Bluebird Lane Blog
Bluebird Lane Blog

Becoming Complaint-Free Now

by Lori Albrough

Daily Practice

When it comes to making a change for the positive, a lot of times we can get all fired up initially, only to come up against internal blocks or blindspots later. Or we can begin to allow external factors to drag us back down into negativity. The important thing to know about this type of work, is that you decide to do it daily.

Becoming Complaint-Free is both a practice and a process. There is no arrival. That may seem faintly discouraging, until you flip it on its head. That means there is no failure, either. We do this work because of who we are becoming in the process, not because of where we end up. So if you slip up, forgive yourself and move on. Just know that every time you succeed in not complaining, you are training yourself to look for solutions within, and to find your own power. And, this is one more step towards becoming who you want to be.

One reader said, “I have slowly started NOTICING when I am griping and whining.” Yes! This is the first step. Note that at this stage, when you catch yourself in the act, you can “save” a complaint and turn it around. You do this by quickly adding the word “AND” and challenging yourself to come up with a solution. For example, “Argh, all these pony riders milling about the ring during my ride are so annoying” becomes “Argh, all these pony riders milling about the ring during my ride are so annoying AND this is a really good opportunity for my horse and I to practice not getting distracted in a busy warm-up ring before show season.”

Complaining should not be confused with informing someone of a mistake so that it can be put right, and not complaining shouldn’t be confused with putting up with bad quality or bad behaviour. My mantra is, “I make requests rather than complaints.” One feels totally different than the other in how it affects your energy and your outlook, and you will know the difference when you are honest with yourself.

It is possible to make a lot of progress in becoming Complaint-Free in some parts of your life, but still be stuck in others. Remember, this is a process! In the article Here’s a Challenge for You: Go Complaint-Free!, I wrote about how one of my horses so vividly taught me the importance of keeping my focus on the solution, not the problem, in my riding and training. What I learned from her was to always calmly keep asking for what I wanted, and not take problems personally.

But still, long after I had internalized this lesson, I found myself working through an issue with whining and self-criticism, this time in relation to the business side of my horse activities. The following method was helpful to me in first becoming conscious of my blindspot, and then to take full responsibilty for taking positive action in spite of the external factors.

This method was to ask myself one simple question:

How does this serve me?

— or —

What do I get out of this?

In other words, if you are having a hard time letting go of complaining or negativity, ask yourself “What do I get out of complaining?” or “How does complaining serve me?”

I asked myself this question when I was working through the following issue, and the answer kind of surprised me, and really changed everything.

What I would do is whine that it was so difficult for me to compete in the horse business against other horse sellers who would represent their horses to be so much MORE than they really were (more trained, more reliable, more accomplished, more mileage, more highly ranked, more everything). I on the other hand would always insist on sticking to the facts, for example not calling a horse a “Second Level horse” until he had actually shown Second Level at a recognized show and achieved respectable scores. I felt I was at a big disadvantage against sellers who would market a horse as a “Second Level horse” when he had done a few of the movements a few years ago, and stood in the paddock since then.

I would put a lot of consideration into listening to a potential buyer’s needs and temperament, and recommend a horse I thought would be their best match, only to lose out to another seller who would tell the buyer almost anything and everything in order to get the sale. I would then whine that it was impossible for me to compete with a seller whose idea of “the right person for this particular horse” was the person who could write the check.

I would complain that marketing was slimy and pushy, and this let me feel somehow noble and above the fray. I had no shortage of people who would commiserate with me and share my view, and no shortage of evidence apparent in the marketplace. Around this time, Seth Godin released his book All Marketers are Liars, just one more piece of evidence of my belief system! Then I would criticize myself, saying “I guess I am just not cut out for this business”.

But when I asked myself the question, “So, what am I getting out of my whining that It’s impossible to be true to myself and at the same time be successful in the horse business“, the answer was sobering. It was that I never had to take responsiblity for my success, or take action to make it happen. I could blame everyone out there for it not being possible to make a living in the horse business. By making it their fault, I didn’t have to stretch myself, figure things out, and grow. Well, that was an embarrassing realization, which profoundly changed me. Once I saw that I actually got something out of my whining and self-criticism, that being the permission to stay stuck, I realized that only I could get myself un-stuck.

Nowadays, my whole viewpoint of competition in the marketplace has totally changed. In fact, I no longer believe in competition OR the marketplace, but instead that every one of us is here to serve the people we are best suited to serve. And that marketing is simply telling our own particular story so that the people we are meant to serve can find us. Interestingly enough, Seth Godin’s book was recently re-released with a new title, All Marketers Tell Stories.

You know, some of this inner work can be so challenging at times that it feels almost physical. But, it is SO worth it. Giving up whining was a big step in changing my beliefs, and showing me that I could stay true to myself, authentic in my marketing, AND be successful in business.

By choosing to believe that we have control over our thoughts, we can see profound impacts our lives. I am glad I made that choice. What about you?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


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