I was having coffee with a friend a few days ago. Next to us were a group of people complaining about someone they just heard. It seems they were at a conference together and this was an informal get-together to lament their wasted time. I found myself wondering how this experience could have been more fruitful for them – and myself when I do the same thing – if they had focused more on learnings and less on losses.
I’ve been on both sides of this experience – complaining about and being complained about. On one memorable occasion, after I’d arrived to give a presentation about stress, I was just getting up to talk when I felt overwhelmingly ill. It was too late to cancel, so I went ahead and presented in a voice that was too quiet and in a manner that was too reserved. The result was predictible: a loss of connection with the audience.
Then there’s the time when I sat fidgeting while a new presenter talked about the technical details of investing – a topic that could put me to sleep in under 5 minutes at the best of times. At some point I stopped listening, and regained awareness only after the speaker had offered what might have been a rather brilliant suggestion for investors like me. I missed it, because I wasn’t focused on looking for it.
Why do we do that to ourselves? Spending our valuable time not listening, not engaging, but instead complaining and whining. Judging others and ourselves. It isn’t educational: it doesn’t add to what we know and can use. It isn’t pleasant or energizing. It depletes energy and makes us miserable. Who among us, after a session of self-flagilation, can then sit down and happily examine what happened and how we can do better next time?
Not me! That’s when I head for the refrigerator and set about numbing out with carbs.
On the ther hand, have you really stopped to think about those times when you did learn something valuable? When you did hang around and stay with the presenter? At those times, you might have brought with you an attitude of self- and other-acceptance. Accepting that things aren’t always perfect. Accepting that there is always going to be some gem, even among the most messed-up experience.
Accepting that we are all in this life-experience together, and that more can be had from self- and other-regard than from judging and complaining.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .