Whatever You Do – Don’t Do This

Hate your job or your client? Stuck in your career and you’re struggling to get ahead?

Whatever you do don’t do this: complain. A recent study shows that complaining does nothing to get you ahead or get you the success and outcome you crave; rather, it does the exact opposite. Read on to find out how and what you can do about it.

Your Habits Teach Your Brain

Your brain is a collection of synapses separated by empty space. The empty space is called the synaptic cleft. When you have a thought, a synapse sends a chemical through the cleft where there’s another synapse. This process creates a bridge that allows electrical charges – i.e. your thoughts – to pass through from synapses to synapses with greater ease and efficiency.

Our brains have learned that it take a lot of energy to rebuild the same bridge between two synapses. So it created a solution: to rewire its own circuitry to make the bridge shorter and stronger every time an electrical charge happens. Our brain creates these bridges because it helps us conserve energy and speed up our reaction time – a very useful tool if you can’t find your next meal or if have to figure out whether or not to run when you see a lion. This brain rewiring means our bad thoughts become easier to “access” and our default position.

Complaining Makes You Stupid and Sad

Have you ever had a bad thought trigger despite the fact that there is nothing bad to think about? Enter the snowball effect: every time those bad thoughts come to mind, the shorter and stronger the “bridges” become. The shorter and easier the bridges become, the more bad thoughts you’ll have. And the more bad thoughts you’ll have will make you more negative, depressed and less motivated.

It gets worse! Complaining damages the hippocampus, which is the critical part of your brain that helps you solve problems and develop intelligent thoughts. This means that someone who complains a lot is also more likely to negotiate worse deals, fail to find solutions to problems and be depressed.

How to Stop Complaining?

How to stop a bad habit depends on what makes you stick to promises even when not motivated? If you’re like me, I will stick to a promise if I told someone that I’ll do it or if I am allowed to give myself a big reward for completing the thing I don’t want to do.

A few methods I’ve used:

  • Make bets with friends to stop complaining. Whoever complains first has to treat the rest of the group to dinner, drinks etc.
  • Tell family, colleagues and friends that every time you complain you have to give them a dollar.  Make sure they hold you up to it. 
  • Try not complaining for 2 days. Replace the complaint with a thought of gratitude, appreciation or a solution to the complaint. After two days, evaluate how you feel and promise yourself to do it for 2 more days. If it’s working, extend the “no complaints” period to 5 days and so on.

I’m starting a no complaint week to exercise this muscle. I strongly suggest that you also give it a try – the worst that can happen is….well, I can’t think of a negative thing to say!