The 21 Day No Complaining-Gossiping-Criticizing Challenge
January 13, 2011
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou
“You have a choice with the words you use to create the life you live. Choose wisely.” – Will Bowen
Brian Johnson is a man who’s had a huge impact on my life. At the beginning of 2010 I found his site www.Philosophersnotes.com while searching for quotes by Byron Katie (another huge-impact teacher for me). I got his 100 Philosopher’s Notes – essentially cliff notes on the top wisdom and personal growth books ever written – and joined a 50-day challenge to read/listen to one note every morning. (Each book has a 6-page PDF summary and a 20 minute MP3.) I continued well past the 50 days, and Brian’s notes became my daily ritual on the way to work every morning the rest of the year.
He’s now releasing Volume 2, and the first 25 are out. Today I’m starting up my own Challenge to listen to one every day.
The first one on the list is a summary of “A Complaint-Free World” by Will Bowen. Oddly enough (well, it’s not really odd, because this has been happening ALL.THE.TIME), my friend China and I have been discussing this lately. We’ve both done this Challenge in the past but it’s so mind-changing that we’ve been wanting to do it again. Perfect timing! (As usual!).
So the challenge is to go 21 days without complaining, criticizing or gossiping. Get a bracelet(or use one you’ve already got), and here are the rules from Bowen’s book:
1. “Begin to wear the bracelet on either wrist.
2. When you catch yourself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, move the bracelet to the
3. If you hear someone else who is wearing a purple bracelet complain, it’s okay to point out
their need to switch the bracelet to the other arm; BUT if you’re going to do this, you must
move your bracelet first! Because you’re complaining about their complaining.
4. Stay with it. It may take many months to reach 21 consecutive days. The average is 4 to 8
“To be clear, being Complaint Free isn’t about pretending there aren’t any challenges in our lives or in the world. There are. A lot of them.
The question is, what do we DO about it?! Let’s say we’re dissatisfied with something. Do we choose to DO SOMETHING constructive about it or do we choose to sit around and complain about it?
That’s really what this is all about. Will we be a Victim or will we be a Creator?”
A friend as asked me to clarify what constitutes complaining. I define complaining as saying something negative about something you either A. Do not have control over or B. Are not intending to change in a constructive, positive way.
Dictionary says: expressing pain, dissatisfaction, resentment, discontent, displeasure, or unhappiness.
“You can best get what you desire by expressing what you want rather than complaining about the way things are.” – Will Bowen
When you have the urge to make a negative statement, flip it around. This isn’t about denial or repression or not communicating. If you’re in pain, ask for some Tylenol or go to the doctor. Take control. DO something about it.
Yeah, this challenge is hard. Complaining is a HUGE part of our day-to-day communication. We tend to connect through commiseration because it’s easy; no action or change necessary. But as Nietzsche says, “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Do you want to take control of creating the life you want to live, or do you want to just go along with how the majority of people live their lives? Personally, I want the ability to make conscious choices. Will says, “Everyone who has become a 21-Day Complaint Free Champion has said to me, “It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.” Nothing valuable is ever easy. Simple? Yes. But “easy” is not part of becoming a successful person.”
There are four levels that you go through while doing the challenge; apparently most people quit at stage 2:
1. Unconscious Incompetence (Complainers who aren’t aware of how much they complain)
2. Conscious Incompetence (Complainers who are aware but still stuck in the habit)
3. Conscious Competence (Non-complainers who have to think about it)
4. Unconscious Competence (Non-complainers who just ARE it)
I’m currently doing a number of Challenges – No intoxicants, No sugar, No dairy or red meat, No consuming/buying stuff – and lately I’ve been struggling to figure out what I’m working towards. I had a feeling it was an arrival to a stable, grounded, whole place, but at the same time I was aware that there’s never an end-point to the journey. I’ll never be “perfect.” Now I realize that what I was wanting was to be at the level of Unconscious Competence. I want to reach a place that I no longer need to be doing these Challenges; they’re just positive unconscious habits that I’ve chosen to create. Right now I’m breaking old habits and patterns of thoughts, and I’m practicing new patterns of my own choosing. With time, practice, patience and persistence (Brian Johnson says “diligently, patiently, persistently and playfully”), my brain will be re-wired to higher and happier levels of being. As Brian said, “competence and happiness become your unconscious setting.”
Brian points out that there have been many great people who’ve agreed that you need to challenge yourself to DO and BE what you say you want in this world. Just reading about and talking about this stuff doesn’t cut it; it doesn’t CHANGE you. You have to practice.
Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Benjamin Franklin: “The best sermon is a good example.
Wallace Wattles: The world needs demonstration more than it needs instruction.”
Michael Beckwith: “An enlightened society can only be created by awakened beings.”
And finally, I loved this image by Will Bowen:
“In a vineyard, one grape will begin to ripen and in so doing will send out a vibration, an enzyme, a fragrance, or an energy field of some kind that is picked up by the other grapes. This one grape signals the other grapes that it is time to change, to ripen. As you become a person who holds only the highest and best for yourself and others in your words and thoughts, you will signal to all around you simply by who you are that it is time for a change. Without even trying, you will raise the consciousness of those around you.”
I see this happening in my own life; the people around me have been sending out signals to me, and now I’m sending them out to you. I’m starting this challenge today. Are you ready to ripen?