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The Opposite of Complaining

Added on June 8, 2011

The following comes from Robert Biswas-Diener, a speaker in Positive Psychology at next week’s Happiness & It’s Causes Conference in Brisbane, 15-18 June:


The opposite of Complaining

As the academic year draws to a close students are turning their attention to the promise of summer, better weather, a break from work, and perhaps a road trip. Before the doors are thrown wide, however, they must content with one last hurdle: final exams! During my tenure as a university instructor I have come to know final exams much in the way the students have– as a stressful time full of sleepless night and complaint ridden days. Shockingly, I have only recently come to question whether this is the best way to approach a tough period.
I received my first clue that an alternative might be available when I spoke with a student the other day. I asked her how she was doing and she said “Great!” Knowing it was finals week I figured I had mis-heard her. “What?” I asked and she again confirmed that she felt terrific. This was a dramatically different story than I was hearing from my frustrated students. When I inquired as to her lofty mood this student said, “I feel really prepared for my tests. I am looking forward to taking them.”
Let’s step back and reflect on this for a second. Could it be that the single distinguishing characteristic that separates complainers from those who are eager to face exams is simply preparedness? If so, why aren’t more students prepared? And in asking this last question I realized that many students ARE prepared, but still feel the stress and complain anyway.  I realized that the real difference between the two types of students is recognizing preparedness: Some students continue to cram and look at notes right up until the time of the test, carrying that stress with them all the while. Other students realize when they have a command of the material and then take the night off to relax, assured that they will do as well as possible the next morning on the test.
These distinctive attitudes are no isolated to students at the university. We have all experienced this in our own lives: continuing to make minor cleaning adjustments to the house even minutes before company arrives, making last minute presentations before you deliver an address to a group, and so forth. The trick to easing anxiety is to understand when your work reaches an acceptable threshold of quality and to give yourself permission to relax. L largely this is a process of trusting yourself.
Remember, when it comes to performance anxiety the opposite of complaining isn’t “not complaining”… instead, it is preparing and being confident in your preparation. Try it.


About Judith Lissing

Judith Lissing is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Wellness Coach, with 15 years experience in teaching stress management and meditation. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Immunology and a Masters degree in Public Health, both from the University of NSW. She is also an Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW since 1999. Judith is trained in Wellness Coaching with Wellcoaches U.S. and holds a Diploma in Hypnotherapy. Prior to coaching professionally, Judith held a statewide management role with NSW Health working with all levels of staff across the health sector.

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