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How Did I Do With the No Complaining Challenge?

photo: Joselito Tagarao on flickr

photo: Joselito Tagarao on flickr

How often do you complain?

Once an hour? Once a day? Once a year?

If you’d asked me that question six months ago, I would have put myself in the once-a-day category.

I rarely complain! After all, I’m a serious spiritual goofball. I see the good in everything. Complaining is contrary to all I believe in!

Then I was introduced to the book A Complaint Free World. The book describes a movement started by a man named Will Bowen. He challenges us to go twenty-one days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping.

And not just twenty-one random days.

Twenty-one days in a row.

That means the sun has to go up and down in the sky twenty-one times, and never once do you utter a word of complaint. No complaining about the sun bobbing around in the sky. No complaining about my use of the word bobbing.

No. Complaining. About. Anything.

In order to commit to the challenge, you get a purple Complaint-Free World bracelet and put it on your wrist. (Really, any bracelet will do, but if you want to be snazzy, you get a purple bracelet.)

Every time you catch yourself complaining, criticizing, or gossiping, you switch the bracelet to the other wrist. The goal is to go twenty-one days in a row without having to switch your bracelet.

more bracelets done

When Melissa and I heard about this challenge, we said: Give us some bracelets! We can’t wait!

As it turned out, we couldn’t wait to change our bracelets to the other wrist.

We complained all the time! We had no idea!

It was so bad, the first time we tried the challenge, we didn’t make it. We gave up. We threw our purple bracelets in a drawer and said:

This is too hard! And, yes, that was a complaint. But I don’t have to move my bracelet, because I’m not wearing it anymore. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

photo: z egloff

photo: z egloff

Then the sun went up and down in the sky many times, and an interesting thing happened.

Every time I turned my head, someone was talking about the power of not complaining.

Okay, not every time I turned my head. That would be weird.

But it felt like every time I turned my head, I was hearing about how we can change our lives for the better by giving up complaining.

I talked to Melissa, and we decided to give the No Complaining Challenge another try.

Like the time before, I immediately noticed how often I complained. But this time, I decided to come up with some strategies to help me make it to twenty-one days.

The first thing I realized was I needed to think before speaking.
photo: Eduardo Otubo on flickr

photo: Eduardo Otubo on flickr

One of the rules of the challenge is that thinking a complaint isn’t enough to make you change your bracelet. You have to actually say it.

And that’s where the importance of thinking before speaking came in.

It was like having a little committee inside my head. But instead of constantly telling me what I was doing wrong, as the Committees-Inside-My-Head of the past often did, this committee would calmly and carefully review what I was planning to say before I said it.

About half the time, they would recommend I not share my thought with the world.

This was a sobering realization, but one that greatly cut down the number of my complaints.

The second thing I realized was I needed to think before speaking even when I was by myself. 
photo: Eirik Newth on flickr

photo: Eirik Newth on flickr

Until this challenge, I had no idea how often I talk to myself. As it turns out, when it’s just me and me, I’m a chatty little thing.

So I needed to apply the think before I speak rule even when there was no one else around.

Especially in the car.

Like, suggesting to the driver behind me that she stay off my ass.

A bracelet-changing opportunity!

The third strategy I employed was the realization that I could still talk about many of the same things I did before I started the challenge. I just needed to say them differently.  
photo: Susan Sermoneta on flickr

photo: Susan Sermoneta on flickr

In describing a difficult interaction with someone else, for example, I needed to focus on my feelings and reactions, as opposed to the level of buttheadedness that the other person was displaying. With the spatially-challenged driver behind me, for example, I could have said:

I’m just going to pull over and allow you to go in front of me. Fly and be free, spatially-challenged driver!

Which brings me to a fourth strategy: I realized that whenever possible, I needed to do something instead of complaining about it.
photo: Jhong Dizon on flickr

photo: Jhong Dizon on flickr

Granted, this wasn’t always possible, but it often was. It meant I had to give up being a victim and become the superhero of my own life.

