Do you find yourself annoyed by people who are negative and complain a lot?

Sitting in a coffee shop quite close to two women with pretty loud voices, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.

“It’s such a beautiful day today” the one woman asserted.

“Yes but it is too cold for my taste,” the other replied. “I like the temperature in the 70’s and 80’s.”

“Well at least we’re off from work for the long weekend.”

“Yes, but it will be so crazy busy when I get back…it’s almost not worth the time off.”

“We at least have this Pumpkin Spice coffee to give us some temporary relief!”

“Yes but they made it so strong today you can hardly drink it…”

There was a pause for a few minutes and the “it’s a beautiful day” woman took a deep breath and sighed.

“You seem to complain a lot and see more of the negative in things—have you noticed that?”

Rather than getting offended, the other woman began to laugh.

“Complain? No, I just have pretty high standards!”

The conversation stayed with me for the rest of the day, as I thought about how negative the one woman sounded as she found fault in every little thing, but didn’t see herself as complaining, but rather as someone with high standards.

How much do you find fault with things, rather than look at what to appreciate? Are your “high standards” preventing you from experiencing gratitude and finding the good in people and moments?

I consider myself a pretty positive person with also very high standards, and I like to think that I don’t complain much and am grateful for my life and every moment. So I tried a little experiment. I would self-monitor my “complaining” for the next 48 hours. How much was I like the “high standards” complaining woman in the coffee shop?

Results? Wow, did I have some work to do! I found myself subtly complaining way more than I would have ever imagined!

It started in the morning in the mirror. My hair wasn’t just right. Then it was too cold outside. The traffic was too heavy. The line in the grocery store was too long. The person at the check-out was too slow. And so on… you get the picture.

Chalk it up to high standards?

As we come off of the Thanksgiving holiday, which is a time to remember what we are grateful for, I challenge you to think about your own daily gratitude habits.

Do your so-called “high standards” prevent you from appreciating the positive more fully?

How much do you complain about your day, the people around you, and the events you are experiencing?

Are you conscious of the tone of your thoughts?

Are you looking at yourself, the world and other people from a place of constant judgment, or from a place of curiosity and learning?

Take a 48-hour “complaint inventory” and notice how much time you spend in judgment vs. pure enjoyment of the moment. You may be pretty surprised at the result you find.

Rather than judging everything to a “high standard”, what would happen if you just came from a place of gratitude? Rather than harsh criticism in the mirror in the morning, what if you smiled at yourself and felt grateful for being alive another day? What if you checked out a magazine and felt grateful to slow down rather than complained about the lines at the grocery store?

I am reminded of a quote by Wayne Dyer, which reminds us of our own ability to choose the way we look at things…

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change…”