Yup, after having spent three months in Colombia, this was the first reaction I had on my first day back in Montreal.
That same morning, I ran into a friend at the grocery store. He made the mistake of telling me, “Welcome back! You’re so lucky, you missed one of the worst winters ever.” I nearly bit his head off. “What do you I mean I missed it! It’s -12 degrees (Celsius). It’s freakin’ freezing.”
His response came pouring out with no filter and was just as cold as the weather. It was exactly what I needed to hear to put me back on track and shape up my perspective. His eyes seemed to practically be popping out of his head, bringing his hands to his head and shaking it in total disbelief. “You’ve been gone all winter in a warm country. You have no idea what freezing feels like. This -12 degrees you’re complaining about, is like summer for the rest of us who have lived through three months of -25 to -35 degrees and heavy snow storms. Stop complaining!”
WOW! I stood there absolutely speechless. Now, although I still felt it was cold, I was made to acknowledge that winter was far from being over and if I continued whining about it, I would be creating my own misery and annoying others with it.
If I continued complaining about the weather, it would do absolutely nothing to change things and it would definitely not make the season magically fast forward to summer.
I apologized to my friend and thanked him for reminding me that I always have a choice when I’m living an intolerable situation.
Later that day, I realized how easy it is to instantly get all worked up and consumed with negative thoughts and emotions the minute something goes wrong. Sometimes, it could turn to spending days, weeks, months or longer complaining about it, draining myself and those around me. I looked back to the time before I made a major life changing decision. I had spend years constantly complaining about my job, the weather, the traffic, taxes (anything that went wrong or disliked). I asked myself, “With all the energy that went into complaining, did it ever bring a solution?” Absolutely NOT! More importantly, I asked myself, “When I allowed myself to get stuck in a negative state of constant complaining, was I even eager and willing to find a solution by taking responsibility and action? NOPE! I wanted a change but, truth is I was afraid of the unknown and losing everything that was familiar to me. So, I made excuses as to why I shouldn’t make a change. It was horrible to feel stuck in a place I didn’t want to be in. Actually, at times I felt guilty and ashamed to even be thinking of walking away from a life that was supposed to be a ‘successful’ one (a good paying job, a big house, living in a country of opportunities, etc). So, I complained. It seemed to be the normal and logical thing to do. Truth is, it’s probably what kept me stuck and believing my excuses for not moving forward because of my fear.
The day I finally got tired of complaining (it can be exhausting), I became more open to the possibilities and began noticing opportunities in making the changes I longed for. The day I took responsibility for my life and began taking action, is when my life was filled with opportunities beyond anything I could imagine.
On that sunny, cold day, my friend reminded me that I certainly did not want to invest my energy in this negative state again. Given my past experience, I just didn’t see any productivity or purpose in this attitude and behavior.
One of my favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle, in his book ‘The Power Of Now’, talks about three powerful options when you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy. They have inspired me a great deal in gaining a different perspective and shifting my thoughts and attitude towards a situation.
Tolle says,“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your “here and now” intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”
Remove Yourself from the Situation
It was my first day back. This meant I would not unpack my suitcase and head right back to the airport. Doing this meant I would be gone for at least another two months until the weather warms up. This seemed like a plan. Only thing is that doing this would be an action I’d be taking coming from negativity towards the weather. Within the next two days, I would be speaking and meeting with clients to schedule workshops and conferences. I’d be giving all this up based on the cold weather. Hmmmm, I looked at my other options…
From my own experience, I realized that many times, it was my fears that kept me from taking action and changing an intolerable situation. In overcoming my fears, I gained clarity in making a decision to change it. This time, I certainly don’t have a strong, personal relationship with Mother Nature to tell her what to do. I certainly do not have ANY control over changing the weather. The only thing I have any control in changing is myself, my attitude and my behavior towards the weather.
This is Canada. Yes, the winters may be long and cold. But, it’s weather. My complaining means I’m resisting something I have absolutely no control over. Before taking any action, I learned that when possible, it’s best to stop the complaining first and let go of the negativity. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment when we are wrapped up in negativity, the action that we take can end up putting us in more distress, trouble or miss opportunities. So, I looked outside. Although it was -12 degrees, the sun was shining bright in a beautiful, clear blue sky. I suddenly felt the urge to go for a walk. I went in my closet and dug up my winter clothes. There I was, putting on two layers of warm tights underneath my jeans, wearing three layers of heavy pullovers, hat, scarf, gloves and finally my big, heavy, warm coat. I went for an hour and a half walk. The air was crisp and refreshing. The scenery was so beautiful and peaceful. Winter can actually be an amazing wonderland.
I actually felt a burst of energy after my walk. I no longer felt the desperate need to remove myself. Having taken the time to let go of negativity helped me to gain clarity and decide to stay and cease the great opportunities coming up soon.
Tolle also says, “To complain is always non-acceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim… So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”
Are you living an intolerable situation? How can you begin to break the cycle towards a solution today? If you’ve successful have already done so, I would love to hear how you did it.