The Things We Cannot Change

It’s pretty safe to say that I haven’t had a conversation recently with anyone that hasn’t included a complaint about the weather. In my neck of the woods, we have been enduring “winter in extremis.” Bitter cold and lots of snow and ice, going on for what seems forever. And it seems that people are getting the rats of it. Even those who love winter are ready to see the back side of this one.

This reminds me of the part of the Serenity Prayer that includes the words, “those things I cannot change.” Certainly the weather is one of those things that we do not directly control. (Which is a good thing in my book. Can you imagine what a mess mankind would make of that? The wars that would break out? But I digress). The snow and ice have disrupted schedules, caused more “snow days” for schools than they have had in years.

In addition there are lots of injuries caused by slipping on ice that is hidden under a layer of snow, or on packed snow or “black ice”…ice that is disguised as macadam or concrete. A broken bone, sprain, concussion or heart attack from shoveling is quite the unpleasant reminder that we do not run the universe.

Losing an ability to plan, or to count on carrying out plans that we’ve made seems to be one of the most frustrating things about it. I heard on a news program on NPR that there is a steep financial price to pay, in part for lost sales. Those of us who are service providers take a hit when clients cancel and offices have to close. A woman I know said that her family vacation plans at the beach have been lost along with their deposit, because the kids will still be in school instead of playing in the sand.

So how on earth does one attain serenity in the face of such helplessness?

That is a challenge for me, I must confess. But I think the place to start is to remember that the snow and cold are NOT causing our grumpiness or fear or whatever the emotion is.

Now that might just sound crazy to you, but it’s true. It is our thoughts about the snow that bring up the emotion (helplessness, anger, sadness, despair, frustration, etc) that we are experiencing. If you need convincing, just tune in for awhile to your “mind chatter” and notice what your thoughts are. And after you tune into that frequency, you might change the thoughts, and thereby change the emotional state you are experiencing.

This is a key to benefiting from cognitive-behavioral therapy, and also to making use of the Law of Attraction. Knowing that as you change your thoughts, you put yourself into a position of choice. Very empowering stuff! Try taking a minute to write down what you are thinking. You might be surprised. We get into habits and patterns of thought that we learned and collected over the years, and for most of us they are like wallpaper that’s been hanging on the walls for 50 years. We don’t even see it any more.

After you do that, notice what emotion is being evoked by the the thoughts. And then ask, “What thought feels better?” Go ahead…write down another thought which would improve on that. And as you do, notice that you are raising the emotional (or vibrational) level of your mood. I would encourage you to continue this exercise until you really do feel better.

I have been changing my own thoughts by remembering a gift in all this “lost” time, and that is that it affords me an opportunity to do some things that I have been putting off, or don’t get on my daily to do-list very often. Writing, clearing the clutter off of every surface (I’m not exaggerating much) of my home office; catching up with some friends that I haven’t spoken with in awhile; writing a get well card for a sick friend; working on Quick Books (my CPA will be happy); reading some of the pile of required reading for my coaching class; cleaning up the linen closet which would cause Martha Stewart to shake her head in despair; use that organic butternut squash that I bought at the market and make soup.

Probably the best antidote to making myself miserable over what I cannot change (in this case, the weather) is writing my gratitude list every morning, and taking time before I sleep to recall the highlights of the day. It works because it isn’t possible to be thinking of lack and loss, arousing sad or bad thoughts, and feeling grateful at the same time.

Gratitude banishes fear and misery, because thinking grateful thoughts allows the feelings of joy or relief to come. You may even compound the experience by calling someone who enriches your life and tell them so. Buy flowers or a plant to remind yourself that winter doesn’t really last forever. Write a note and tell someone how much they mean to you. Text them if you must. Just do what you can to recount the blessings in your life. It will at least figuratively melt the snow and ice. I highly recommend it to you.

 

 

 

 

A New Approach to A New Year

As December comes to a close, and another year looms ahead, my thoughts inevitably drift toward the goals that I met and didn’t meet. While I can claim progress to some areas that I vowed to improve last January, there are others that I have to say show few signs of my attentiveness or investment of time or energy.