A superhero with a helpful committee inside her head and a tendency to talk to herself.

Go me!

Finally, the fifth strategy I discovered was to give up Complaining Codependence.
photo: David Weekly on flickr

photo: David Weekly on flickr

At one point in the challenge, I had gone eleven days in a row. This was my longest stretch yet, and I was feeling hopeful and accomplished.

Then I walked out the door.

In this case, Melissa and I went to a Lyle Lovett concert.

The concert was great! No complaint there!

Then, after the concert, we ran into some friends of Melissa’s. I was having a conversation with one of the women, someone I had just met, and she started complaining about the sound at the concert. I had also noticed what she was describing, but it hadn’t particularly bothered me.

I was aware of my energy contracting as she was speaking. We’d been having a nice conversation prior to her busting out the complaining card. Was she feeling my contraction? Would she think I didn’t like her? Maybe I could agree with her without complaining.

Turns out I couldn’t.

I watched as the words came out of my mouth, the first words of complaint in eleven days.

Aaaaaaaaargh.

photo: Lourdes S. on flickr

photo: Lourdes S. on flickr

It was so painful, it made me want to complain.

But I didn’t.

Instead, that moment became a turning point. I gathered up all my strategies and employed them whenever possible:

1. I paused and reviewed my thoughts before I spoke.
2. Even when I was by myself.
3. I chose to speak differently about things I used to complain about.
4. When I could, I took action instead of complaining.
5. I gave up Complaining Codependence.

And, before long, I made it twenty-one days in a row without complaining!

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

Now that it’s over, I can see that the best part of the challenge is that it aligned me more powerfully with the Divine.

The Divine isn’t going around complaining, criticizing or gossiping. At least, not the Divine of my understanding. (The God of the Old Testament is another thing. But I’ll stop there, because I don’t want to change my bracelet.)

When I commit to refraining from complaint, critique and gossip, I get to experience my Divinity more directly.

And that’s just groovy! 

kids with bracelets done

What’s your experience with complaining, criticizing and gossiping? Share your comments below!

 

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31 Responses to How Did I Do With the No Complaining Challenge?

  1. Stephen Easterling January 21, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Hey Z, having just joined your blog this is the first I’ve received. Like everything you do, it is bright, colorful and entertaining so I’m delighted to receive.

    I had heard of this 21 days of no complaining about a year ago and had two thoughts, 1) this was going to be more challenging then it sounds and 2) it will really change your life if you do it.

    I never did get the bracelet or start that specific program but I have done something similar. I collect meaningful quotes and ones that I believe are transformational I write and carry with me on a 3×5 card and then employ it or practice it in my life. Here’s the one that I have truly adopted as practice..just as you describe your strategies. And yes it is an amazing discovery the amount of critical thought (and used to be comments) that flowed out unchecked. Here was my adopted practice.

    “Before you speak, consider if it would be an improvement upon silence” Bajputi

    • Z Egloff January 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

      Hi Steve,

      Welcome to Goofball land!

      The two thoughts you mention about the challenge are totally true – 1) it is harder than one would think and 2) it does have the power to totally change your life.

      I LOVE the quote you shared! It is right in line with the No Complaining practice. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with all of us! :)

      XOZ

    • Kat January 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      Hi Stephen,

      What a fabulous quote…I love It! Gives one reason to pause before saying or even doing many things.

      Thank You for sharing!

      Many Blessings,
      Kat

  2. Wendy January 21, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    Thank you Z

    I ordered the book and the bracelets. I’m starting today…even without a purple one. I love this. It would be cool to have these bracelets at the Spiritual Center bookstore….maybe they already are?

    This is something I really needed……but I am not going to criticize myself for the fact that I really need this!

    Thanks a bunch

    Go team purple!

    Wendy

    • Z Egloff January 21, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      Hi Wendy,

      Great to have you on the team!

