In my CoffeyTalk newsletter this week I put out a challenge for readers to join me in the "Complaint Free World Challenge." Here's how it goes:
"Maya Angelou writes: "If you don't like something change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." Now there's an organization that is challenging us to go 21 days without a complaint! Can we do it? I'm certainly going to give it a shot. What a great idea! Why 21 days? Scientists believe it takes 21 days to form a new habit and complaining is habitual for many of us. A Complaint Free World has created purple bracelets to help us with this. The idea is that when we catch ourselves complaining, gossiping or criticizing, we move the bracelet to the other arm and begin again. So, it may take much longer than 21 days to get through the experience, but afterward, we'll find that life is happier, more loving, and more enjoyable. Let's track our progress on the CoffeyTalk group page on Facebook. Shall we call this Day 1? Game on!"
By taking on this challenge I have become much more mindful of what I say. Which is actually making me more mindful of what I think. I might think of something in a complaining sort of way, but before I express the gripe, I have to re-frame my thinking and find some other way of looking at things so that it doesn't come out as a complaint. Interesting! What made that annoyance show up in my mind? Why does this bother me, and why do I feel the need to say something about it? Is there something I can do about it, or is acceptance a better approach? How can I communicate effectively to make my needs known without complaining? Of course all of these thoughts take place in a microsecond!
Maybe that's the whole point behind this exercise. After all, this is not a new concept. Emmett Fox advocated a complaining fast in his "The Seven Day Mental Diet" booklet in 1935.
When we can change our thinking, we can change our life. And this is one very practical tool we can use to do just that.
In a perfect world, a no-complaining challenge would not be necessary. But then of course, we all have a different definition of perfect. These little annoyances and irritations are ways that we learn and grow. If we were comfortable all the time there would be no reason and no desire to change. It doesn't matter what is going on around us, there's always going to be something that we don't like. But our response doesn't have to be a knee-jerk complaint. We can be thoughtful, and even helpful. Or we can have a more zen attitude, and be accepting. And in any case, we can learn from the experience. Because that's what life is all about. Here we are, thrown together in this place and time. We can't help but bump into one another. We might as well look at the reasons why this happens, and what we are hear to learn from each other. Whether we perceive the experience as a positive or negative one, there is some purpose to it.
One of my life lessons has been patience. I have my own timetable, and it usually runs really fast. I can get a lot done in very little time. I don't "waste" time; I use it efficiently. It has been a challenge for me to work successfully side by side with other people when my pace is so much quicker. And I recognize that my behavior may be annoying to someone with a different pace, especially when I want to speed them up. I have learned that I need to slow down at times, to be more careful and cautious, and take a few moments to notice the details. I have also learned that complaining from either side only slows down the process. Because that keeps us focused on the complaint instead of the task at hand. In some cases it is better to forge ahead, matching each others steps when we can, knowing that we will get past it.
I'm only 3 days into the challenge and I've learned a lot already. It would be easier if I tried Emmet Fox's 7 day system first, but I'm already committed to this one and I'm not complaining! 18 days to go. Are you with me?