And even though I go through the ritual of examining this at the end of every December, I have to confess that I am not fond of the sort of “Score Card” approach to living that this implies.

Certainly I think that goals are an important part of intentional living, or living on purpose…whatever you choose to call it.  We need to have an idea of what matters most to us, in other words, what we value. We need to be attending to our own growth and development, and in my view, the growth and health of our communities and the planet.

But the paradox to this also seems important: being present to the moment.  Learning to be mindful of what is going on within us and around us. Calm and accepting and aware.  How on earth can we do both?

Perhaps one key to it is to recognize ourselves as being creators in our own lives. You know, basically knowing that you can essentially have, be and do what you desire most. Of course the down side is accepting responsibility for what has manifested so far.  I’m not implying that we are not affected by who and what has come before us, nor am I saying that we can be at our best without the help and support of others and of Spirit.

Almost everyone I know has some thinking which I will call “default thinking;” a set of familiar if shop-worn and negative beliefs that we learned early on, and have not examined or outgrown. As we repeat this default thinking, our expectations, emotions, behaviors and consequences follow.  The cumulative effect of a lifetime of these patterns result in whatever our circumstances are.

So now that it’s the traditional time to “turn over a new leaf,” aka make New Year’s resolutions, it will be made as a wish that runs counter to the chatter of the Inner Critic who resides within most of us. You may resolve with all the fervor you can muster, however if that chatter doesn’t change, you are doomed to short-term results.

For instance you may resolve to stop smoking, but if you think of yourself as a smoker, visualize and imagine yourself smoking in your familiar haunts, while telling yourself not to do that, you are likely going to have short-term success at best. You are cruising for a relapse.

Or you may resolve to save more money or get out of debt, but if your focus is on the financial mistakes of your life, with all the attendant worry, guilt and fear that go with that, you are going to find making progress a hard road. If you think of yourself as a financial goof, then at the end of another year, you will likely be making the same resolution.

This is why some people think that there is no point in making resolutions. They see it as an exercise in futility. Discouraging to say the least. So what is the answer to this pattern of frustration and failure? How can you make lasting change? How can you create a life full of abundance of what you truly desire?

The keys to changing your life are in changing your habits: both habits of thinking and habits of behaving.

After all, negative thinking is nothing more than a habit. We repeat to ourselves those things we may have been told, or are afraid are true. And the mental images or pictures go with these “bad” words flash in our minds, reinforcing the “truth” of the beliefs. The emotions that match the images are aroused, making us feel certain that this really is true.

What if you were to choose what you really desire to believe about yourself?  What if you knew that you could tone down or stop the negative mind chatter, and instead talk to yourself in a positive and encouraging way?  What if your self-image was one of being powerful or loving or competent and not ugly or a failure or weak? Believe it or not, it is possible to make that shift.

There are a number of effective ways to change your self-image. For today let’s start with clarifying what you desire to believe about yourself. You can get out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of it. Fold it in half. On the left side, write a list of the qualities that you do NOT want to describe you.

For example, you might write: A financial failure; lonely and isolated; a smoker, someone who is undependable. Keep writing the list until you can’t think of anything else.

Open up the paper, and on the opposite side of the list you wrote, make a new list. Draw a line through the quality that you do NOT want, and in the new list, write its opposite, or the quality or image of what you DO want.

For instance, you may write:  A successful manager of my finances; a great friend with a happy social life; a healthy non-smoker; a dependable person who keeps my word to myself and others.

Use this second list as the beginning of affirmations you use every day. Write a desire statement using them and read them, focusing on the feelings that you will experience when you take full ownership of those qualities. It is important to feel the emotion or the words will seem hollow. What will it feel like when you are being dependable? Financially successful? Living smoke free? A friend with a great social life?

