“Thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever.”

A colleague of mine passed this saying along to me some years ago.  It seems his martial arts grandmaster would greet each morning by speaking those words to the universe.  For some reason, this struck me as a beautiful thing to do and I’ve taken to making this my own ritual. 


Which is not to say that I actually have no complaints whatsoever.  I have plenty of them, many of which I’m tempted to share with the universe (“Thanks, but I could have done without the food poisoning last week.” “Thanks, but I really liked that car and wanted to keep it.”  You know.)


The truth is, complaining about those problems doesn’t get me any closer to solving them.  Sure, we all need to vent sometimes, and frequently it’s harmless – and can even keep us from taking an action that we might regret.  If a friend tells me how irritated she gets with her son’s behavior, maybe the vent will help her clear her mind and find a better way to interact with her son (i.e., better than screaming at him about his behavior.)  


On the other hand, complaining about a problem to the wrong person often doesn’t help anything.  If I’m disappointed in how a colleague treats me, then complaining to my friends about his behavior isn’t useful.  I might ask for their feedback on a course of action, or if they think I’m overreacting, but until I tell my colleague that his behavior is disrespectful, I’m accomplishing nothing – and will have the same complaint the next time I deal with him.


This has been a tough year for all of us – people have lost their jobs, or are doing the work of three people, or find themselves with their toes hanging over the side of the abyss.  What worked before doesn’t seem to be working now.  Ranting about those idiots in Washington who let it get to this – and who still seem remarkably clueless about what life is like for the average individual – can make you feel better momentarily.  But in the end it just reinforces the idea that there’s nothing you can do about any of it.


By focusing on what’s right with my life instead of complaining about what’s wrong, I feel happier and more powerful. I feel stronger and less battered by unpredictability.  And I see that even the less-than-stellar events in life can have something to teach me.  So whenever I start to get frustrated and feel a rant coming on, I try to stop myself say, “Thank you for everything.  I have no complaints whatsoever.”


It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try.