How many times have you complained about something only to reminisce about it after you've been through it?
Think school times. We complained about stupid teachers, boring homework, stressful exams, and idiotic bullies right? How many times have you said that you miss school ever since? Or if you have not left school, how many times have you heard someone said something to this tune?
Think National Service* (NS). EVERYONE complains about how tough or how meaningless or even how they suffered in NS. But when you see a bunch of guys get started on a topic about NS, you know they are about to go on and on and on (me included) and they always laugh about it rather than sulk.
*National Service refers to the compulsory military service required of all male citizens.
Think parenting. “Taking care of the baby is a breeze. It’s so easy and does not disrupt my life” said no parent ever.
An infant is about as disruptive to your daily routine as a full blown war can be. You lose all your free time, devoting yourself to the new “invader” in your home. You get woken up in the middle of the night and immediately get into action as if your life depended on it. You give everything you have to the baby. Similar to NS, you hear new mothers talking about how tough it was to take care of the little one but if you ask them about their opinion about motherhood, they will look at you with their dark-ringed eyes and say with a smile “It’s great. Everything is worth it.”
“I hate this, why do I have to do this mountain of homework during the holiday”
“I don’t understand why we have to clean the toilet everyday”
“Argh! I have to clean the baby’s poop again!”
These are the Mental Conversation we have with ourselves during the tough times. Does the things that we complain about really matter in years to come? I doubt so. But they prevent us from enjoying life as it is. Life is not meant to be easy but we can all live a good life if we allow ourselves to.
Instead of sulking at what you are doing, try this. Change your mental language.
Change your Have-to into Get-to. In the same scenarios as above, I change the mental language:
“I get to wear my comfy home clothes and enjoy my favourite music while working through these home work. I also get to go out with my friends afterwards too.”
“I get to work on my biceps while scrubbing the toilet.”
“I get to bond with my baby while cleaning his poop”
Try it. Change the language of your mental conversation and you will start to enjoy the moment and be more present. Then you wouldn't have to wait for a few years before seeing the positive side of things.
Not only will the change of language make you happier, many times, it allows you to become better at what you are doing.
Imagine yourself sulking, complaining, and disgruntled. How well are you going to perform your task at hand? Be it cleaning, working, or parenting. While sulking, you won’t be at your best. And more often than not, it results in mistakes and you re-doing the task all over again or prolonging your ‘misery’. While complaining, even mentally, you probably will take longer to finish your work, to clean the toilet, or upset the baby with your angry vibes.
Ok, so it all sounds good right? But how do you actually apply it when you are staring hardship in the face and can’t think of anything positive.
1) Frame your situation differently
While suffering in one way, often you can make the best of the situation by looking at your current situation in a different light. While scrubbing the toilet floor, you can see yourself as doing a dirty job, or you could frame it as a workout and enjoy it.
You could also see it as a way of improving yourself. While we have talked about improving physically, you can also improve yourself emotionally or mentally. See it as a challenge to overcome. Treat it like a game if you will. Either way, it makes your task more fun.
2) Project forward
Look forward to a clean toilet, bigger biceps, clean and healthy baby, whatever..
Everything we do has a reason. Why are you doing what you are doing?Because the teacher/officer/baby is out to torture you? No, the REAL reason. Some time in future, how will what you do now serve you? It could be the next hour, year, or decades.
We clean the toilet so everyone gets to use a clean toilet. We also learn to be more disciplined which will serve us well in future.
We do the homework because it will help us score better in exams.
We clean the baby poop so he/she will feel clean and be healthy which also makes it more enjoyable for us. Who would want their baby to be unhealthy and whiny because of poop stuck in the bum?
3) Relate to other realities
Are you doing the ultimate horrid task in the world? What are others in the world doing that are worse than what you are doing right now?
Children in other countries don’t get to go school and are restricted to doing labour work for a living. And for all we know, that child right there might have been a Nobel prize winner had he/she been born in a different place.
So.. is the mountain of homework that bad?
Some people clean toilet for a living. You are only cleaning it for a few times.
So.. is it that bad?
There are people in the world who wished for all their life to have a baby but never had one. You on the other hand, have a healthy baby to cuddle. Would you rather give your child away to those who can’t have one?
So.. is it that bad?
You might argue that I'm being overly positive. Maybe.. Maybe not.. We only have a limited time alive. I prefer to look at the bright side of every situation. There is always something we can gain from any situation. We just need to look in the right angle and make the best of whatever cards life deals us.
Sometimes our brain tricks us into believing that some things are worse than it actually is. How do we get out of it? Change your mental language from Have-to into Get-to.
- Frame your situation differently
- Project forward
- Relate to other realities
Next time you feel like complaining, remember to change your mental language. You will feel happier and more accomplished.