“How was the training?”
“Just amazing. I love that we have people come in to provide management training who have no idea what it’s like to manage.”
“That sounds like a complaint.”
“Ugh! There goes four days. Damn training’s the gift that keeps on giving!” And again, I’m moving the bracelet.
People complain. It’s a part of life. But it ultimately doesn’t help anything.
Yes, it feels good to vent our anger. Or our frustration. Yes, it helps preserve our ego by blaming external events. But again, it doesn’t really help anything.
It just cements this negative thought in my head. Gives more weight to it. I complain to others. Other like-minded complainers. And we form our own special club. One where everyone embraces the victim mindset and never actually accomplishes anything.
Stop Being Wretched
“A man is as wretched as he has convinced himself he is.” – Seneca
We’ve all seen these people. People who refuse to acknowledge that they’re the source of their own problems. People who wander through life as a victim. Waiting for someone to give them a solution. Waiting for external events to conspire and support their happiness.
And it’s easy to look down on this group. But when I’m complaining, I’m no different.
So I decided to stop complaining.
As Sai Baba wisely put it, “All action results from thought, so it is thoughts that matter.” I control my thoughts and words. These dictate my actions and emotions. Why not choose to have these be positive instead of negative? So, inspired by Tim Ferriss’s post and acomplaintfreeworld.org, I started the 21-day No Complaint challenge.
I lasted two days initially. Then four. Then three. Then one (ugh). Then five. Then twelve (congrats!). And now four.
I had two main goals in mind:
- Create actionable steps. Figure out what I can do to help. Or what I can do to avoid this same fate next time. Basically, be able to answer the question, “Yeah, that sucked. But what are you going to do about it?”
- Stop giving negative thoughts a comfortable residence in my head. I fixate on these issues until they’re all-consuming. Wasting time and mental energy. And inflating them to the point that any solutions seem inconsequential by comparison.
I borrowed (stole?) Tim’s definition of a complaint – Describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem.
With every complaint, I move my bracelet to my other wrist. The goal is to hit 21 days without switching. I’ve got a steep climb ahead of me.
Instead of the purple bracelets, I use my orange “No One Fights Alone” leukemia bracelet. It doubles as a reminder that my daily issues are minuscule compared to many others. When the reminder for positive gain fails me, the negative shame serves as a reliable reinforcement.
Granted, I haven’t hit 21 days yet. But I’ve noticed a clear improvement. I’m less likely to stew over external events. Potential solutions cauterize the negative thoughts. Then they’re just one more hurdle that I’ve been able to handle.
The practice of looking for actions is contagious. People who want to resolve problems seek my opinions. People who just want to complain avoid me. There’s all sorts of extra benefits.
Above all, it’s fun. It’s another way to exert my own control over daily events. To be more in control of my own happiness.
Who would choose misery over joy? As Seneca might ask, “who would convince himself that he’s wretched?” Who, indeed?