      I don’t know that they’ve ever carried them at the CSLSR bookstore. At one point, before I did a Wednesday Night talk about the No Complaining work, I tried a couple times to order bracelets through the No Complaining site for the church. But they didn’t get back to me. Not that I’m complaining!! :)

      Have fun!!

      XOZ

  3. Kat January 21, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Dear Z,

    As always, an opportunity to laugh along with you; laugh at myself; and be reminded about the challenges and triumphs in life. Your honesty is refreshing! Kudos for achieving your goal!

    In an effort to be relieved of the endless complaining I discovered I was doing, I took the 21 day pledge, and eventually, after many, many tries and several months of switching the bracelet from one wrist to the other, I succeeded. That was a couple of years ago.

    Since then, I designated my home a ‘complaint free zone’, which boggled the minds of my friends. I could see their furrowed brows as the silent thoughts began churning in their heads, “What? I can’t complain in your home? Seriously? What will we talk about?” I held my ground for a while, then over time forgot my pledge, and I took to complaining again.

    Back peddling sometimes feels like an olympic sport for me, so I appreciate the nudge to being wearing my purple bracelet again, which is neatly tucked away in a box with all my other ‘jewels’. I wonder how many days/months it will take this time. LOL

    Thank you for using your delightful sense of humor as a catalyst for healthy, positive shifts in people’s lives!

    Many Blessings,
    Kat

    • Z Egloff January 21, 2014 at 11:59 am #

      Hi Kat,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love hearing from other people who have done this practice.

      I have also noticed myself back-peddling a bit since I officially made it through the challenge. You remind me that it’s important to stick with it, and to use the 21 days as an opportunity to permanently change how I speak, as opposed to slacking off just because I happened to make it 21 days.

      Thank you for this! :)

      XOZ

  4. Becka January 21, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    I was so excited to see this blog title!

    After I got the bracelet and spent two months just trying to get through ONE DAY I gave up and was pretty disappointed in myself. It’s encouraging to see that you and Kat took a while to get in the swing of not complaining too!

    I really appreciate your tips. I’m going to try again next month and I’ll be sure to use those. I also came up with one more: Anytime I want to complain I’m going to write a gratitude down in my journal.

    Thanks for sharing, Z! :)

    <3 Becka

    • Z Egloff January 21, 2014 at 11:56 am #

      Hi Becka!! :)

      Ooooh. I like that – writing down a gratitude. That sounds awesome.

      I think that every person finds their own way of getting through this. Bottom line, it’s about changing what’s happening in your head more than what’s happening with you mouth. 😉

      Lately, I’ve been doing a random Appreciation Assault during the day. Just listing all the things in my life that I appreciate. It seems that the more I do this, the harder it is to complain.

      You can do it!! :)

      XOZ

      • Becka January 21, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

        Appreciation Assault! Ha! Love it!

    • Kat January 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

      Hi Becka,

      You have a wonderful idea that brings one firmly back into the present moment where everything is perfect, and there is nothing to complain about, yet always something to be grateful for!

      Thank YOU for sharing!

      Many Blessings,
      Kat

  5. Julia January 21, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    Hi Z,
    Thanks for the great blog & ideas. I really appreciate your honesty & humor. Life needs to be fun, especially when we are trying to improve.

    “I’m just going to pull over and allow you to go in front of me. Fly and be free, spatially-challenged driver!”

    Made me laugh SO hard! I often pull over for the ‘fast ones’ on a road that I travel. This is the perfect thing to say to then. (instead of ‘get off my…tail!’)
    Thanks again so very much,
    Julia

    • Z Egloff January 21, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Hi Julia!!

      Yes, finding the fun in everything makes everything . . . more fun!

      I have to admit, when I read my own words in this quote, I realized that “spatially-challenged” could, perhaps, be seen as a complaint. Hmmmm. How about “spatially-creative”? Or “spatially-alternative”? Or just “spatial”?! 😉

      Have fun on the road!!

