When you get up in the morning, what’s the first thought that crosses your mind? Is it positive or negative?
I find this world is becoming increasingly negative. We procrastinate because we don’t want to do the things we should. We can’t be bothered. We want everything the way we want it and we want it now. I was watching a talk from Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice on ted.com recently and he hypothesized that because we have so many choices – nearly endless in many cases – we are unhappy when something does not fully meet our expectations. We are no longer ever pleasantly surprised when something turns out to be better than we thought it would be.
Nothing is ever better than we think it will be thanks to our ridiculously high expectations.
Do you complain about going to work? Not having enough money? Not having a big enough or nice enough home? Not having a partner? Not liking the partner you do have? Your kids are driving you crazy? You don’t have kids and you want them? You have kids and you don’t want them? Do you complain about your friends, your in-laws, your teachers, your boss? Do you complain that your restaurant meal was not to your liking or the service you received didn’t come with a smile?
Do you like to laugh at other people? Do you look at someone and silently – or even right out loud – comment that they’re too fat or too skinny, they have funny-looking hair, went too far with the self-tanner, dress poorly, walk funny?
Where is all this coming from? Where is the joy?
Someone once gave me a piece of advice I’ll never forget… something that changed me forever: They said, “No one wants to hear you complain all the time. Just stop.”
See, because I was uncomfortable with who I was – I was socially awkward and had a somewhat lowered sense of self esteem – I used complaining and negativity as an ice breaker… a conversation starter. If I were to complain about something or someone, surely another person who agreed with me would chime in and we could be miserable together. It wasn’t until someone really drew my attention to it that I realized just how bad it had become.
I think the whole world needs the same kick in the pants that guy gave to me those many years ago.
Watch Barry Schwartz’s TED talk: