6 Traits that Separate Winners from Whiners

Have you ever been blind sided by an unexpected event that threatened to throw your dreams, hopes, and life plans off-course? If nothing that grandiose has happened (lucky you!), how about just being surprised by small obstacles that threaten to ruin your day?

Big or small, unexpected events will happen. You can not avoid them, you can only control how you respond to them. It is in those critical moments after the unexpected occurs that ultimately determine your long term success. Think about it: anyone can do well when everything is going great. What separates people who succeed (the Winners) from those who don’t and just complain about it (the Whiners) is how well they respond to life’s inevitable curveballs.

How can you make sure you respond to the unexpected like a Winner and not a Whiner? Here are six traits that separate the two:

1) Whiners Focus on the Past, Winners Focus on the Present and Future

Whiners love to dwell on the past. “I wish this never happened!” or, “if you had just done what I said we wouldn’t have this problem,” or everyone’s favorite, “I told you this would happen!”  The past is done and over and can not be changed. For some reason this simple concept eludes Whiners.

Winners understand that we live in the here and now. Rather than dwelling on the past, Winners focus on the future they want to create and think of actions they can take in the present to make that future happen.

2) Whiners Cast Blame, Winners Take Responsibility

When something goes wrong, the Whiner’s “blame radar” kicks into full gear and they start a CSI style investigation to find the guilty party. This hurts morale and takes away energy from the most important task: fixing the problem! Winners take responsibility and simply say, “what can I do to solve this now?”

There is a time and place to identify what went wrong, why it happened, and what can be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That time and place is after the crisis is resolved, not before.

3) Whiners React, Winners Think

By, “Winners think,” I do not mean that they put things off for days; they usually think quite quickly. The important thing is that they take a short period of time to analyze the situation, think about their goals, and figure out what the best course of action is.

Whiners react in one of two ways: 1) They jump into the first action that comes to mind just so they feel like they are doing something (no matter how pointless it may be) or 2) they react out of stress and do something stupid like snap at their loved ones or throw in the towel and quit.

4) Whiners Freeze, Winners Take Action

On the flip side, once Winners have thought things through, they take action. They are smart enough to know that ideas without implementation are meaningless. Whiners, once they have gotten past their knee-jerk reactions, freeze up and get paralyzed. I call this “curling up on the couch,” syndrome. Rather than doing something, whiners curl up on the couch watching TV, hoping the problem will go away on its own.

5) Whiners Look for Validation, Winners Lead by Example

The most annoying thing about Whiners is that they are not content in their whiney solitude. No, they find it necessary to share their complaints with people around them in hope that others will validate their issues with a “you’re right,” or “yes, I feel the same way.” Rather than do something about the problem, Whiners seek out comfort in others. Winners take charge, take action, and lead by example. While others are sharing complaints, the Winners say, “here’s what happened, and here’s what I’m going to do about it. Who’s with me?”

6) Whiners Waffle, Winners Decide

When change throws them off course, Whiners refuse to decide on a course of action. Trapped wishing that things had never changed, Whiners waffle between all their options and hold of making a decision as long as possible. Winners weigh their options and pick a course of action. They know that even if they end up not picking the best choice, some action is better than none. And the sooner they take action, the sooner they can get feedback on those actions and make adjustments.

The lesson here is simple: Winners win and Whiners lose. If you want to succeed in the face of life’s unexpected curveballs, make sure you act like a Winner!


Avish Parashar is the Motivational Smart Ass. As a speaker and on his blog, Avish makes people laugh while sharing with them simple ideas to make their lives easier and more successful. To read more of his ridiculous rantings on self improvement, watch videos of him in action, and download the free “How to Think Quick” MP3, visit http://www.MotivationalSmartAss.com

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  • http://qupfromtheashes.blogspot.com/ quinn

    One of the powerful things about the big unexpected events in live is that they focus you on what is impotent. I was in a car accident a few years ago, my partner was driving and we were fighting. he had handed his engagement ring back to me and i was holding it loosely in my hand. Out of no were a car sideswiped us and all my attention went to the hand holding that ring. when we pulled our selves our of the car the first thing i did was put it back on his finger.

    When life hits us upside the head we have to notice what is important and act o nit there is no time for wining and complaining, thanks for the great post.

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  • Joshua

    Great article! I used to have the “whiners” attitude, but then I realized that I’ll never get anywhere thinking like that so I became a “winner”. This article helps to keep me motivated. Thanks!

  • http://www.alternaview.com Sibyl – alternaview

    Great post. I think it nails every single thing that we should be working on because we will never get where we are trying to go without the traits of a winner. It is not always obvious how we should best handle different types of situations and challenges, but we do know if we follow a general set of guidelines like the ones you listed above, more often than not we will make the right decision. Great post and great list about winners.

  • http://switchstories.com Paul Montwill – Switch Stories

    Whiners often blame other people for their own failures. But it is a matter of changing habbits to covert from a Whiner to a Winner.

  • http://richardshelmerdine.com/blog/ Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com

    Its all about being proactive vs being reactive. Take control and be in charge of your life. Whinging never got anyone anything fulfilling.

  • Avish Parashar

    Quinn: Good point. The big unexpected events do force people to focus on the important stuff. The trick, I think, is to remember to do that when some of the smalled unexpected events happen too! (I am glad that you and your partner were ok!)