      XOZ

      • Julia January 21, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

        Naa, A challenge is not a complaint! Just something different, and a situation to get through in the most positive way we can!

        Smile & move over for them. (and think how happy you just made them!)

        • Z Egloff January 22, 2014 at 11:40 am #

          Yes! I like the way you think! :)

  6. Molly January 21, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    I love this! Complaining has become such a default way to have a conversation and it’s really not what we need (oh deer, was that bracelet changing moment?) It’s worth it to take a breath and a few extra moments to think about what we’re going to say and how we’re going to say it. I am going to give this a go. I don’t have a bracelet, but I do have a ring I can play this game with. Thanks!

    • Z Egloff January 21, 2014 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Molly,

      Yes, I agree. Complaining is such a socially acceptable way to interact! I didn’t realize how much this was true until I stepped back from the complaining cycle.

      You can totally play the game without the bracelet – a ring sounds like a perfect way to go. Good luck/have fun! And keep us posted on your progress! :)

      XOZ

  7. Libby January 21, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    Thank you for this!
    I’ve been working for a long time on the “I” statements, and reducing criticism of others, in a ‘practicing my Al-Anon’ sort of way. Now, being midway through a divorce from someone whom I am just beginning to understand is/was emotionally abusive, it is a challenge to not complain or bad-mouth my ex, even if only snarking to one friend!
    So, this is an opportunity for me to expand my practice, and work on just plain not complaining. I will certainly be ordering my book and bracelet next month, when I have a bit of money for it!

    • Z Egloff January 21, 2014 at 11:43 am #

      Hi Libby,

      I hear you. It can be really challenging not to complain when we’re feeling hurt – or waking up to a situation where there’s been abuse.

      For me, the trick to this kind of thing has been to see that I can still talk about my feelings. You mentioned “I” statements – that’s a classic example of being able to talk about something hard without criticizing the other person. “When you/he/she did this, I felt this.” Simple – but not always easy to do.

      When I first started the no complaining practice, I was worried that I would have to suppress my feelings. I’ve since come to see that there’s a big difference between complaining and emotional release/expression.

      I wish you all the best with your current process! :)

      XOZ

  8. Diane January 21, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Wow! right on as usual. I might find myself talking a lot less once i put that purple bracelet on.

    • Z Egloff January 22, 2014 at 11:39 am #

      Hi Diane,

      Yes, I did find myself doing a lot of withholding at first. Then I started finding ways to say things differently. It’s a very powerful practice. And writing this blog, now that I’m past the 21 days, is reminding me to continue to be conscious about how I speak.

      XOZ

  9. Karen January 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    Like Julia, I went LOL over the “spatial” driver and other droll comments in this post.

    I haven’t done the purple bracelet practice, but I’ve heard many reports about it, and it seems like a terrific approach.

    As you indicate, we’re just not aligned with the joyful, eternal Source within us when we’re looking at what’s wrong and thinking or complaining aloud about it. So I really try to catch myself before I “go there.” I know that I’m going to get more of what I focus on, so I try not to focus on what’s out of whack but rather on what’s going well, even though, as you point out, people seem to build conversations and actually bond over discussing what’s gone wrong, what IS wrong, and what’s likely to go wrong in the future.

    I caught myself in the knick of time tonight as I was having a challenge with an ATM at the bank, and a cold (for Florida, anyhow) wind was whipping around like nobody’s business. As I finally completed the transaction, I muttered to my granddaughter, “That ATM is….an interesting machine!” Whew! If I’d had a purple bracelet on, it could’ve stayed right where it was. :)

    • Z Egloff January 22, 2014 at 11:42 am #

      Hi Karen!

      I love this. I’m thinking that “interesting” is a great way to describe all kinds of things that we could complain about. There’s so much depth to that word. The interesting drivers and the interesting politicians and our interesting families. Everything gets a lot lighter and more fun with that spin on it. Thank you for that word! :)

      XOZ

  10. Alora January 21, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    OMGosh you did it! I’m so impressed! I have attempted this 21 day challenge maybe ten times so far. I think I made it 3 days once. Regardless of my not finishing it yet it made me a better person and mom. I love your post.

