I’m not proud of this. But I used to complain about my life. A lot.
I’ve often wondered why I complained so much. Eventually, I realized that complaining is a leftover from my childhood when I was entirely and naturally dependent. You can read more about that in another article I wrote, “How to Break the Complaint Habit.”
When I was stuck in the complaint habit, I didn’t have the life I wanted. After my first wife died of a brain tumor, I remarried. Not surprisingly, my attempt to skip the grieving process failed and, of course so did the marriage.
After the divorce I didn’t trust myself to make good relationship decisions, so I steered clear of serious relationships for 13 years. During that time, I did a ton of personal development work.
About 10 years after the divorce I began to make a list of all the things I wanted to avoid if I ever did find myself in a serous relationship again. As I listed all I didn’t want on the left side of the page, I found I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the long list that came tumbling out.
When I couldn’t think of anything else to list, I thought, “OK. I know what I don’t want. What do I want?” I went back to the top of the list and read, “being criticized.” I didn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who criticized me. So, what did I want? “What is the opposite of being criticized?” I thought. “Being praised? Is that what I want? No. That’s not quite it. Being supported? Yes. That’s what I want. I want to feel supported by the woman I am with.” I wrote, “to feel supported” on the right side of the page under the heading, “What I want.”
Then, because I never wanted to have the experience of being with someone who would criticize me, I crossed out “being criticized.” That felt really good.
I continued, using my complaint list to ask myself what I wanted instead. The whole process took less than an hour. I had identified 65 things that I wanted in a relationship.
Three years later, I met Kathy. We began dating and things went very well. About three months after our first date I found my list and looked it over. Of the 65 items on my list, there was evidence that 62 of them were present or developing in our relationship. I was shocked.
After making my Don’t Want vs Want list, I never looked back. I didn’t do anything else to make it happen. I wasn’t on the lookout for the perfect woman. But then Kathy was introduced to me and the rest is history. We’ve been married for over 8 years now and she is literally the girl of my dreams. I’m a lucky guy.
What area of your life are you dissatisfied with? What complaints do you have? Make a list. Get clear about what you want.
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