1% Better Everyday
21 Days to a Better You and a Better World
Challenge 1 – A Complaint Free World

I’ve done a lot of challenges over my career as a business owner, coach, and fitness pro, but there is one challenge that really jumps out to me – the 21 day challenge to not complain, criticize, or gossip.

Now, I realize that some of you are thinking: 21days

I don’t complain. I really don’t criticize people and I certainly don’t gossip! This is going to be a breeze.

Well, I thought the same thing. I’m a positive guy who prides himself in uplifting and encouraging others. I’ve certainly never been into the gossip scene, so no problem. I’ll knock this out in 22 days tops!

I was wrong.

This challenge’s origin, as far as I’m concerned, can point back to the book A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen.

However, I was personally introduced to the challenge by one of my client’s, who was participating in this challenge at her work with the executive leadership team. She told me that she was on day two, but had already moved her band from arm to arm more than 20 times. (I’ll get more into that part later)

Intrigued, I got the book A Complaint Free Life and thought I’d use one of our studio wrist bands with the embedded “1% Better Everyday!” motto. We use these for other challenges that I’ll share with you later in another article, but this seemed to work perfectly with the complaint/criticize/gossip challenge.

In Mr. Bowen’s book, he goes into great detail describing exactly what a complaint is and what that negativity breeds. Before I get into some of the findings I, and others, have had, let me tell you a bit more about the challenge. It’s simple in its design: 

  1. You place a band, or a rubber band, on your wrist.
  2. If you complain, criticize, or gossip, you take the band off your wrist and move it to the other wrist. So, if you start with your band on your left wrist, complain (or gossip or criticize), then you take your band off and move it to your right wrist… and start over at day 1. The goal is to reach 21 consistent days without switching wrists (complaining, criticizing, or gossiping).
  3. Regardless of where you are in the challenge, day 1 or day 20, you start over at day 1 immediately after you slip. It’s said that the average person takes somewhere between 4 and 6 months to get 21 day consistently.

That’s it. Simple. Yet extremely challenging. So challenging that it takes some people years to finish, assuming they can stick to it. gossip-challenge

When doing the challenge, I didn’t realize how often I actually criticized people. I wasn’t criticizing in what I thought was a mean way, but I was simply amazed at the actions of some people and felt the need to speak up. I didn’t see the negative effect it had on people until I actually focused on stopping. This not only affected me, but it also affected those around me. People noticed that I was pausing to think of ways to more positively communicate to others and it made many of them want to do the same. All together, we had close to 100 people doing the challenge, most of which finished and some who simply gave up or lost interest.

Some others have mentioned:

  • A sense of calmness
  • Happier outlook on life
  • Better relationships with their spouse, family, and coworkers
  • Better communication skills in general
  • A more productive work environment

The Devil’s in the Details

I had one friend who entered the challenge and finished in 21 days! It was day 21 and he was heading home after our session. He’s an amazing guy, but I was shocked as he was always complaining and criticizing others. He was a bit of a perfectionist. When he told me he finished the challenge, I was happy for him, but I also wondered how fully he played the game. It became evident when we were talking and he immediately went into a tirade about something one of his venders was doing wrong. He caught himself and then said “well, that’s not really complaining. The guy is really not that bright. It’s a fact.” So, what is complaining anyway? This is from http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/faq:

To “Complain” is defined as “to express pain, grief, or discontent.” Surely, it makes sense to express pain, grief or discontent occasionally but most people do so constantly. In so doing, they are talking and thinking about what they do not want in their life and, thereby, attracting more pain, grief and discontent. Instead, think and talk about what you are grateful for. Talk about what you DO want and not what you DON’T want.

Tim Ferris (author of the popular 4-Hour series) wrote about his experience with the challenge and said he defines a complaint as “describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem. I later added the usual 4-letter words and other common profanity as complaint qualifiers, which forced me to reword, thus forcing awareness and more precise thinking.”

One of the small exercises I really liked was this one that helps you replace negative words with positive words:

Instead of …Try …
ProblemOpportunity
Have toGet to
SetbackChallenge
EnemyFriend
TormentorTeacher
PainSignal
I demandI would appreciate
ComplaintRequest
StruggleJourney
You did thisI created this

Our staff here is starting another 21 day complaint free, criticizing free, and gossip free challenge. Join us and place your comments below to let us know how it’s going for you.

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