    I was grumbling around today feeling uninspired. I told the Universe I needed something awesome to look forward to that got my attention in a good daily way. Then I saw your post on FB. I’m in! I’m going to go 21 days in a row. I don’t know how long it will take but I will totally tell you when I make it!!

    Thanks, Z!

    • Z Egloff January 22, 2014 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Alora,

      Yay!! Keep me posted!! Awesome.

      Also, I like how you point out that any time you make it any amount of days, even if you slip and have to start over, you’re still making yourself a more positive person. This was something I had to remind myself about. The bracelet challenge is a practice, a way to build a new habit. It can definitely take a while, but it’s definitely worth it. Yay!! I’m glad you read the post. :)

      XOZ

  11. Jerrine January 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    I wish I lived up to the lovely examples of good human behavior that the infinite intelligence has put in my path. Today for the second time i’m remembering Mr Hoppy (His real name) who lived in Plymouth when I had a natural food store there. He had sever spinal arthritis and he walked completely bent over..with a big smile on his face. He grew sprouts and ate live food he had studied at the Hippocrates Institute. he was over 90 and lived alone up behind the synagog. He never complained, he went to the library every day and read news papers and magazines looking for answers to the problems of our times…he kept notes on the solutions he found. then he wrote letters ever month of his adult life to The President, his senator, and representative in Washington, and the state house and the board of selectmen of Plymouth…he wrote them the ideas he’d found sometimes things that worked in Finland or UK…Once he came in my store wearing a baseball cap with the Grateful Dead skeleton and rose design embroidered over the bill. I knew he was not a rock and roller dead head. “Mr Hoppy that’s an interesting hat.” “Oh” he said bending over the counter resting his elbows to support himself as he punched a bag of organic mung beans. “Yes I found this cap ay the Woolworth’s…I really like the roses.” he never saw the skeleton only the wreath!

    • Z Egloff January 22, 2014 at 11:48 am #

      Hi Jerrine,

      Mr. Hoppy rocks! I love this story. He probably had no idea how many people he was uplifting and inspiring, including all the people now who get to hear about him through you.

      Melissa is reading a book right now called Drunk Tank Pink. It’s about our brains and how we react – consciously and unconsciously – to all kinds of different things. One of the areas they talk about is our names. They say that people often live out their name without even realizing it. Mr. Hoppy sounds like a fun, bouncy, positive kind of name. Sounds like he was able to bring that energy to his world.

      XOZ

  12. Diane January 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I discovered after a day of noticing how much I complained, I stopped it. Not all at once, but if I find myself even getting close to complaining, I can step back and see it. I also notice less suffering. When I don’t enroll myself in my own conversations about “the way things are really supposed to be”, I’m more present. Things are the way they are, and everyone is doing the best they can. And so it is.

    • Z Egloff January 29, 2014 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Diane,

      I like this link between no complaining and being in the present. I think you’re on to something here! So often complaining is about how something should have been different in the past, or should be better in the future. Just being in the present and accepting everything as it is gives us nothing to complain about. Plus we can enjoy life a lot more. What a concept!

      Thank you for your comments! :)

      XOZ

  13. Molly January 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    I didn’t last a day. Ooops. That sounds like another complaint. It does make me aware of my thoughts and what I’m saying. So I am much more aware of what I’m thinking.

    • Z Egloff January 29, 2014 at 11:16 am #

      Hi Molly,

      Yes, I found that the whole process made me much more aware of my thoughts. I was just re-reading the book by Will Bowen the other day, and he was saying that once there’s no outlet for the negative comments, your thoughts start changing. Whoah. I am still letting this in. Melissa and I have just recommitted to going another 21 days in a row. Neither of us made it the first day either, just so you know! :)

      XOZ

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