The success of this is not about the magic of the words, but rather about the consistent practice of affirming, imagining and feeling the emotions that you are evoking. The power of this is within you, and you must practice it until it becomes your new habit of thinking

The best analogy for this practice that I have ever read was from Pam Grout’s book E Squared, 9 Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.  She writes that the processes of changing your bad thought habits are like training a puppy. When you find that you are repeating negative, hurtful or self-defeating thinking, you simply pick up the “puppy,” take him to his proper spot to pee, and praise him when he does.  Then when the puppy is beginning to go again in the wrong place (the bedroom slipper in your closet) you pick him up and take him to the correct place again. No hitting, no scolding. Just kind, patient and persistent correction.  Eventually the puppy gets it, and so will your mind.

For this and other methods, you may want to hire a coach. My services are available, and if you would like a complimentary session to determine whether coaching might be helpful to you, email me through the Contact Page button at the top of this page. At any rate, I hope you will be encouraged to pursue genuine life change if that is what you desire. You deserve to be happy, not only in the New Year, but throughout your life!

 

The Art of Allowing Part I

Have you noticed that when it comes to “life lessons,”  when you forget one, that somehow you get a sort of cosmic thump on the side of the head as a reminder that you need to pay attention?  That is how it seems to me, at any rate.

Last spring I was cashing in on a generous offer from a friend to come to her spa for a treatment called Healing Touch.  Despite being in serious need of some TLC, she reminded me repeatedly of her offer before I finally surrendered and arranged the appointment.

This made no rational sense because at the time I was really at a low ebb; drained and in a gray mood. I don’t like to think of myself in these terms, but I was burned out.  Physically I was vaguely symptomatic, but not sick enough to warrant going to the doctor.  She obviously recognized my state of being far more clearly than I did.

She showed me back to the massage room, and asked me to sit on the table.  She bent to untie my shoes and remove them, and I nearly bumped heads with her, trying to take them off myself.  She calmly said, “It would be all right for you to allow someone else to take your shoes off for you.” What a concept!

This is what I mean when I say “cosmic thump on the side of the head.”  After the session was over, and I was feeling relaxed, calm and then increasingly rejuvenated, I reflected on that small exchange. How many times had I turned down offers for assistance assuring the person offering that I could manage it myself?

The winter before when my friend Denny called me to offer to drive over to shovel the snow from around my car, I objected at first even though I was recovering from the flu and in no shape to go shovel snow! Surely I could hire the kid across the street, and besides, what if he hurt his back again? Denny was more persistent than I was, and arrived despite my objections.  Afterwards we enjoyed a chat over a cup of coffee, and I felt truly grateful for his help and his friendship.

So what’s the problem?

Probably like many of you, I was taught that it is better to give than to receive.  And socialized as a female, the expectations of caring for everyone else rather than oneself were greatly reinforced. In fact to say no, was selfish and not at all nice.  And lord knows that good girls are nice. In my work life I have met many men who are burdened by the same internalized message.

Like many great spiritual lessons, I think that one has been poorly understood.  I don’t think it means that receiving is selfish or wrong.  In fact nature herself demonstrates that there is ebb and a flow to giving and receiving.  The ocean waves come in, and they also go out.  The farmer prepares the soil, plants the seeds and after the sun and rain of the growing season, harvests the crop. 

In our human affairs, the cash flows in and as we pay our bills, it flows out. We can quickly see in this case that we are in trouble if we are giving and not receiving.  But the same is true for our relationships.  We share our thoughts and feelings with friends, and we also need to be quiet and allow them to do the same.   Speak and then attentively listen.  Help when they need it and also allow them to help us.

It’s an irony that what we secretly desire the most from friends and family is for them to attend and care for us.  But we may find it difficult to relax and fully allow their attention and help.  What is this about?  I think that when we are in a position to help others, we have a sense of being in control.  Or at least we feel more powerful or capable.  To stand by and allow someone else to take off our shoes means to be vulnerable.  To open our hearts and truly allow another human being to offer his thoughts or her love means being vulnerable.  We cannot control what may be coming our way.

