Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Complaint Free Challenge

OK, I got this idea from a random audiobook I picked up at the library (A Complaint Free World by Bill Bowen). Maybe it's just another hokey self-help fad, but it was just intriguing enough (and speaks to my awareness that I do complain too much) that I'm giving it a shot. Many years ago, one of my sisters told me, "All you do is complain." It was surprising to me because I really didn't perceive myself that way.  It's been a few weeks since I've begun the challe nge, and I'm not under any illusions. I complain quite a bit - but at least I'm a lot more aware of it now. And I've managed to go two consecutive days without complaining since November 12. How about that.

The goal is to go 21 consecutive days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. I'm also adding "yelling at my kids," one of my less noble habits, to the list. The method is to wear a bracelet, rubber band, or whatever around your wrist. When you catch yourself complaining, criticizing, or gossiping, you switch the wristband to the other wrist and start over. When you reach 21 consecutive days without moving the wristband, you win. Everyone around you wins too.

A caveat about the book: the author claims quite a bit about how your life will change and how the universe will bless you if you do this challenge. I'm not necessarily endorsing the whole book here, but I invite you to join me in the challenge if you're interested. No reading required.

Some rules: complaints, criticism, or gossip that happens in your head is free. Any of the above that comes out of your mouth requires a wristband switch. Even if you're just complaining to yourself (which I've discovered I do!) you have to move the bracelet if the words escape your lips.

The idea is NOT to just stuff it when something bad happens. You are allowed and encouraged to request what you DO want, but only from someone who can help the situation. If the waiter brings you cold soup, you don't gripe to your table companions or yell at the waiter. You simply inform the waiter (politely) that your soup is cold and ask for hot soup.

If you have a friend who agrees to play the game with you, that's great. You may point out the friend's need to move her bracelet, but if you do so, you must also move your own bracelet.

Gossip is actually allowed, if: 1) whatever you're saying about the person is complimentary, and 2) you would repeat it word for word in the person's presence.

One thing I found helpful from the book was this description of how we change or learn a new skill. The progression goes like this:
 - unconscious incompetence (we're unaware of our complaining)
- conscious incompetence (we become aware of our complaints)
-conscious competence (we start to be able to control our complaints, but it requires conscious effort)
- unconscious competence (we reach the point where complaining is no longer automatic)

The analogy that came to me is driving a car. At first it requires a lot of conscious effort and we find it difficult to attend to all the details needed to drive safely and smoothly. But eventually, we develop the skills and habits to drive well even while on "autopilot." We still have to pay attention, but it gets easier.

So...we'll see how this goes. The average person takes 4-8 months to complete the challenge. I'm shooting for May 12, which would be 6 months. Even if I don't make it by then, I'll be giving my family, friends and myself the gift of not hearing as much whining from me.

E-mail me or comment if you're interested in taking the challenge with me!


The Tews said...

Count me in! I think you were inspired to write this post for me. I have had a bad case of the grumples for months now complete with a extra helping of complaining, criticizing, and self-pity. Wow, this sounds really hard but I think I NEED this challenge and could really benefit from it.

What kind of bracelet are you going to get?

Hunca Munca said...

Jessica - Yes! Do it! you will laugh at my bracelet choices. I started with a rubber band and now use one of my daughter's pink hairbands that was lying around.