Over the recent holiday weekend, Jon introduced all of us at Mantis to the 21 day complaint-free challenge (www.acomplaintfreeworld.org). After some amount of discussion, we all decided to do it. I must admit that as much as I think not complaining is a great idea, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to this. What exactly comprises a complaint? What happens if I do complain? What do I do if I’m around negative people who are complaining? And 3 full weeks????
In the end, I agreed to along with it because there was really no reason not to. And I actually only agreed to go along as a witness, but then decided that was cheating, so decided I was in. I didn’t want to go as far as getting a bracelet and changing wrists every time I complain or say something negative. And we had some discussion about if the negative thoughts stayed in your head and you turned them around how that counted. But it isn’t about counting negative thoughts so much as bringing awareness to them. And the hope is that, eventually, we will have fewer negative thoughts because we are more aware of all of our thoughts and can counteract them when they arise. In essence, it’s a mindfulness practice, mindfulness of speech and mindfulness of mind, working with our thoughts to see if we can notice them and not have to believe them or act on them unless we choose to.
The other thing I really like is that we have built-in accountability partners within our small group. We aren’t just doing this alone, and we have others to support us and to help us stay honest with ourselves. We’re good support because none of us will be heavy-handed about the exercise, but we will all be curious about how the others are doing and want to encourage each other to continue and to do better.
I admit, it’s much easier to notice when others are complaining and making negative assumptions and comments than to see it in myself. It’s hard to say how much I actually complain because I’ve never actually taken an inventory. It’s also not so much of a tangible outcome, so it may be difficult to know if I’ve improved at the end of the 21 days, but I’m trying.
With one week under my belt, I do notice that I am much more aware of my thoughts, and even more aware than normal about what is coming out of my mouth. I am noticing others and how they use complaints or compliments to communicate with others. I am also noticing that for the most part, I really have nothing to complain about. I realize I’ve never let that stop me before, but it is worth noting. I can have a pinch more gratitude about what is actually happening in my life, and I can have more compassion for others when I’m not so wrapped up in my own (generally small) problems. I have a constant reminder to watch any tendencies I have to complain, too, and I hope that I can make that more naturally a part of my thinking and mindfulness practice.
I encourage you to try this challenge, too, and see what it could do for you!