What if it hurts?  What if it stops?  What if I don’t understand it?  What if I come to count on it and it goes away?  Sometimes it is a challenge to believe in the abundance of love in the universe, as well as an abundance of everything else we need and want.  We are so conditioned by our culture to feel fear and a scarcity of what we need.  Our habits of thought are initially shaped by our parents’ fears and reinforced by the hysteria of mass media and entertainment that we pay to watch.

Although we desire abundance and love and well-being, we end up resisting them when we can’t believe that we deserve them, or that they even exist. When you take a good look at your life and understand that what you see is the result of your beliefs and practices, your resistance to allowing what you desire will be apparent.

However, we can choose to become conscious of those beliefs and thought habits.  Through practice we can replace them and the behaviors that result, with healthier ones.  We can be helpful to others and also allow for our own rest, replenishment, nourishment and support.  There is plenty for all of us.

 

The Law of Polarity

Years ago, during my former life as a junior high English teacher, I worked with Miss Briggs, the school librarian. Miss Briggs was a bit of a colorful character, as her name might imply.  She was a woman near retirement age, a dedicated smoker (this was back in the days when teachers were allowed to smoke in the faculty room) who absentmindedly held cigarettes in hand while she talked, and hesitant to interrupt her, we would watch as the ashes grew long and fell all over the place.

She had a little dog named Queenie who came with her to school and spent the day out in Miss Briggs’ car, and Miss Briggs would periodically take a break and go out to tend to her.  Miss Briggs had a dry sense of humor, and her story telling would often be followed by a remark that has stuck with me over the years.  “Life is a snare and a delusion.”

I have to admit to having at times repeated her statement in a spirit of sardonic humor to my children’s complaining. And sometimes to my own complaining as well. There are times when indeed, life does seem to be a snare and a delusion.

Recently I have been reminded that while life certainly seems to present a lot to complain about, that everything contains its opposite. Meaning that while it is true that we may have a number of irritating or taxing things occurring in a day’s time, that we are also living lives that are blessed and bountiful.  It just depends on where you want to place your focus.

Polarity is best defined as the presence or manifestation of two opposite or contrasting principles or tendencies.  In language, it is positive or negative character.  For example, light vs. dark; acceptance vs. denial; love vs. fear; inner vs. outer. In physics, polarity is the positive or negative state in which a body reacts to a magnetic or electric, or other field. I think that both definitions are important and relevant.

They are important concepts because we must acknowledge that both qualities exist within a thing.  You cannot hold a pole for instance without seeing that there are two ends to it. Even the earth has two opposing poles which are a part of the same entity. You can’t get rid of one without destroying the whole thing.

Let’s get back to the matter of perspective, or the qualities that we focus on. Can you believe that we magnetically attract the people, experiences and situations into our lives depending on what emotions we are vibrating or sending out?

This may be a matter of our selective vision or perception or belief.  If I begin my day in an angry mood and am not aware that my moods are the creation of my own thoughts, which in turn evoke my emotions, and instead think that I am angry because my neighbor has once again let his dog poop on my lawn, I am likely in for a “bad day.”

On my way to the office, I will encounter every idiot who doesn’t know that his car is equipped with a turn signal. I will wonder what my boss’s problem is because she is obviously feeling cranky. And I’m likely blow up when my kid has left his bicycle blocking the front sidewalk.  Life is a snare and a delusion!

There is an alternative that I know is a happier and healthier one.  When you observe your mood, stop and listen to your thoughts that have brought those emotions about. You are talking to yourself all the time, and if you tend to see the glass as half empty, that ongoing monologue is not pretty!

You don’t have to lie to yourself or be delusional, or wear a happy face mask to appear to be “positive.” It won’t fool anyone, and pretending will only prove to be an additional stress and strain.

Instead, remember the Law of Polarity. Yes, the dog poop on the lawn is there, and you need to do something about it. Yes, the world news is unrelentingly frightening.  We get sick sometimes, and even people that we love get sick and die. We will grieve those losses. But everything contains its opposite.

