There are two types of people in the world: Those who complain and those who do something about it. And the people complaining the most are always doing the least.

Why is this though? Do people win more because they complain less or vice versa? That is, is this relationship causative or correlative?

Well, research shows complaining produces three negative reactions that directly impair our decision-making, performance, and progress.

First, complaining sours mood because often, “saying is experiencing,” and this, in turn, discourages effective action. Complaining can be contagious too, stirring the agita in those we complain to, who then feel compelled to not only complain as well, but possibly even one-up our complaints with more forceful grousing. If we then respond with more of the same behavior, a negative feedback loop can develop.

Second, complaining produces feelings of purposelessness and blunts motivation—formidable emotional barriers to positive assessment and change.

And third, complaining encourages us to perceive ourselves as victims of unavoidable and unchangeable circumstances, and this orients our thinking away from solutions and toward dead-end conclusions like “nothing can be done” and “nothing works.”

Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised that the less inclined someone is to make excuses, the more successful they generally are, and the people going nowhere almost always have a wheelbarrow of excuses to explain why.

So, what should we do when we’re not getting the outcomes we want? 

We should use these experiences to get better, not bitter. Instead of complaining, we should hold ourselves exclusively accountable for the failures and then figure out why we’re floundering and what it’ll take to win. 

This begins with asking ourselves two questions:

  1. “What did I do to contribute to this situation?” 
  2. “What could I have done differently to avoid it?” 

And then discarding answers that merely preserve our precious justifications and rationalizations and seeking answers that state specifically what we did to help create the problem.

“I shouldn’t have listened to bad advice” is a cop-out. “I should’ve stopped chasing shortcuts and done more research” is a buy-in.

The crucial realization is this:

Nearly every problem has a solution, including the ones we’ve failed to solve. The solutions may not be the ones we want, but they’re solutions nonetheless. No matter how difficult or daunting a situation is, there’s always a path forward. Whether we find and take it is on us.