Why is this happening? Why do I need to work from home? Why did the world shut down? Why, why, why?
Instead of asking “why” all the time, say “good.” I learned this from Jocko Willink. The idea is very simple. Jocko believes that complaining when things go wrong is useless. He says:
“…when things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that will come from it.”
I’m certain that if you’re reading this article, you know complaining is a bad thing. It’s one of the first things you read when you get into personal development. There’s nothing revolutionary about that.
So let me explain why I’m sharing Jocko’s approach here. Instead of giving people the advice of, “don’t complain,” Jocko realizes that we need more than that to truly change our behavior.
I don’t know if you’ve tried to avoid complaining before. But every time I tried it in the past, I didn’t get very far. I realized that you can’t just stop in a day.
Complaining is a habit
And if you want to stop complaining, you need to approach it as changing a habit. So if you get discouraged when things go bad, or keep complaining about all the things that go wrong, give this method a go. It goes like this.
Every time something goes wrong, focus on the good thing about the situation.
You see, Jocko doesn’t explicitly say to not complain. Instead, he says that something good could emerge out of something bad.
But it requires you to focus on the good first. How do you do that? By saying GOOD every time something goes wrong. Jocko explains in his book, Discipline Equals Freedom:
“Oh, the mission got canceled? Good. We can focus on another one.
Didn’t get the new high-speed gear we wanted? Good. We can keep it simple.
Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better.
Didn’t get funded? Good. We own more of the company.
Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good. Go out, gain more experience, build a better resume.
Got injured? Good. Needed a break from training.
Got tapped out? Good. It’s better to tap out in training than tap out on the street.
Got beat? Good. We learned.
Unexpected problems? Good. We have an opportunity to figure out a solution”
You get the idea. There’s an advantage to every disadvantage. If you’re thinking about how you can change your mindset, this is the perfect habit to adopt.
Measure yourself when BIG things go wrong
A few years ago, I wanted to stop complaining once and for all. Like all the advice says, I started small. And that went really well.
It’s easy not to sweat the small stuff, right? Who cares that it’s raining today? Or that your coffee mug broke? You’ll buy a new one! Everyone can do that minor stuff.
But the problem is that we often forget about the whole “I’m never going to complain again” attitude when big things happen. And that’s precisely the problem!
When you want to live a certain lifestyle, you can’t only do it when you feel like it. That’s why I’m always more interested in the big stuff. How do you hold up when big setbacks happen? Do you still complain? Or have you trained yourself enough to always focus on the good?
Right now is the perfect time to measure yourself. The coronavirus basically made the world stop. This has never happened before. It’s an extremely trying period for all of us.
I can tell you from personal experience that this “good” strategy is effective. I say it all the time now. When things go wrong, I stay calm.
Train yourself to think the following: When X happens (X being a bad thing), do Y (Y being a good/useful/positive action).
This is not a Nobel prize winning theory or anything. And I don’t want to pretend that it’s the best thing since the invention of the wheel. Simply see this as a reminder to spend your energy in a useful way.
This habit just shows that changing your life can be as simple as saying “good” more often.
This article first appeared on Medium.