I'd like you to stop and think for a moment: How many times did you complain today? What were your biggest complaints?
If you find that it was a lot and that your complaints are all over the place, then you definitely will want to keep reading.
Complaining can be a trap that sabotages our happiness and success at work.
So what exactly do I mean by complaining?
Complaining is expressing dissatisfaction, resentment, a grievance or a state of suffering.
Complaining is not just making an observation of something that's wrong.
I can say, "It's hot outside," and depending on my inflection, it will have two completely different meanings. In one way, it sounds like I'm simply reporting the weather, but I can also say it in a way that makes it sound like I'm dying in the middle of the desert and feel like my skin is burning off. That’s complaining.
Complaining is taking an observation and adding negative energy or emotion to it.
When you complain, you are indeed suffering.
But here's the thing...
When we go through life, struggle is inevitable. But suffering is a choice.
Complaining is a trap that sabotages your happiness and success at work because it triggers your negativity bias.
What's your negativity bias? It's your brain’s natural impulse to focus on anything that's bad, wrong or threatening.
Our negativity bias is great and necessary for helping us survive because it makes us alert to and focused on bad or threatening stuff. But it's not great for helping us thrive.
When our negativity bias gets triggered, our attention goes to all the bad stuff, which makes it really hard to see things in any other light. And without being aware and making a conscious effort to override our instinctive negative tendencies, we keep ourselves from seeing what’s good around us, and all the possibilities for correcting or improving the situation.
I know complaining can feel so good, especially when others jump in.
But it's not the communal complaining that's creating the sense of relief. It's the fact that it feels good to be heard and acknowledged. It’s validating to have others share your feelings; it means you’re not alone.
Fact is, it’s still possible to get all that without infusing everything you say with shades of suffering.
And here's another thing: Complaining is completely unproductive—it literally sucks the possibility for addressing the source(s) of your complaint in order to change things. Who can focus on potential solutions or positive improvements when you’re so busy spilling your woes to friends, colleagues, loved ones, the cab driver…and anyone else who will listen.
So how do you break the pattern and get out of this trap? I have a two-point system for you:
1. Go on a one-week “complaint vacation." Basically, what this means is, for the next seven days, I want you to take a rest from complaining. This might not be easy at first—in fact, in the beginning it can feel like a real working vacation! But it’s not unlike quitting any bad habit. You just have to be really aware—of your feelings, your attitude, your moods…and as soon as you feel yourself about to slip into complaining mode, pause, take a breath and focus on neutralizing your tone and energy. Don’t think you can control yourself? Then don’t open your mouth! Unless in sharing, you’ll also be addressing the source of your issue. (And even then, check your tone.)
2. Write down 5 things you appreciate about your work—and your life every day during your complaint vacation. At first this may seem fake—especially when you're not happy. But it just takes practice, and the more you think about it and do it, the more, you'll notice, you have to appreciate. (Funny how that works.) And if you’re really having a hard time, remember that things like your parking spot, the free coffee, the supply of great pens, even your intern’s sense of humor all count as things you appreciate.
Need more helping breaking free of complaining—and ultimately dealing with the cause of it all? In other words, want more happiness at work?
Then join me in The Work Happiness Method—my newest 8-week course guaranteed to make you happier about your work situation…or your money back.
Yep, seriously, this is good stuff. Check it out!
My best to you,
With all this talk of being happier at work - I thought I'd share with you some personal inspiration…
My own misery at work.
Prior to launching WOOPAAH I spent nearly 10 years in brand strategy. I was paid to listen to people, unearth their deepest desires, and then use that to help brands sell to them.
I didn’t find that very meaningful – but I learned a ton.
To be precise, I learned a lot about being miserable at work. (I’ve had many moments of crying in the ladies room, feeling lost and confused – which have inspired the kind of trainings you've been hearing about in The Work Happiness Method.)
So I got myself out of there. If I couldn’t be happy, I didn’t want to be there.
I decided to dedicate my hard-won business skills to helping women entrepreneurs.
And I coached over 1,200 women entrepreneurs in designing the career and life of their dreams.
