For the 2014 Thanksgiving season, I began a challenge of 30 Days Without Complaint. And it was hard. Honestly, it was pretty much impossible to keep 100%. I wanted to revisit what I learned when I stopped complaining.
1. I learned that being negative has been my default setting for most of my life.
I tend to see the one wrong thing like a flashing beacon begging me to fix it, which makes me a fantastic essay grader as a teacher, but also means I have to be purposeful about seeing the positive and intentional about mentioning it!
Trying my best to follow the dictionary definition of ‘complaining’ as expressing any negativity, I had no idea how often I complained. “I’m hungry.” “This coffee is cold.” “I’m tired.” I had this whole under-the-breath monologue of whining that I did almost unconsciously.Complaining seems like our default setting as humans. Can one month reset our hearts? #30DaysWithoutComplaint Click To Tweet
During this challenge, I had days I considered duct tape might be my only hope.
Yes, not only was I adding to the mental list of resentment in my own head, I was coloring her perceptions of her father. I was unintentionally disrespecting him in front of his daughter. LOTS of reasons to halt that behavior immediately.
2. Negativity is a big brush that paints over everything else.
A single complaint can sour an entire experience for everyone. I can be having a perfectly nice time when my husband’s food isn’t right, or he feels the service is slow, and the focus for rest of the night is that ONE aspect of the experience instead of being aware of the myriad of enjoyable moments.
Ever think about all the compliments you’ve ever been paid? What about all the insults? I find that negative feelings and thoughts overshadow all the positives if we give them room in our minds.
3. I had been using complaining as a passive way of asking for things.
“I’m hungry” wasn’t just a declarative statement. I was looking for my husband to offer to cook or get me something. I realized that using complaining to ask for things wasn’t healthy behavior. If I want something, I need to ask for it. And I need to be willing to get it for myself if the answer is no. If I’m not, it wasn’t really that important.I learned my complaining was sin in so many ways: resentment, manipulation, grumbling. Click To Tweet
By taking more responsibility for what I wanted or needed, I began to take more responsibility for my own feelings as well, which turned out to be very empowering.
After two years being fairly immobile, I got used to not being able to do much. Learning to stop complaining might mean getting up more often, but I am so glad that I finally can!
4. Most importantly, I really learned that words have power.
The way we say things matters. I can complain, “I’m cold” or I can say “I’m going to get my jacket.” One is powerless. The other is pro-active. One is letting my environment dictate my expectations, the other is choosing to create my own reality through my actions or how I choose to perceive it.
The words we use become our focus. I spent this challenge removing as much of the inner complainer as the outer. My internal dialogue was just as much of a problem as my outer one. I still have a long way to go, but see that stopping mid-thought and looking for the blessings can really change my perspective.
For example, my kitchen is messy because my husband works ridiculously hard at insane hours and makes his own breakfast when he is barely awake. I can be upset at the mess or I can choose to see it as wonderful evidence of having a family and a dedicated husband.
Going 30 Days Without Complaint was only a starting point. I have a long way to go before I really conquer this bitter battle with complaining, but I have learned how to be more positive, even with negative emotions.
I’ve seen change starts with my attitude, but ends with being a light and joy to those in my life.