There is also new life springing forth all over the place.  There are babies being born; the beautiful cycles of nature are surrounding us; there are those that we love and those who love us; there are people truly doing good in the world, and if we care to we can join them.

We can become empowered by taking responsibility for our moods and perceptions. We do not feel awful because the world is an awful place!  We feel awful because we are focused on what is lacking and are thinking thoughts that frighten us!  This is just a bad habit!  Stop and look around you. Notice that you are surrounded by abundance and that you have the power to envision and shape the kind of life you desire.

If you would like to learn more about this universal law, and others as well, or if you are interested in getting some coaching with developing your life vision, click on the Contact Page and send an email to arrange a coaching assessment and initial appointment.

Living in Abundance

 

“Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday.
Realize the past no longer holds you captive.
It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it.
Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.”
~Sarah Breathnach~


Do you agree with this statement:  Just because you were born a Human Being, your natural birthright is to live an abundant life? 

This would mean that physical, emotional, financial, social and spiritual well-being is your natural state.  We are designed to be happy and healthy and to experience joy in life.

You might be reading this and thinking, “Sure this sounds great, but the realities of my life are pretty far removed from it!”

·          You might be struggling to succeed in something that is important to you and feeling like you are getting nowhere.

·          Maybe you are feeling discouraged in a relationship that isn’t measuring up to the potential you once saw in it.  Or maybe you are feeling lonely and in great need of improving your social life in general.

·         It could be that your financial life is a constant struggle or your working life isn’t panning out the way you would like.

·         You might be in physical pain or feeling tired and blah, or stuck in any attempts to do something about the shape you are in.

·         Or perhaps your spiritual life may be in a state of disconnect, and you feel cut off from that important part of yourself and a connection to your Higher Power, All-That-Is or God.

If any of these conditions describe your present life, it could be that the “container” of your concept of yourself needs to be expanded.  The beliefs and frequent thought patterns that you repeat have formed this container; for some it is a tight, constricting and limiting container.

You may recognize yourself somewhere in the description, but take heart!  Even deeply ingrained patterns that we have “inherited” or more accurately learned from the people who shaped our early life, can be changed.  In other words, we do not have to live in the same kind of containers that our parents or grandparents or the culture we were exposed to prescribed for us.

For the most part, we came by negative or limiting thought patterns quite unintentionally.  And it is common to remain unconscious of them. However, we are designed in the Creator’s image, which means that we are also capable of being intentional creators ourselves! We can pay attention to the “wake up calls” that accompanies life in the too tight container, and start asking the important questions and seeking help in finding our answers.

Living a life of abundance requires us to expand the container that we live in!  In order to attract the elements of our desires and intentions, we must “live larger.” Changing old limiting patterns of thought-feelings-behavior-consequences allow for new possibilities that lead to liveliness and joy and well-being. Coaching is a real brain changer!

Hiring coaches and having mentors to work with has made a huge difference in my life.  So I completely agreed with Bill Gates when recently watching him in a TED talk about education and heard him say that everyone needs a coach.  He hired a coach to help him improve his bridge game.  He also talked about providing coaches to help teachers improve their work in the classroom, an exciting venture that his foundation supports.  

Luckily for all of us, we are seeing a rapid expansion in the applications of coaching.  What this means for you is that you can change those limiting beliefs that are keeping you from attaining your dream job, getting what you want out of your relationship, or succeeding in a business venture. Whatever it is that you want to change in your life, coaching can help you achieve that.

 If life coaching is something that you would like to explore, or if you are interested in learning more about living the Law of Attraction, I am opening a new program for working with individuals and small groups. Check out my contact information and email me or give me a call.  I would love to hear from you!

 

 

Gratitude and Attraction

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things
for granted or take them with gratitude.”
~Gilbert K. Chesterton~

Have you heard of the Law of Attraction?

Over the past few months I have been giving a lot of thought to how the lives people are living often fall short of what they truly desire.  And yet we are all creating our lives every day.  According to the Law of Attraction, our thoughts and the emotions they trigger, and the choices that we then make, bring about the reality we experience.

