Habitual Complaining

Words by Joshua Fields Millburn

I once overheard this on a flight:

“This plane is taking too long.”
“This bag is so freaking heavy.”
“This drink would be better over ice.”

These aren’t benign observations; they’re sneaky complaints.

We all do it: we badmouth life’s banalities. The weather. The long lines. The technologies that work imperfectly. We feel compelled to announce our dissatisfaction with every blemish, dragging others into our vortex of vexation.

Even when we don’t fret aloud, we murmur or let the pessimistic thoughts stew until they become a stifling atmosphere of toxicity. Over time, these noxious judgments poison our days, our lives.

With each complaint, it’s as if we’re Yelp-rating our experience of life—one star, one star, one star! Imagine a restaurant barraged by dozens of negative reviews every day. How would that affect them? How does the juggernaut of negativity affect us?

The person who’s regularly disgruntled by their circumstances—rather than grateful for what they have—has found the perfect recipe for discontent. Most complaining, however, is habitual, and that’s good news because it’s entirely possible to break bad habits.

First, we must accept the unchangeables. The plane will get there when it gets there; bellyaching won’t alter its arrival. Instead, smile, breathe, and bask in acceptance.

Then, we must change the changeables. If that bag is too heavy, consider asking for help or packing lightly. (A lighter load is sure to make us smile.)

Finally, we must appreciate what we have. True, that drink may not be perfect, but we can smile and be grateful we’re not thirsty.

In virtually every scenario, a smile is more useful than a snivel.

This article was originally published on theminimalists.com

Joshua Fields Millburn

Joshua Fields Millburn is a bestselling author, writing instructor, and international speaker. Best known as one half of The Minimalists, he is the author of four books, including a critically acclaimed memoir, Everything That Remains. He has been featured in Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, Vancouver Sun, Village Voice, LA Weekly, and many other outlets. Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1981, he currently lives in Los Angeles, California.


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