In the second act of the play that bears his name, Hamlet says that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” While I don’t think that’s always the case, I still think there’s a lot of truth in what he says.
Obviously, we can’t control what happens to us – or how other people behave toward us – but we can control how we react and respond to both of them. A lot of times, how we react to something or someone – especially if the experience is negative – has a major effect on how much the event or person has on us. We can ignore it, shrug it off, take it in stride, ignore it, talk about it, complain about it, get upset about it, get angry about it, yell about it, or even lash out over it, and each and every one of us probably has reacted in each and every one of these ways to something negative that we’ve experienced.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t react to negative experiences. In fact, some of them almost demand a response of one sort or another. For the most part, though, the less energy we let a negative experience consume, the less we allow it to affect us, and most of us (myself included) sometimes dedicate a lot of unnecessary energy to negative reactions (and, yes, that includes simply complaining about things that happen to us).
I want to try an experiment.
I want to see if I can go for an entire day without complaining about anything – not the guy who cuts me off in traffic because he’s talking on his cell phone, not the length of the line at the post office or the grocery story, not the telemarketer who interrupts my evening, not the political candidate whose campaign I can’t escape…
You get the idea.
I have no idea if I’ll make it through the entire day (or even the entire morning), but I’m curious to see how well I do – and how it affects how I feel at the end of the day.
I’m pretty sure I’ll still think of a complaint at least a couple times that day (I’m human, after all), but just because I think it doesn’t mean I have to say it.
If you’d like to join me, choose a day next week (either in advance or when you wake up that morning), and challenge yourself to live the day without complaint.