Why you love complaining and how to stop it!

March 6, 2015

We are at the beginning of March now, the new year seems ages away and we have just got used to writing 2015 at the top of the piece of paper. Unfortunately, this also means that our new years resolutions are a distant memory, or perhaps you were one of those people who were so used to a string of unfulfilled new years resolutions that you didn’t even bother making any this year. Being completely honest, I was in the latter group but for slightly different reasons.

I used to be a keen advocate of making resolutions, yet after multiple failed attempts, and year on year being left with a faint feeling of guilt for not achieving the dreams I had set, I eventually gave up even trying. This year, I didn’t make new years resolutions, because in my opinion, setting goals I will achieve in a year’s time is in such a far distant future, even if I did achieve them, I would get no satisfaction from fulfilling a year long goal, as it would have become the norm and I would be used to it. So instead this year, I set three goals that I wanted to achieve for three months time and just to be slightly different, I set them on 8th January. After all 1st January is just an arbitrary date.

I set one goal in terms of career, one fitness goal and one general life goal. My general life goal was to follow a principle I have preached for many years – you are not allowed to complain unless you are doing something about it. This was a quote I heard when I was 17 in relation to weight loss but at the end of last year, it occurred to me that whilst I did apply this principle to my life in terms of health and fitness, I did not apply this principle to my whole life.

It dawned on me, that even though complaining was not productive in attaining the goal, it did actually have a purpose. You see, when you complain to a friend or family member, in return you usually get sympathy. This in psychological terms is positive reinforcement. That hug or comforting remark elicits positive emotions in you, which makes you want to repeat the behaviour again. The problem is, the more you keep complaining, the less likely you are to actually do something about it because if you did, you will be unable to complain and thus no longer receive that attention. In other words, you have secondary gain from not achieving your goal as with each moan, you get instant gratification from your peers. The fascinating thing about this is that this is how complaining becomes a habit.

This habit then actually becomes adapted because we quickly learn that there is only so much you can complain until sympathy turns to annoyance. We all know someone like this, someone who complains about the same thing over and over again – they tend to be the person you complain about to other people about how much they complain. Ironic. Anyway if you are socially aware enough to realise this, you adapt and one of two things happen, you either find a new person to complain to or a new thing to complain about. Well I present to you, a third option. Let’s actually start solving the problem. Yes, it is the harder option. If it were that easy, complaining would’ve never been invented in the first place. Have an issue with someone? Confront them about it. Complaining you have too much work? Start doing some work. There is no glory in being productive and getting down to work but let’s get the attention from the praise you will receive in achieving those goals, and let that drive you. In fact, let’s actually start relying on ourselves for that validation, instead of seeking external sources of comfort.
Complaining is only human, and to eradicate it would be unrealistic but let’s minimise this cyclical behaviour and only complain for the purpose of venting negative emotions, expressing dissatisfaction or annoyance. These negative emotions are normal, and beneficial. These complaints are great, they give you the drive to elicit change and so let’s use the energy behind the complaints for productivity

I am not shy to admit, I used to complain a lot whether it was about big things or the tiniest most insignificant thing and I have improved immensely as I am almost two months into this goal. Within the last two weeks, I have got a bit slack though and this is why I am writing this post, to invite you to join in on this goal of mine and see if we can encourage each other to focus our energy and attention on being successful. Email me at for your exclusive access to this community, where you can share your struggles and we can provide practical solutions to get one step closer to your goals!

If you don’t like something, leave it, change it or accept it. All else is madness. – Eckhart Tolle