    Joshua: Thanks! I was kind of the same way…I think we all slip into “whiner” mode from time to time. The key is to not beat ourselves up over it and remember to switch back to winner mode

    Sibyl: You are right, it’s not always obvious, and not every step on the list will always apply or work. But, as you said, in most cases they’ll help make better decisions. Thanks for the comment!

    Paul: Blame is one of the biggest culprits (and signs that you are whining and not winning). And I agree, while it;s nice to have a list to refer to, the long term goal is to make them “habits” so they happen automatically.

    Richard: Proactive vs. reactive is a good way to summarize it. Whiners feel that their whining will somehow make things better, while winners get that you have to do *something*

  • http://www.razorlip.com marcelino

    Whiners have an insatiable desire to shirk responsibility by begging for intervention from someone else. What’s the point of whinning if you cannot get any help out of the situation. great post.

  • http://swati-myideabank.blogspot.com/ Swati

    Great post :)

  • http://meandcraig.blogspot.com dawn hild

    I must admit to a whiner moment or two…
    But just that, a moment or two.
    I try to quickly shift my perspective.
    To see the not so terrific events as opportunities for change…
    Rather than sitting around and whining about it.
    Last year was a very long year for me.
    Two cancer diagnoses with all the treatments they required.
    It was a long, long year.
    But I choose to look at the positives that came out of that year.
    It brought my husband and I even closer.
    It brought my sons, sister, brother, friends and I even closer.
    It taught me to put my health at the top of my priority list.
    And much more…
    I think it’s O.K. to whine for a moment or two, but then it’s time to take action, just as you stated.
    Good post :-)

  • http://www.myrelationshipguy.com/lifecoach Guy Farmer

    Great tips. It’s amazing how much success depends on actually doing things instead of thinking about them. Successful people seem to be able to bounce back from anything that blocks them and use it to keep moving forward. Others choose to stay stuck because it keeps them in the place they’ve always been. I’ve found that it takes courage to not stay stuck, it’s far easier just to complain about events and never do anything to change them.

    Take care,

    Guy

  • http://enlightr.com/cloud Craig

    Nice, short and sweet. Success is forward, not backwards.

  • http://www.mikekey.com Mike Key – Entrepreneurial Ninja

    Very interesting post man. I have always believe their are two types of people in the world, those who lift and those who lean.

    I suppose you could say it’s the same with Winners and Complainers too.

    People who complain are often not doing anything to change the thing they are complaining about.

  • Avish Parashar

    Marcelino: “Shirking responsibility” is a great way to look at the underlying cause of whining. That’s really what it is, isn’t it?

    Swati: Thanks!

    Dawn: My goodness, you had quite a year! It sounds like you really did handle it well. We all have moments when we whine (I know I do) but like you said, it’s all about moving on and taking action.

    Guy: Yes, I think the most infuriating thing about Whiners is that for all their complaining, underneath it all they really dislike their current situation *less* then the thought of change and moving into the unknown. That willingness to leap into the unknown (as a calculated risk is another Winner/Whiner separator.

    Craig: Thanks!

    Mike: I like the visual of “those who lift and those who lean.” That’s great!

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  • Laura

    I very much liked this article! I know I’m writing this well after you first posted it, but do you have any follow up advice on how to discourage the whining?

  • pododys_nerfect

    He without a fault…just sayin’

  • guest

    This whiners vs winners mentality described in this article is really a form of  narcissism.  As if all those the so-called “winners” never have their down moments, they never fail and are oh-so-perfect. Well, get out of denial, will you?  Not all “winners” do winning things nor are they necessarily good and ethical people. Some ‘winners’ wind up that way by screwing over other people and stepping on people and then h ave the nerve to mock the ones they’ve victimized by calling them “whiners” or losers.   Sometimes those ‘winners’ are absolutely emotionally abusive to those closest to them and they are not very nice people.  In the end, they ultimately LOSE! Also, don’t let exteriors fool you.  I’ve seen some of those so-called ‘winners’ i.e.  those who allegely never complain and are so proactive, wind up estranged from their families, wind up friendless and end up committing suicide or acts of homicide (such as workplace violence shootings you read about in the papers).   Quite frankly, I’m sick of self-righteous “motivators” who encourage others to be a*hole in the name of being ‘winners.’  These are hard times and a little compassion can go a long way. Sometimes a person needs to cry, to complain and vent and ultimately feel that someone cares about them.  What they don’t need is some jerk kicking them when they are down…or to feel judged by the so-called ‘winners’ who are really amoral soulless beings!

    • thoughtcrimes

      you are correct to some degree, but at the end of the day this guy is not advocating a compassionless approach to success. You can ride high and inspire others at the same time. It takes guts to step out of the pack and go after something that others dare not…invariably THEY are the ones who are standing in the way of your dreams. By showing them that you have the foresight and determination to ignore the naysayers you are sending out a very strong and positive message that anything is possible. I agree with you that it is not black and white, but this guy is not being amoral. Action is the only thing that will bring you closer to your dreams. You can get there without stepping on everyone else. Another great quality of a winner, is that a winner always LISTENS and makes time for others…invariably whiners just complain and only wait until it is their turn to talk. Keep it positive.

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  • Norma

    I love the article.  It really relates to my profession.  I can see many whiners instead of winners.