I challenge myself to go twenty-four hours without uttering a single complaint.
Three days ago someone told me that if a person could go a full day without complaining, that his or her life would change. Two days ago I decided to take his words and carry them to the next step: Action.
WHY AM I DOING THIS? I’m working to change how I think. Complaining is a statement of defeat, which leads me to feel as if my life is in control of me.
WHAT IS A COMPLAINT? I’m calling any internal comment on life’s unfairness a complaint. I’m even calling a “Damnit!” a complaint. I’m calling any comment, verbal or internal, any eye roll, heavy sigh or grunt a complaint because I use these non-verbal “words” to give away my power and accuse life of abusing me.
HOW WILL I BENEFIT FROM THIS CHALLENGE? As an author, I have to learn this for my books. I’m currently writing a story about a sociopath that is destroying the life of a child because she’s envious. Nobody wants to read a book where the author exposes his/her opinions about who is right or wrong in the book. The author must remain neutral for the book to have power. This is true for my personal life as well. Being a neutral observer, and a compassionate contributor is a much more powerful position that being entangled with the anger at life’s unfair—even cruel—circumstances. If I want to help myself and others, I need to rise above the “unfairness” of the world around me. I need to be neutral and effective.
TIME: I have a stopwatch app in my iPhone. I restart it every time I catch myself complaining verbally or mentally. So far I’m up to about three and a half hours between complaints.
NEAR MISSES: I’m calling “near misses” successes. If I am tempted to blame my discomfort on someone, but stop myself before blurting it out, then I’m not resetting my timer. A near miss is a success because it proves that I consciously decided not to complain at that very second.
If you choose to try this yourself, I recommend not expecting it to work too quickly. On the first day, you may have to reset your timer so often that your biggest complaint is that you have to keep resetting your timer. Take note at that point to challenge yourself to stretch your non-complaint time to one minute longer than the last time. Then five minutes longer. Then an hour longer. The only punishment for failing is having to live a few more moments in the same self-deprecating dialogue that you were already living in when you started the challenge. This is a positive, and fun exercise, not a competition. Nothing is lost if you have to reset your timer. No one will become more of a complainer by doing this. The only change this exercise can possibly make in your life is a positive one. You have only to win.
No one will get drenched in ice water with this challenge.
Gerrit Hansen said:
Fun challenge, Jim. Thanks. I may try this one. I find myself complaining internally far too often. Sighs are probably the next most frequent expression of “complaint” in me.
Ariele M. Huff said:
Jim: This is a great idea. I think this process would make a good journal for an eBook.
I think of complaints as the opposite of gratitude. I consider both of those permission slips for behaviors–I’m either permitted to feel limited & victimized (by me or others) or I’m permitted to feel happy & loved–all by my own thoughts–especially the oft repeated ones.