There is one sport in which we all excel and must work really hard to be bad at it, that’s right, complaining. God, I’m good at it, and I’m sure you are as well.
It’s so easy to be good at it! It requires virtually nothing, it’s as if just by thinking it happens, no action or anything needed.
Gratitude, instead, is harder. If you found yourself hanging with the person you love for a day, and during the entire day, everything is amazing and lovely, but, at the end of the day, you get into a fight, you are only going to remember the fight I can assure you that.
This easiness to remember the negative is called “negativity bias”. It is a bias because it blinds you from seeing the whole picture. Gratitude gives you clarity because it helps you to notice not only the bad, which you are certainly going to notice, but also the good and with these, develop a clearer less biased picture of reality.
Epictetus used the word “Eucharistos” which means seeing to refer to gratitude. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Gratitude is a way in which you can see reality for what it is.
What can I do about this? What am I going to do about this?
Simple as that, the antidote for complaining is action. Complaining is describing reality without any proposition of action. The antidote is to catch yourself every time you sense the tiniest cue of complain and propose to yourself something that you can and are willing to do about it.
Or you can hire someone to play a small violin for you. Ha.
Ok, but no jokes around. Sometimes, we complain about things that are not so funny. Kids are born into poverty, you can get sick and a thousand calamities can befall upon you. But nevertheless, the stoic lesson remains the same. Focus on what you can control.
“Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable… then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well. Just remember: you can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so. In your interest, or in your nature.” – Marcus Aurelius
Practice, practice, practice.
Every time you find yourself complaining about something, use it as practice to offer a solution accompanied by action. You will get good at solving problems, because complains, rain like cats and dogs in our heads. You will make it a habit and you will make your life and everyone’s around better.
Just a simple antidote for complaining.
“Don’t be overheard complaining…Not even to yourself.” — Marcus Aurelius, 8.9
Want something else from Stoic Answers? Read: Opportunity cost
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