“If you complain, it will remain.” My 84-year-old mother shared these words of wisdom with me recently. That message, close kin to the statement “what you resist persists,” set my mental wheels in motion, wondering what my world would be like if I gave up complaining. So here, in this public forum, I am making a declaration: I am giving up complaining (at least for today), and I challenge you to join me in the quest for a complaint-free world!

Most of us complain to relieve tension, avoid taking action or responsibility, or just as a mindless time filler. Hang out around corporate water coolers any day of the week, any hour of the day or night, and you will find people complaining about everything from the dismal state of management to the food in the vending machines. Think about the last social event you attended. The conversations were likely filled with complaints about the traffic, how lousy the weather person is where you live, the state of the schools or other social institutions, or the state of the world in general.

And while it can feel good, worthy, or even justified to complain, complaining is like mental/emotional superglue: It keeps us stuck in an unpleasant state of mind and not doing one thing to improve our world. Here are some recommendations for how to begin eliminating the complaint virus from your life.

1. Ask yourself if there is something you can or need to do about a situation. Most of the time, when I complain about traffic, I admit it is because I have underestimated the amount of time it takes to get anywhere in Las Vegas and am mad that the other hundred thousand or so drivers on the road, plus road maintenance crews and traffic control engineers, have failed to consider my busy schedule! In short, I can take responsibility for my timing or where I choose to live, but I can do nothing about the condition of the roads, timing of traffic lights, or other drivers.

2. If there is really nothing you can do about a situation, then get over it! Why pollute your mind, waste time, and stick yourself in a negative place if there is nothing you can do about a situation? It may require you to finally accept that sometimes life and what it hands you are unfair. It will require you to stop holding on to what you never had control of anyway. Get over it.

3. Act, if you can do so without blaming, judging, making wrong, criticizing, or otherwise adding insult to injury. I recently read a letter to an advice columnist from a woman asking how to handle the following situation: It seemed the office manager where she worked was always sending others to professional training seminars, while the writer of the letter was “left in the office to do everyone else’s work.” She said she was “tired of being treated like a second-class citizen.”

The columnist wisely suggested that instead of complaining, she find a class she wanted to attend and then ask the manager if the company would pay for her to go. In short, she had to stop being a “volunteer victim,” take responsibility for her happiness, and make her needs known in a professional, mature manner. Asking is no guarantee that the other person will automatically grant the request, but it sure beats complaining!

Complaining does not improve situations. It certainly does not improve our minds, and it contributes to a toxic environment around us. Because complaining is so deeply entrenched in behavior, you may have to do as they advise in 12-step programs: Take it one day at a time . . . maybe just one hour at a time. Just for today, I will not complain. Just for today, I will take responsibility for my actions, change what I can, and get over what I cannot.

I may be dreaming the impossible to think I can actually cure myself of the complaint virus. But I imagine a world without complaints: a world where people accept what is, accept responsibility for their decisions and actions, and a world where we make requests rather than waste our most precious resources—time and energy—hoping others will finally figure out what we need and give it to us, instead of us having to ask for it. The vision is so compelling, the possibilities so appealing that I, for one, am willing to try . . . one day, one hour, one minute, one complaint at a time. Will you join me?

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways3.html

Author's Bio: 

Betty Mahalik is a life and business coach, corporate trainer, and facilitator who has been teaching people to communicate effectively, set goals, manage stress, and deal with change for nearly two decades. She founded her firm, Dynamic Solutions, in 1987. A former television news reporter and anchorwoman, Betty worked for eight years in the field of public relations prior to starting her own business. “My mission is to help people transform their potential into performance.” Contact Betty at (702) 658–4425 or bettym@dynamic-coaching.com, or visit her online at http://www.dynamic-coaching.com.