Stop Complaining: A 30-Day Challenge

Neil StraussNeil

Today’s topic: Complaining.

As many of you know, I enjoy using 30-day challenges as a form of behavior modification. And I’m going to propose we all do one together.

The Challenge: 30 days without complaining.

The Consequence: If you complain, you must immediately hand the person you’re talking to a dollar (or your local currency equivalent). If you’re complaining on the phone, Skype, or anything else indirect, you must hand the person closest to you a dollar.

The Recommendation: Tomorrow, put ten singles (or Euros etc) in your pocket. Your goal is to make it through the month without giving away all ten of them.

The Reason: We’re doing this not just because complaining drives other people away from you, no matter how valid you may feel your grievance is, but because complaining is a misdirection of energy. And, truthfully, because I’ve been backsliding and doing too much of it lately.

Remember: All complaints, including negative talk about others or yourself, are just frustrated wishes. And there are two types of wishes: ones that can you can make come true and ones that you have no control over.

The first type of wish can be resolved through an action, typically a request. If you are complaining about a waiter’s service, the wish is: “I wish I had better service.” And you can make this come true by requesting better service from the waiter, by moving to another table, by going to another restaurant, or any number of other steps.

It is when you sit there impotently, not taking any action or making any direct request, that a complaint bubbles up. And a complaint is like very mild aspirin: It offers temporary relief, but the problem is still there.

In fact, you will notice that if you take calm, effective, and fair action when something reasonable is upsetting you or making you anxious, you will actually no longer feel a need to complain. Even if your action is a respectful request that isn’t granted, you now can now accept the reality of the situation, and remove yourself from it.

Usually you’ll find that the action or request takes less time and energy than the sum total of all the complaining.

As for complaints that are actually wishes you have no control over, such as being upset that it’s raining, you’re smart enough to know that this is just wasted energy and misdirected frustration. If you have absolutely no control over something, accept it. To be effective, you need to work within the parameters of reality, not around them.

Remember that whenever you are complaining, this is a signal that you are managing your life badly.

So if you’re up for an easy self-improvement exercise, then we start tomorrow, and go for exactly 30 days.

So get it out of your system today.

And post on your progress, challenges, and insights as you go through this below: