How Venting Influences Self-Improvement: 4 Strategies for Success
While serving as the Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dr. Jason Selk helped the team win their first World Series in over 20 years, and in 2011 he assisted the Cardinals in the historic feat of winning their second World Championship in a six year period. Considered to be one of the nation’s premier performance coaches, Dr. Selk helps numerous well-known professional and Olympic athletes as well as Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 executives and organizations develop the mental toughness necessary for high-level success. Jason recently shared his tips on achieving your dreams with Forbes.com:
If you were to ask, “How can I ensure that I don’t excel or never reach my full potential?” I would answer: “Spend time and energy thinking, talking, and wallowing about what’s wrong with yourself and the people around you.”
Venting is a powerful influencer. It has the power to hold you back from seeking improvement and from reaching high levels of success.
Most of us have heard or uttered the words, “I just need to vent for a few minutes.” The problem with venting or complaining is that the longer we spend wallowing in our problems, the bigger our problems seem. It’s a misconception that “venting” about our problems will help us feel better or move on.
Watch Where You Place Your Focus.
Earl Nightingale, the well-known 1950s motivational speaker, stated that “the mind moves in the direction of our currently dominant thoughts.” Simply put, that which we focus on expands. If we focus on our problems, our problems seem bigger and seem to trigger us into thinking about more problems. Not only does venting or complaining about our situation or problems NOT make us feel better, it often launches us into a negative cycle of thought that becomes increasingly more difficult to escape. On the other hand, if we shift our thinking to what can be done to improve the situation, the possibility for solutions expands.
Be Internally Motivated.
Self-protection is a powerful tool that gets us through many situations in our lives, but can also hold us back from joining the ranks of the extremely successful when it’s used to shield us from taking responsibility. When things go well in our lives, we tend to attribute this to internal characteristics (e.g., “I’m smart and capable and deserving of what went well”). When things do NOT go well in our lives, we tend to preserve our self-identity by blaming our circumstances on external sources (e.g., “My boss is a jerk and doesn’t want to see me succeed”). These external rationales can easily become the focus of venting sessions. How quickly “My boss is a jerk” can turn into a million other reasons you’re being held back at work.
Let Emotional Discomfort Prompt Action.
When we “vent,” we’re often looking for validation that what we’re thinking is true and that we’re not to blame. Most will receive that validation and be content with the fact that there’s nothing to do to improve their situation. In essence, they become complicit victims. The mentally tough, on the other hand, use their discontentment not as an excuse to vent, but as a signal that an improvement is necessary. Learn to use emotional discomfort as a cue that something needs to change. Redirect the energy you would spend venting, and ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do that could make this better?”
Wean Yourself Off Venting with the “Short Vent.”
It’s not easy to stop venting or complaining altogether. But you CAN make these sessions shorter and more productive. The next time you find yourself saying to someone, “Let me just vent for a minute,” allow yourself no more than 60 seconds of complaining. At the end of that 60 seconds, come up with one thing you could do to make the situation better. Again, venting is a powerful influencer that you can use as a prompt to start seeking solutions, rather than as an excuse to indulge in blaming and negative thought.
Improving our situations is often hard work. This is why many people resort to complaining, blaming, and being passive. It’s normal to act in this way, but the mentally tough are able to catch themselves in this complaining mode, and then move on and pursue improvement.