I have a confession. I used to be a chronic complainer.
I used to complain about being tired, having too much on my plate, my kids, my husband and my job. I believed complaining was actually helping my situation. At least I was focusing on my issues! The problem was, complaining didn’t give me resolution and it brought everyone else around me down.
I knew it was out of hand when my husband finally asked me to stop.
So I made him a promise. My promise, which has greatly affected me personally and professionally, was to BE happy with my life.
Mind you, on the inside I thought things were pretty good. You just wouldn’t think so by hearing me talk about it. Part of the story: I didn’t want to let anyone know that things were going well, lest they stop trying to please me, or try to give me something else to manage. Being unhappy and complaining about little stuff was a way to hide, control and stay small.
I sincerely wanted to change, but I didn’t know how. I had been this way for much of my adult life. I looked deeper at the things I complained about and the way I felt when I complained, and areas of my life where I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be. Instead of expecting others to please me or playing the victim so that I could control or blame other people, I came to a huge realization. I had to work at pleasing myself and showing it.
Here’s how I did it, and how you can do it too:
I gave up the right to be grumpy, bored or otherwise displeased.
What would you do if you were hooked up to a special emotion-reading machine that withdrew $20 from your bank account every time you dipped below “content”? You would do whatever it took to put yourself in a happier mood! I’m not saying it’s never okay to be sad or angry or upset. I’m suggesting that you can set the bar for yourself when it comes to how you want to feel on a regular basis.
Often my complaints on the status of things sounded like an update from a weather reporter: “I’m tired.” “Mondays are terrible.” Once I made it a point to stop complaining, I had to come up with creative ways to fix my problems instead. What would I have to do to stop feeling so befuddled by Mondays? I decided to teach a live course every Monday at noon. That way I’d have to be at my very best early in the week. Getting my energy up and being of service to others on Mondays shifted my whole relationship to that day of the week, and myself.
There is always something you can do!
It’s not about subjugating your feelings. It’s about moving from feeling to doing.
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I figured out what I would need to do to avoid being unhappy.
Do some soul searching and ask yourself, what would make me happy? What different choices would I make? Work less on the weekends, set aside time to listen to music or explore the outdoors? Meditate daily? Be more honest with people? Not lose my cool in tough situations?
Among the needs that I identified that would make me happy – getting seven hours of sleep a night. Not complaining about work. Spending more time with my kids, etc. So I made promises in those areas. If I kept all these promises to myself about the way I wanted to act and think and LIVE my life, I knew I would be happy – not only because they are awesome promises that would change anybody’s life, but because by fulfilling them I would by living by my highest ideals.
I gave myself negative consequences when I became moody or displeased.
Living by your highest ideals is a nice concept – until your kid slams the door for the hundredth time and your promise about “not yelling” goes right out the window. In order to keep promises to yourself and acquire a new way of being, you have to set yourself consequences for breaking them.
Here are some promises and consequences that I designed to ward off crankiness and bad moods: If I’m rude or snippy in an email, I have to send $5 in a handwritten note to that person. If I’m arguing in my head with someone, I don’t wait more than twenty-four hours to contact that person and resolve it. If I stay cranky for more than half an hour, I have to close my computer and get into the bath by the end of the day. The funny thing about this practice is this: Keeping the promise makes me feel better, and even though the consequences are annoying, keeping them makes me feel better too.
When I succeed at being pleased, no artificial rewards are necessary. The natural outcomes are rewarding enough: better relationships, more confidence, more peace of mind, etc. Happiness is it’s own reward. We often stay stuck being unhappy because we don’t realize that we have the power to create happiness for ourselves. It’s my mission to empower people to believe that, and spreading this word makes me very happy.
As co-president at Handel Group® Life Coaching and a senior coach, Laurie Gerber spreads her message of empowerment through live international events, one-on-one coaching, virtual coaching courses, blogs, and in TV and radio appearances.
If you can relate to my story and you want to make a big shift happen in your own life, don’t wait any longer! Our Design Your Life 12-week Tele-Course will introduce you to the Handel Method® and teach you a whole new way of designing a life at makes you incredibly happy and proud.
Image courtesy of Ondrej Supitar.