We can make plans or set goals for taking the necessary steps to getting on track for getting a better job, improving a relationship, making more money or losing weight.  In fact setting goals and taking action steps is an essential part of the process of change.

So why do those plans often fall so miserably short?  What causes the sincere New Year’s Resolutions to fade away like so much dust in the wind?

Maybe it’s because we are attempting to force a change in those things that are external to us.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the desire to have a better job or relationship, or more money or a healthier body.  But all the “positive thinking” in the world won’t do any good if our real underlying beliefs are saying the opposite.

The problem is this:  how can I have a healthier body or bank account or relationship if I don’t BELIEVE that I can?  Or that I don’t DESERVE it? And even though it may be difficult to see and accept that I have such a limiting belief, the proof is apparent.  My life circumstances are the accumulated effect of my choices, and my choices are based on my beliefs about myself and the emotions they create.

 No matter how much I want something, I cannot receive it if on a deep level I believe that I don’t deserve it or that having it is impossible.

Many of these limiting beliefs are unconscious, or are so much in the thread of your daily thinking and feeling that they are like wallpaper you’ve lived with for 30 years…you can’t see it anymore.  You have absorbed them from your family and your culture, repeated them, and while you are certainly affected by them, you may not be aware.

So on a given day are you feeling irritable or grumpy?  Dour and dejected?  Cheerful and optimistic?  How would you rate your energy level on a scale from 1 to 10? This “vibrational level” and your mood will give you a clear indicator that your thoughts are positive or negative.

How can you brighten your mood and bring up your energy level?

The answer may surprise you.  You can do this when you practice gratitude!

And when I say “practice” I really mean practice.  Just as you practice the piano, or practice meditation, or practice doing the New York Times crossword puzzles, this is something that you do over and over again.  Some days it may feel awkward and difficult, and other days it will flow beautifully.  However it is, keep practicing.  The benefits are amazing.

How can I practice gratitude, you ask? 

  • Begin by writing a list of 10 blessings or things or people that you are grateful for.  Yes, write it down and do it every day, preferably first thing in the morning.
  • Write why you are grateful for it.  Don’t skip this step because it will help you feel grateful, and the feeling is the thing we’re going for here.
  • Pay careful attention to the beauty that surrounds you during the day.  Feel and express gratitude for the people who serve your needs every day; notice the beauty of nature in its large and smallness; see the beauty in the face of anyone you meet. Make eye contact and smile.
  • Notice what goes right in your life and express gratitude for it.  If you have a tight roof over your head and food on the table, you have something that a lot of the world’s population doesn’t.
  • Break your habit of complaining. When you catch yourself griping about the weather, the traffic, your spouse, your aggravating kid, your job, etc. just stop it!  You may have a habitual grumble going on in your head, and it forms a dark cloud over you and keeps you from seeing the possibilities that surround you.  Furthermore it contaminates the conversations you have with others and encourages more negativity. Shift your focus again to what is going right. Don’t play “Ain’t it Awful?” with others.
  • Make an effort to hang out with positive, grateful people. You will very quickly be able to see who they are.  Avoid the ones who are always complaining about slow business, or the management or the government or anything else.  This “low vibrational” energy is contagious. Think of how you would avoid someone with a lethal virus, and take similar steps.
  • When you are being challenged by some difficulty or loss; when it seems that things are not going your way, then being grateful might seem out of the question.  But I suggest that you look deeper. Is it possible that a failure or disappointment might bring some benefit to your life? To your growth or development? If we find purpose or meaning in these difficulties, they often help us become better humans, and thus we can be grateful for them.
  • At the end of the day, before you go to sleep, review the events of your day and focus on the best parts of it. It may be something large or very small. It may have been on your gratitude list, or not. Take a few minutes to re-live the positive emotions, and say thank you.

In a short period of time, you will begin to notice an improvement in both your mood and energy level. You do not have to do this perfectly or compulsively. Just make room in your schedule as frequently as you can, and practice.  I’m telling you, gratitude will change your life!

