest of the day.  In doing so, it affected my brain.  The winter still came.  But the fog around my brain was not so thick.

I called complaining an insidious habit because it can leak in and affect all areas of your life.  And it really can become a habit that you don’t even know you are doing.  On the other hand, just like with any other habit, you can break it and create a new routine.  And when you do…it can make a big difference in your life.

So what is the target of your complaining?  Where can you change your attitude?  Now is a perfect time to take a look and decide where you want to improve.  Oh…and if you are not sure, ask those closest to you (like I accidentally did).  Those in your inner circle will probably be very aware…and ready for you to stop complaining about it too!

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