Succeed By Working Instead Of Whining

By John Watson

Some humans waste a lot of time and energy on self-pity and whining when they could be using that wasted time and energy to improve their situation so that they have less to whine about.

The dictionary defines whining as complaining in a childish, moaning kind of way. You will find a definitive example of this, from my own childhood, later in this article.

In the kick butt film “G.I. Jane”, the brutal Master Chief John Urgayle, eventually shows Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, acted by Demi Moore, one of the key values behind his pitiless training methods.

At the successful conclusion of her tortuous training to be part of a tough elite squad, he gives her his book of D.H. Lawrence’s poetry in which he has circled one of his favorite poems entitled ‘Self-Pity’. In this famous poem, Lawrence shows his admiration for the courage of wild creatures:

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.

A bird will fall frozen dead from a bough

Without ever having felt sorry for itself.”

The bird will sing all its life without complaint until it reaches the end of its short life. The thought of feeling sorry for itself never, as far as we know, enters its head.

Humans sing too but some will also spend a huge chunk of their lives moaning and groaning about the weather, the traffic, inflation, the government, their parents, their children and the people who misjudge, criticize and fail to appreciate them.

They may even feel that the universe has it in for them. They ask: “Why me? Why now? Somebody is out to get me!” They even have songs which complain about all manner of things.

Anthony D’Angelo suggests a wise solution: “Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have the time to do something about it.” Perhaps we should add: “If you can’t do anything about it, just accept it and move on.”

If the traffic is heavy, don’t whine or whinge ( i.e. complain in a persistent and annoying manner). Just leave early enough to reach your destination in good time. If you miss a train, check the timetable more carefully next time!

If you have a huge amount of work to do, don’t moan about it. Make a list of what you have to do; prioritize it and then get started on the first task. At the very least, do the easiest task on your list. You will begin to feel a sense of control and power rather than a feeling of self-pity. Try to make your lists in the evening so that you can get cracking early in the morning.

If a whining or self-pitying thought enters your mind replace it as soon as you can with thoughts of power and gratitude. Fill your mind with the belief that you can sort out almost any problem if you give it some focused attention or ask for help from an expert. Be thankful for all you already have and you will attract more good things and experiences into your life.

Nelson Mandela is a great example of what can be achieved if you refuse to pity yourself. He managed to forgive those who had imprisoned him for 27 years:

“I had to let it go,” said Mandela. “They took the best years of my life… They destroyed my marriage. They abused me physically and mentally. They could take everything except my heart and mind. Those things I would have to give away and I decided not to give them away.”

His example inspired a nation. There are still problems in South Africa but the nation has become a beacon to the rest of the world and they even managed to win the Rugby Union World Cup in 2007!

Richard Smith, the editor of the British Medical Journal, has noted how Mandela inspired Bill Clinton to overcome self-pity. The humiliated President felt sorry for himself when he was harassed by prosecutors over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

However, Clinton managed to follow Mandela’s example, forgiving his tormentors and resisting self pity. “You do this,” he observes, “not for other people but yourself. If you don’t let it go, it continues to eat at you.”

Smith notes the wisdom in Bill Clinton’s words. Self pity will destroy you and not the people whom you might feel rightly or wrongly are attacking you. The train you’ve just missed ‘will not care a hoot’ that you have just missed it.

When I was a boy, my favorite part of the Yorkshire pudding was the crusty corner. On one memorable occasion, my granddad gave me one of the soggy portions from the middle of the pudding instead of my favorite portion! I was filled with anger and self-pity.

To the astonishment of all present, I grabbed a spoonful of mustard and swallowed it down neat as a protest against life’s injustice. No one suffered except me! Self-pity, then, can only make a bad situation worse. It makes sense not to give in to it. You will be the one to suffer most.

Recently, I felt like complaining when I was trying to sleep and a local bird was endlessly repeating the same loud bird song. The sounds emerged over and over again as the bird sang like a demented rapper on automatic – uh OOOH oh, uh OOOH oh. In fact, I can hear it now! It has started up again!

Eventually, I switched off the central heating and closed my window so that I could no longer hear the bird song. I’ve just had to close the window again! This bird is definitely feeling no pity for itself or anyone else in ear shot!

Of course, there are times when no one could blame you for feeling self-pity and complaining. If you or a loved one are suffering chronic pain from cancer or a similar illness, self-pity would seem to be justified. Like Job, you or they might well feel like cursing God or the Universe and dying.

This article is not about that depth of pain. However Master Chief John Urgayle points out that some kinds of pain can be useful:

“Pain is your friend, your ally. It will tell you when you are seriously injured; it will keep you awake and angry and remind you to finish the job and get the hell home. But you know the best thing about pain?”

Lt. Jordan O’Neil: “Don’t know!”

Master Chief John Urgayle: “It lets you know you’re not dead yet!”

Pain was my friend when I was about twelve years old. I had had an operation on a toe. The surgical bandage was too tight and I soon developed gangrene. I complained of the pain. The local doctor said I was complaining unnecessarily!

Fortunately, my mother knew me better and disobeyed the doctor’s instructions by bravely cutting open the bandage. This revealed a toe which was black with gangrene. The pain disappeared as soon as the bandage was removed but I nearly lost both my leg and my life. In the end I lost only half the toe. Complaining and a brave mother had saved my leg and, possibly, my life.

There are times, then, when we can overcome problems by complaining but, in the majority of cases, work or some other kind of action is preferable to wasting time complaining.

As long as we are alive and not in such excruciating pain that we cannot achieve anything except just staying alive, we have the option of not spending time whining.

Instead we can use the time we would normally have spent complaining to take action and find a solution to whatever it is that we are complaining about.

Every day we could ask ourselves the question: “Are you going to rise and shine or rise and whine?” The wise choice, in my view, is to shine. We would make ourselves and others much happier by following the words of the famous gospel song which is relevant to both adults and children:

“This little light of mine; I’m going to let it shine!”

John Watson has written several ebooks on the importance of your mindset in any activity you are currently engaged in. A positive, optimistic mindset is the key to your achievement. Check out ‘The Midas Method Millionaire Toolkit’ at

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