 

Stop Complaining!

To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” 
~Stephen Covey~

With the beginning of the New Year, many of us have some new resolutions in mind.  Or maybe as I indicated in my last post, some recycled resolutions from the previous years.

While it is important to have the Big Picture in mind, it is only in taking small, consistent steps that we move along on our journey.  So yes, by all means you need to develop your map to your desired destination to better relationships, better health, a different career, financial freedom, or whatever it is.

But don’t get bogged down by overwhelming yourself with a huge task.  Remember that all we have in terms of making life change is this immediate moment:  Right Now.

The first one is to quit complaining.  This one is simple, but not easy.  Chronic complaining is more of an epidemic than Swine Flu, and more toxic in its effects.  Today observe the conversations around you.  Notice how much of the talk in the office or the lunch room, or the television commentary consists of complaining.

Employees complain about the boss.  The wife complains about her husband.  The father complains about his kids.  Everyone complains about the weather.  Both political parties complain about each other.  Citizens complain about congress.

This is a habit of thought.  A bad habit that gets so ingrained that we aren’t even aware that complaining is going on in our own thoughts pretty much all day. Complaining keeps you constantly focused on what is missing in your life. A certain prescription for unhappiness. You do have the ability to observe yourself with curiosity and compassion and notice that you are complaining.

So what’s so bad about this, you may be asking.  Here are some of the negative effects of this mental habit:

  •  Thoughts create emotions.  We create our emotional states by patterns of thinking, in large part.  Complaining thoughts create irritation, annoyance and anger.  Not a great way to go through the day.
  •  Complaining keeps our attention focused on what’s wrong.  When we complain about our family members, we stay focused on what’s wrong with them, not their positive qualities.  What we pay attention to gets bigger.  After awhile all we can see and acknowledge is what irritates us.  And we get more and more of it!
  •  Complaining creates helplessness and hopelessness, the hallmarks of depression.  We become victims and present ourselves as victims to others.  We give up our power to the persons or situations that we complain about.
  •  Complaining lays the groundwork for our excuses.  If my boss is an unreasonable ogre or the bureaucracy that I work in is “run by a bunch of idiots,” then nothing that happens is my responsibility.  What’s the point of asserting myself?  Why take action to change anything?  I can just stay there and complain.  And believe me, I will find a lot of company in a lunch room full of complainers.
  •  By complaining, we create a state of stress within ourselves.  The effects of stress on our health are well documented as one of the biggest underlying threats to body/mind and relationships.  We get depressed, anxious; develop inflammation in joints, blood vessels and organs, which is the pathway to disease.
  •  Complaining blocks our way to creative solutions.  When you check out your thinking in the midst of a complaint, notice how you are making the other guy wrong and yourself right.  You are immediately polarized into fixed positions and therefore unable to be flexible and to perceive the situation in a new light.

When you quit complaining, you will empower yourself to make real change in your life.  You will notice that the quality of your relationships will improve.  You will be less stressed and generally happier because your focus will change to what is possible, not what is impossible and has you trapped.  And most importantly, you will see that the trap that you were in was of your own making, and that escaping it and building the life of your dreams really is possible.

You may be asking, “So how do I change this bad habit?” By doing two things instead of complaining:  interrupt yourself when you notice that you are playing “Ain’t it Awful?” with another person. You know the game…Ain’t it awful that the weather is so cold, or hot, or wet or dry? Ain’t it awful that we aren’t going to get the raise we hoped for? Ain’t it awful that young people today are so disrespectful? Ain’t it awful that my wife nags me about helping out?  When you hear yourself playing this very popular game JUST STOP IT!

The second thing you can do to end this harmful habit is by writing a gratitude list every day. It is impossible to be focused on what you are lacking and complaining about it and also feeling positive and grateful for what is present in your life!  Begin or end every day by writing down the things that you see are going right with your life and the person you are arguing with.

As you make your list, take time to allow yourself to breathe deeply and to really feel grateful! It’s okay if you repeat items the next day. JUST DO IT!