Complaining like your life depends on it

photo credit: Aitor Calero

Can you go 21 Days without complaining? Like, not even once? We like to tell ourselves that venting is an important part of letting things go. But more often than not, retelling negative stories allows our thoughts to stay negative much longer than they would otherwise.

Complaining is an obstacle to effective leadership. Such a leader does not instill confidence, in those that follow, in their ability to evaluate a situation, weigh the options and put a plan into motion. Our complaints quickly take the place of action, creating an endless cycle of negativity and powerlessness.

Well, no more. Take Will Bowen’s 21 Days of No Complaining Pledge with me. We will try to go 21 days straight with no complaining. Every time you ( or I ) do, you switch a rubber cause bracelet (or hair tie, or your fit bit etc.) from one wrist to the other and the day count restarts back to zero, and you start over.

But first, what is a complaint?

According to Will,

Switch wrists whenever you:

  1. Gossip
  2. Criticize
  3. Complain
  4. Inform someone else they are complaining

Another participant in the challenge adjusted what constitutes a complaint in a broader context. In the interest of constructive criticism, they elected to omit #4 and define complaining as “describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem.”

Following the above definition, this would require a wrist switch:

“Man, I went into the post office and had to stand behind this rude jerk for 30 minutes. What a waste of time.”

This is an acceptable rephrasing:

“Man, I went into the post office and had to stand behind this rude guy for 30 minutes. It was a waste of time. From now on, I’ll go in the mornings before 10 am to avoid the crowd.”

This challenge is now closed, but get a group of friends and try it together!

We know that you are busy, with school ramping up, extracurricular activities and service, so if you are thinking of pledging, keep it simple. Keep an ‘easy’ journal throughout writing quick updates like, “Had to restart after 4 days” or “still going strong, noticeably less stressed” etc. When time allows, you can write a longer paragraph or two on your progress.

Here are some prompts to get going. Write in a journal, or keep notes on your phone when a complaint slips. We will also post reminders on social media, so make you are you following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

  • What was the complaint?
  • Did anything change as a result of speaking the negativity out loud?
  • When is it most difficult to withhold a complaint? Why?
  • Have I made different choices with my actions as a result of changing my words?