Last week I introduced the idea of going 21 days in a row without complaining. The idea is from a Kansas City minister named Will Bowen who has created a buzz across the globe.
My wife and I are almost a week in to this crusade and it has become evident that we complain more than we thought. Rather than throw her under the bus in this post, which I guess could be interpreted as complaining, I’ll let you know how I am doing.
Not so well.
I am proud to state that I did go almost two days in a row once. Wow, a whole two days. Pitiful. I had to start over after I played basketball with a group of friends, where I complained and criticized (I am putting trash talk in the criticizing category). Over the weekend I figured it would be much easier. Especially considering that my wife would be gone to see her mom and the kids would be with close friends. Wrong.
There is so much to complain about in this world. Traffic. The service you get while in the drive thru. Help desk operators. Pollsters calling the house to see if I will vote for this candidate or that candidate.
Fortunately this experiment only entails starting over when you speak a complaint or criticism or gossip, not think it. If that were the case, it would be a 21-minute experiment, not 21 days.
So what is it that makes complaining so prevalent in our society?
I think it boils down to this idea, also from Reverend Bowen; the world is not as we would like it to be. It is also not as God intended it to be, unless you happen to be living in Eden and have kept the location a secret.
Does complaining help you to feel better once your complaint is lodged? My answer, no. While it may initially feel better, you are still in the same place. Frustrated about a job, mad at a boss, stuck behind the slow car in the fast lane. Complaining alone will not solve any of life’s problems. Solutions must be suggested as part of the process. And these solutions must be presented only to the people involved with the issue. Telling another person about it borders on gossip or complaining since they can do nothing about the situation.
Complaining is also an excuse. You arrive late for an appointment and complain about the traffic as a way to excuse the fact that maybe you didn’t even leave with enough time to arrive on time. Similarly, complaining could be used as an excuse for poor performance. You arrive late at work and have a bad day, blaming the fact that you were late and could not get caught up throughout the day. The reality is that you were late. Address the issue. Leave your house earlier. Address the fact that maybe you don’t like your job. Find a better one.
By complaining we avoid taking ownership of the things that happen to us in life. It’s time to face facts. Life is what we make it. Life is choice.
Since my wife and I began this experiment, many of our friends have joined in. Those that haven’t have stated very clearly why. I’ve got too much going on in my life not to complain. Do you really?
If you have not joined the experiment, why not? See how long you can go without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. You can even join the online community that is forming in order to encourage and track each other’s progress.
When complaining is decreased or eliminated, those around will benefit, but not as much as you.
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