This is not a Peace Corps experience, necessarily, but an experiment. I picked it up from Tim Ferriss while listening to his podcast (which is amazing, check it out) and it has greatly improved my mood and life.
Maybe that made me sound like I am often in a bad mood, but that’s not true. I heard from someone I am close to that I complain often. I started thinking back and wondering if this were true. What I found was that it was absolutely true. I complained all the time! Not big complaints, and most people would not have called me a complainer. At the end of the day, I don’t think I complained much more than most people. But I complained more than zero times, and that is more than I would like.
I immediately remembered something I had heard on “The Tim Ferriss Show”. It was a challenge. For one month, you wear a bracelet on your wrist. Every time you catch yourself complaining, you must switch the bracelet to the opposite wrist and restart your streak. So if you complain on the second day, you have to start back at day one. The goal is to reach thirty consecutive complaint-free days.
I took on this challenge as soon as I found a bracelet.
The first week was rough. I changed the bracelet multiple times a day. But the mindfulness of it helped me to slow down. I would catch myself close to complaining and shut my mouth. The pain of moving the bracelet and starting my streak from zero overtook the desire to complain.
It wasn’t long before I surpassed the one day mark. The worst is getting to three days and having to start over again, which happened quite frequently.
One thing I’ve realized during this challenge is how much we as humans like to share our frustrations. We love when others join us in our misery, humiliation, annoyance, hate, etc. It makes us feel validated. But this complaining does not deserve validation. It deserves to be taken out back and shot, because it does not move us forward. In fact, it holds us back.
Rather than trying to solve the issue we have, complaining about it is nothing more than dwelling on it. It is inaction. No one ever achieved success, however you want to define the term, through inaction.
How It’s Going
It has been twenty days since my last complaint at the time of this writing. My longest streak yet. I plan on hitting that 30 day mark quite soon. The closer I get, the more careful I am about letting a complaint slip out.
By the way, I switch the band not only for complaints spoken, but complaints thought, as well. A complaint running through your head, bouncing off the sides of your skull until you have driven yourself mad, is often just as destructive as one spoken aloud.
So next time you are angry with your boss and want to share your feeling with a co-worker, or you spill coffee on yourself just before walking into a meeting, or you stub your toe, think carefully about how you want to react to bring the most joy into your life. I find it usually works best to laugh it off.
I hope you all will join me in the no complaint challenge. Grab a bracelet, or a hair tie, or a bunch of paperclips twisted together. Let’s improve our lives, one complaint at a time.