While this work WAS extremely meaningful, I got burned out and realized…hmmm passion alone isn’t enough.
That’s when I decided to go back to school to study the science of happiness and launch WOOPAAH.
In my first year of business, I had amazing clients, was excited to be working for myself, and generated a ton of buzz.
And I felt like I had found my purpose – helping people be happier at work + living better lives.
Sounds pretty good, right?
But the behind-the-scenes truth wasn’t so pretty...
I developed a huge Netflix addiction.
I mean, when I wasn’t working, I was on the couch watching marathons of Frasier and 30 Rock.
Seriously, I became a zombie.
Well, in hindsight, I can see it was because I didn’t want to admit something to myself. I didn’t want to hear what my heart was telling me.
You see, when I launched WOOPAAH in addition to consulting, training, and coaching – our main offering was immersive play experiences for teams. We literally had people splash around in paint and scream in the back of moving trucks to let out their stress.
I 100% believed in the idea. The experiences truly transformed people.
But I dreaded doing them.
I hated lugging buckets of paint across Manhattan and driving 16-foot moving trucks around the city.
I loved the impact of the work.
I loved helping people.
It truly felt aligned with my purpose.
But I didn’t enjoy the process in which I was achieving my results.
That’s when I learned that how you do your work is just as important as the reason you’re doing it.
Just like your passion isn’t enough...
Your personal mission (AKA, your purpose) isn’t enough, either.
Here I was, a happiness expert and a woman who coached 1,200 entrepreneurs on how to build thriving businesses…
… but I had stopped going after new clients and repeatedly let go of amazing business opportunities...
… because I preferred to watch Netflix.
What gives? Why was I so stuck? What was the thing I didn’t want to admit to myself?
Here’s the deal,
I was afraid of letting go of my vision of success.
I invested over 3 years (and my savings) in developing these immersive play experiences.
I had a big vision for how we were going to change the world. I told everyone about it.
I took risk after risk in launching this company. It wasn’t just my money, time, and energy – it was also my reputation on the line.
I was making myself miserable because I thought I had to make it work.
But somewhere in that foggy land between depression and numbness, I had a realization…
I knew something had to change.
So I employed a rigorous process of self reflection (which I’m actually going to be teaching later this fall in an 8-week workshop).
Then, I hired a coach – because I knew I needed to have support and be held accountable in order to make this change. I wasn’t going to be able to let this go alone.
I gave myself time to mourn my vision. (Because even though I was miserable, it was still hard to let that vision go.)
And I employed the strategies I teach my clients.
Now, I am happier than ever.
My revenues are up 300% over last year.
I have more flexibility in my schedule than ever.
My husband and I host dinners with our friends several nights a week - so my sense of community is richer than ever (here's a pic from last week).
I have a great workout routine - and feel like I’m taking good care of my body.
I regularly am inspired by my clients and say out loud, I’m so GRATEFUL to get paid to do what I do!
I am flourishing in a deep way.
I share my story to show you that being happy at work isn’t something that just “happens.”
Our path to finding the work and life that make us happy isn’t always direct. And it doesn’t always end up looking like what we thought it would.
Being happy takes courageously looking inward and asking yourself, “What do I really want?”
And then you have to be willing to change your mind and accept yourself no matter where you are.
I want you to know you don't have to do this alone.
And you don't have to suffer through bouts of Netflix and crying sessions in the bathroom (or worse, alienating those you love, or have your health take a hit).
Let's do this together.
There I'll share with you my 5 Point Success Strategy - which addresses the big picture of what it means to be happy at work.
Because passion alone isn't enough.
Nor is your purpose or your mission.
Let’s chart your path together.
With much love,
Today, I’m gonna get a little ranty.
(I don’t usually do that, but there’s something that keeps popping up, and I have strong feelings about it.)
Here’s the thing –
I keep hearing people say, “I put everyone else first.”
Everyone from your family, to your friends, to your boss – even your pets.
These people also tend to call themselves “non-confrontational.”
And here’s what I have to say about that…
Being non-confrontational is NOT a virtue, people!
You’re not helping anyone when you don’t speak up for your truth.
