The 21 Day No-Complaint Challenge
Back in 2007, I realized something was odd. We had returned from a family cruise, and when I told people about it, I kept hearing myself tell stories only about what went wrong. Out of my mouth came amusing anecdotes about mishaps, blunders, and gripes. I was so tickled by how absurd this seemed that I recorded a podcast called “Complaining about the cruise.” https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/complaining-about-the-cruise/id125984438?i=25708211&mt=2
I am proud to say that, albeit almost a decade later, I have changed.
I am no longer complaining.
Want to know how I did it?
I took part in what is known as the 21-Day No-Complaint Challenge. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. You challenge yourself to go 21 days without complaining. At the start of August, immediately after learning about it, I started, figuring I would be victorious shortly thereafter. It took me more than 6 attempts and until the end of September. But I did it. I went 21 days without complaining.
This exercise changed my life.
Forcing myself to think before I spoke (“Is what I am about to say a complaint?”) re-wired my brain. It was difficult at first, of course. But, I didn’t complain aloud about it! I lost the challenge repeatedly after four or five day stints. Then, after a really good round of 16 days, I got a bad flu and, well, while I complained less with the aches and pains than ever, not complaining didn’t happen. With each attempt, it became less and less challenging. In fact, now, I might average a verbalized complaint once a week.
I’m not certain that the people around me noticed much difference. (If they did, they haven’t said anything.) But I have noticed. I can’t help but link this exercise to the fact that my mood has changed for the positive. And how couldn’t it? I haven’t been saying negative things.
(To make keeping track of my days since complaining, I downloaded a free app called “Days Since” which I reset every time I needed to start over.)
The logic of complaining is like the logic of worrying. Worrying doesn’t change the future; and it makes the present less pleasant. The same is true about complaining. What do you gain by complaining? Is that gain more precious to you than living in a world with fewer complaints?
(As my friend David said, “If I don’t complain, do I even exist?)
Let me ask you, other than hearing yourself complain, what do you have to lose?! It’s a great challenge.
So, I hereby challenge you. Why don’t you give it a try?
(Obviously, if you are going through large emotional turmoil, now isn’t the right time to do this.)
When I spoke with people about this process, I learned that a lot of people would rather not do this alone. A lot of people prefer to do such a thing with an accountabilibuddy – a buddy to whom you are accountable.
Here are three options to getting an accountabilibuddy:
- Ask someone you know to join you. Say, “Hey, Rabbi Brian gave me this challenge … would you try it with me?” (If they say no, ask someone else.)
- Send me an email and I’ll hook you up with another person from the newsletter who also wants a semi-anonymous buddy.
- Join the ROTB Facebook Group and post your progress to the online community. https://www.facebook.com/groups/965983460090922/
#wisdom_biscuit: stop complaining and live in a world with less complaints.
Here is a short video that explains the 21-day-no-complaint challenge and another gratitude practice I will write more about later.