The airport was crowded, noisy, chaotic. Nothing unusual about that. I was waiting, properly queued up, to board my flight. To my right was a line of nine wheelchair-bound folk also waiting patiently. All but one, who was waiting not so patiently. She was sixth in the line of pre-boarding wheelchairs, and she was not happy about it. She muttered and groused about how long it was taking, and who did they think they were to put her sixth in line, she’d get a terrible seat, and it was going to be too hot anyway or too cold, they could never get the air right, and she’d probably be next to someone coughing and hacking, and for sure she’d get sick….

How much complaining can one person do? I wondered to myself. Considering that the flight was boarding in plenty of good time to leave right on schedule, that she was being wheeled on as a pre-boarder before everyone else, so no worries about getting pretty much whatever seat she wanted, what on earth did she have to be so grouchy about?

Then it hit me. I was complaining about the lady complaining! Ack! Right on the heels of my very unpleasant self-discovery, I remembered my own litany of “woe is me” yada-yada during a meeting I attended the previous week: “This is a complete waste of my time. What am I doing here? Gosh, still another 45 minutes to go? This is ridiculous.” And on and on, albeit silently, just as grouchy-ouchy as the airport lady.

That did it. I decided that the best possible gift I could give to my friends and family this Holiday season wasn’t one wrapped in sparkly red-and-green ribbon, but rather one lovingly wrapped in good intentions. A three-parter, actually.

1. I would cease to complain about whatever I didn’t like about what was going on.
Period. I would zip it, put a lid on it, change the subject, go to my happy place, do whatever it took to quit complaining, out loud or in my head.

2. I would take responsibility for my situation. If I didn’t like something, I would change it. If I couldn’t change the situation, I’d walk away or change the channel, and leave it be. If I could neither change it nor walk away, I’d daydream, go somewhere else in my head. Which given my over-developed imagination is pretty easy to do.

3. I’d put my focus on what was working for me, on whatever I could find to genuinely like or appreciate in the situation. I could, in that time-waster meeting, for example, have shifted my focus from the time-wasting to deliberately looking for even a single nugget of useful information. I’ll bet with just a tiny bit of effort, I could have found something of value to take home with me.

I’ve been practicing my Holiday gift approach, cracking myself up at how much internal complaining I seem to be capable of, but at least now aware of it, and with a game plan I’m actively working on. Does it take patience, determination, persistence? Sure. But what the heck, as far as I’m concerned, it’s well worth it—my small contribution toward peace on earth, good-will towards all.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of over a dozen best-selling books. Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. She is the author of “Happy Healthy…Dead: Why What You Think You Know About Aging Is Wrong and How To Get It Right” (MindLab Publishing) You Matter. You Count. You Are Important. Visit,, @drnoellenelson