Stop Bitching

We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.
– Carlos Castenada, mystic and author (1925-1998)

We get out of life what we want, what we put effort into creating for ourselves.

As a Canadian, I am quite familiar with the favourite topic of Canadians meeting strangers or casual friends in a setting such as in an elevator or in line at a supermarket checkout. We talk about the weather or some level of government.

The weather is always too hot, too cold (Canada ranks as the coldest country in the world), too wet, too dry, too much snow, always too something. Governments always get raked over for something they have done wrong or something that they have done that is expected to have tragic results in the future.

Though we may have something good to say about the weather or a government in an extended conversation with a friend, those shorter casual meetings always deal with what’s wrong. We complain as a matter of course. It’s part of our culture.

Have you noticed how annoying someone who works nearby you is? Why can’t your spouse do those few things that are important to you the way you want, at least once in a while? Kids clothes are absurdly expensive, they don’t appreciate the clothes when you buy them without them on hand to try them on and give their blessing, and they make the most atrocious choices when given the opportunity to pick their own because they want to dress like their friends.

Why don’t auto makers build cars to last, the way they do with trucks? Why do television newscasts always deal with bad stuff, isn’t anything good happening in the world? Why do emergencies happen at the worst times so they mess up your day? Murphy was right with his law.

Get the idea? Life’s a bitch, then you die, as the saying goes. Live your life focussing on the negatives and complaining about everything that catches your attention and life sucks.

Some local initiatives try to get people to avoid complaining. They exist around the world, but receive little media attention because the media does what we want them to do, report what is bad. You may not have heard of any of them. Here’s an idea.

Live a complaint-free life.

Most of us have no idea how often we complain. What we know too well is how often others close to us complain, especially when they complain about us. How about trying to cut all complaining out of your life?

Here’s how it works. It’s best to begin with two or more people who are close to each other (house mates, co-workers) so that they can point out to the other(s) when they complain.

Select an elastic band that fits loosely over your wrist. Each time you catch yourself complaining (or are caught by the other), either snap the elastic on your wrist or transfer it to the other wrist. If you snap the elastic, don’t do it hard enough to hurt yourself, just hard enough to help you remember. Both methods are used and both have their supporters.

There doesn’t have to be a prize for the “winner” because everyone wins this game. It’s really a lifestyle change. What you will try to do is to beat your own record for complaint-free days. It’s not a competition because competitions end.

Be aware that it won’t be easy. When you begin you will find yourself not being able to get through one day without a complaint of some kind. When you do get through one day, then two and more, the reward is double. First there is the success of setting your own record.

The second reward, which you will find becoming greater as you achieve longer periods of success at having complaint-free days, is that your life will be better. You will feel better about the world and about yourself.

Along with that goes the relief from stress, which many of us don’t realize we experience every day. That results in better health. And better sleep.

You don’t have to get a big raise, divorce your spouse or give your kids to Rumplestiltskin to feel better and live better. You have to stop punishing yourself, which is what you do by complaining.

Complaints, especially frequent ones, are like a prison you build around yourself. You don’t realize what you have done until someone points it out to you. Of course you wouldn’t have built a door in your prison cell because you didn’t even have a plan to build it. It just happened.

Now you can build a new landscape for yourself. You can build real and positive structures in your landscape because it’s entirely within your control. You aren’t in control of anything so long as you live your life from complaint to complaint.

Remove the negatives that hold you down–stop complaining–and you will have built a different life for yourself.

Your culture may be filled with complainers, but that doesn’t mean you have to be part of those who suffer by beating themselves up by complaining.

At first you may seem a bit odd to others because you have changed, for those you meet who knew you as your old personality. Then they will realize how you have changed. They will want to know how you accomplished it. Tell them. Explain how you did it, by eliminating one complaint from your life at a time.

Your life will never be totally free of complaints. You might not even want that because you do need some causes to make your life worthwhile.

There are always ways to say something in a positive manner that you used to say as a complaint. It’s called constructive criticism. That doesn’t mean that you criticize to help someone. It means that you point out a path for someone to follow that will bring benefit to that person (as well as to you, maybe).

Criticism that stops with a complaint is destructive. Criticism that continues by providing a path that will make someone’s life better–especially if you point this out at the time–benefits the other person, you and the whole world as your kindness and caring spreads.

Yeah, kind of like what I just did. I told you that you complain too much, then gave you a path to follow to make your life better and healthier. You likely didn’t even think of it as criticism because it showed you a way to improve your life.

That’s constructive. Go find your elastic now.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents, grandparents and teachers so that they have the tools to help children grow into healthy, confident, competent, complaint-free adults.
Learn more at


3 thoughts on “Stop Bitching

  1. You might be the thing itself. Aren’t you yourself complaining — about people who incessantly complain?

    If they didn’t have the outlet that kvetching provides, they might be pistol whipping some poor convenience store clerk for the hundred dollars in his register. For God’s sake, let them bitch.

    IMHO, your objections to habitual complaining are aesthetic, not clinical.

    By the way, Carlos Casteneda admitted in an interview in the late 1980’s that the entire Yaqui sorceror adventure was fiction. He made it all up, scribbling notes for his books on yellow legal pads while sitting in the UCLA library. Not that I’m complaining.

  2. David, you are talking about a mentally unbalanced person who wants to remain that way (“they might be pistol whipping some poor convenience store clerk for the hundred dollars in his register”). That person is decidedly anti-social, if not borderline insane.
    My article refers to people who get into the habit of complaining but want to be healthier by kicking that habit.
    Keep in mind that I identified myself as a Canadian. We do not have people as insane as you mention in my country. We don’t have a social system that teaches people to kill either.

  3. And I thought Brits were the world’s biggest moaners! Having said that I notice much less moaning here nowadays, many of us are being more positive and it shows, Britain is a much more pleasant place than 10 years ago, now that I think about it.

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