When something bothers you or doesn’t serve you – talking about it is not CONFRONTATIONAL. It’s just a CONVERSATION.
When your coworker takes credit for your work and you don’t say anything – you’re not doing anyone a favor.
When the waiter brings you the wrong order and you eat it anyway – you’re not making life easier for that person.
When you choose to do a little extra work for someone else because they’re so busy (but not really carrying their weight) – that’s not helping them grow.
Your being non-confrontational is hurting you and those who you think you are being nice to.
There are some tricky ways that being non-confrontational masks itself as a virtue.
Let’s look at them, shall we?
3 Sneaky Ways You’re Putting Other People First
(in a way that doesn’t support your highest good)
1. Compromise: reconstructing what you want for the sake of agreement
ex. “It’s your turn to pick take-out. Oh, you want to go to Hong Kong Palace? I just had Chinese for lunch, but that’s okay. I can order something different. That sounds good!”
2. Editing: withholding information about your needs or experiences based on what you think other people can handle.
ex. “It annoys me when Bruce knocks down my ideas in front of our CEO. If I approach him, he’ll think I’m a bitch. He can’t handle this conversation - he’s just not that kind of person.”
3. Being the saint: assuming someone’s needs are more important
ex. “I wanted to grab drinks with my friends, but instead, I’m staying late so my boss can go to his son’s soccer game, which is more important. I can always catch up with my friends later.”
So I’ve been speaking with a lot of people who are interested in The Work Happiness Method.
And I keep seeing all the sneaky ways they’re putting themselves last.
For example, I’ll talk with someone who is totally on board and super excited about joining The Work Happiness Method.
And then they go talk to their spouse about it. . . and then they come back and say, “Yeah, we really don’t have the money.”
But she did when we spoke the first time.
Her husband's hesitation (whether it's a direct "no" or just a slight hesitation) gives her the excuse...
Sometimes it IS about the money. But in most cases, it's about her knee jerk reaction to keep everyone else happy and not rock the boat.
Because if she was in the habit of giving herself what she truly needed, she would find a way to make it happen or to really express to her husband WHY this is an important investment to her.
What about YOU?
Are you using other people as an excuse for not being happy?
(Here’s where the ranty part comes in.)
It’s easier to blame other people (or circumstances) for why you can’t get what you want than to take a risk on yourself.
It’s safer than betting on yourself and seeing what happens.
For some folks, it’s uncomfortable to invest in yourself. (And it’s more comfortable to let someone else talk you out of it.)
It pisses me off when people make a decision that goes against their own happiness. Because not only is that really the source of what’s hurting them - but it’s also affecting those in their orbit.
“When you find your piece in the puzzle you enable 10,000 others to find theirs.”
By not taking care of your needs and turning your own light on - you’re denying others of your true gifts. You’re also not setting much of an example for them.
Plus, people treat you the way YOU treat you.
If you don’t like the way someone talks to you at work, pushes off the less fun assignments onto you, or who doesn’t respect your needs - take a look at yourself. Do you give yourself the respect you deserve?
I know you’ve probably been eyeing my new program.
And you may feel conflicted about it.
“It’s too much money to spend on myself.”
“Will I make the most of it? I don’t want to spend the money unless I’m sure I’ll DO something with what I learn.”
“I’m scared of what will come out of it. What if I decide I want to quit my job? What if I end up LIKING my job? And what will happen to my relationships if I change as person?”
I get it.
Making an investment in yourself can be scary.
But I want you to get that the reason it’s scary is often because you’re just not used to putting yourself first.
You’re accustomed to compromising...
To being the saint...
To avoiding confrontation…
In short, you’re accustomed to talking yourself out of the things you want.
So my question for you is this…
Are you ready to put yourself first?
It may feel scary. You may even feel guilty at first.
But when you’re done, you’ll feel liberated.
It’s time to stop living someone else’s definition of success – so you can start living the life that brings you joy.
With much love,
This blog is where we sharing fun facts, thoughts, aha's, and our two-cents-how-to's about everything we're working on, teaching, and living, positively. Topics include everything from the science of happiness, to team building, to improving performance, to innovation, to loving bigger. Have something you want us to write about? Let us know!