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A Surprising Obstacle to a Great Life  

I have been leading in one way or another several decades now, and, though I haven’t done scientific research, I think I’m on to something. I believe a significant cause of lids on life and leadership for many people is self-created and self-imposed. What’s the cause? Complaining.

Despite all the beauties of life, some people make it a living hell by complaining about everything. A habitual complainer sees right past everything that is right to find a flaw in everything and everyone: a spouse, a boss, an employee, a child, the climate, their opportunities—even God.

I remember being told as a child, “What you are complaining about right now somebody else would love to have.” Now I have ample evidence that is true. As you breathe right now, another person takes his last. Since the tragic death Sunday of Kobe Bryant, his precious daughter Gianna, and seven other irreplaceable lives, social media has been flooded with posts from celebrities of every description to ordinary folks like us, talking about the brevity and preciousness of life and how we should cherish it. We all know that is true. So why do we act just the opposite?

What’s the cause of habitual complaining?

  • Ego satisfaction and even a superiority complex can be the root cause. Complaining feeds the ego and excuses our responsibilities.

  • Sometimes complaining is an attempted cover of our own inabilities by making someone else responsible. Instead of dissecting the reasons behind our failures or discontent and taking responsibility to fix them, we complain and blame others.

  • Complaining may arise from jealousy.

  • Sometimes people complain to gain attention.

  • Sometimes people complain to gain control.

There may be many other reasons for a habitual complainer, but a lifestyle of repeated complaining reflects a mind filled with negativity.

What’s the result of habitual complaining?

  • Too much complaining leads to strained relations. Everyone is fighting their own battles and needs encouragement and appreciation more than criticism. Many marriages, parent-child relationships, and work relationships have even been ended because of this dynamic.

  • Drains your vital energy. Complaining behavior leads to a dark future and is an expression of a weak personality and makes you weaker. To live and lead well, you need all the energy you can get.

  • Spends your leadership capital. People lose trust in your perspective and do not trust that you have their best interest in mind. Your life doesn’t make them want to follow you.

  • Makes your own life less satisfying. Complaining leads to an inner sadness you can’t quite put your finger on. Because complaining blames other people and situations you live in a world where you see no way to truly control what happens. The outlook is bleak for a complainer. A complainer feels increasingly victimized.

How can I address my complaining?

  • First, own it. Quit passing on the responsibility and justifying your negative spirit. Own that you are an unreasonable complainer.

  • Drop your ego. Be humble and respectful toward others. Then you won’t need to posture or demand respect from others. They will naturally give it.

  • Quit believing you are always right. Quit acting as though you are the standard setter for the world. T. D. Jakes says, “The moment you are willing to give up on the idea that you are always right, the world begins to open up for you. Come in listening, not talking.” What is right from your perspective may be wrong from another’s. Most of life is just opinion. Liberate yourself from finding fault in everything and you will be blessed with increased satisfaction and hope.

  • Focus on appreciation. It builds your own soul and builds others.

  • Remember that lost time cannot be replaced or redeemed. Cherish the day and the people in it. Be thankful for your opportunities. Refuse to waste time wishing. Get started living each day to the fullest with what you have. Life really begins when you leave the complaining and blaming zone.

  • Monitor your behavior. Keep a close watch and sensitivity to your proclivity to complain.Catch yourself in the moment and change it. Before long, you will have changed your automatic response and will find increased joy in life.

Complainers may lead for a while, but they never lead happy people. And they never become happy people. Make sure that you’re not one of them.

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