For my American readers this is the U.S version of the article featured in Marie Claire French Magazine this summer! I wanted to share this article with you because it truly reflects my journey and some of the biggest lessons that I received when I did my “I Stop Complaining” challenge which gave birth to a blog & book called “J’Arrête de Râler” or “ I Stop Complaining!” http://www.istopcomplaining.com newly launched in English!
Let’s start the 21-day Challenge
What if we stopped complaining? (Or “bitching” about everything.) “It’s driving me nuts!” “ I can’t believe it! “ Your work colleagues are not the only ones to complain, we are also guilty of it and o it more often than not! Do you know that people complain 20 to 70 times a day? From this observation, Christine Lewicki decided one day to stop complaining to celebrate life. In her book “J’Arrête de Râler ! “Or “I Quit Complaining! “, she recounts her experience and kept track of the challenge: No complaining allowed for 21 days.
What about you? Are you sick and tired of complaining? Are you up for the challenge, as well?
The Challenge: Stop Complaining for 21 Days!
Christine Lewicki was tired of complaining. Complaining about her children, the mess in her house, being late for appointments … everything was an excuse to complain, ruminate, and vent. Gradually, she realized that complaining all day made her life miserable instead of making it better. Following this observation she launched a somewhat unusual challenge: No complaining for 21 days. To make the challenge more tangible, she decided to wear a bracelet (or wristband), which would change wrist each time a “complaint” came out of her mouth. At this point each time she changed the wristband; she’d have to start the challenge from scratch all over again, until she reached 21 consecutive days! The wristband allowed her to embed the challenge in her brain and make her aware of her behavior.
Why 21 days?
It takes between 21 to 28 days to get rid of a habit and replace it with another. Indeed, our habits are deeply rooted in our unconscious and we tend to reenact them without even realizing it. Just like lighting up a cigarette after a meal, we complain when the alarm goes off or when no one helps to set the table … by paying more attention; we notice that we tend to complain mechanically. Saying “I’m tired” at every turn or “I don’t want to go to work tomorrow” have almost become automated language habits for some. So when you notice it and attempt to stop, it’s harder than what you ever imagined. Once that difficult phase over, when we consciously force ourselves not to complain it becomes gradually more natural. Most people who have embarked on the adventure have invested up to 2 to 10 months to complete the challenge.
What is complaining?
It is mismanaged frustrations. It is expressing dissatisfaction by not even attempting to solve the problem. It is being resentful with the whole universe for something that we could have prevented or something without real importance in the first place. Sure, it would be unrealistic to say we can live without any frustrations, but we must find other ways to manage them. Developing new lifestyle habits is a start, for example getting up earlier to avoid being late and complaining because we are feeling rushed all the time.
Christine Lewicki has set a limit that complaining or rattling in her head did not count in the challenge. Phew! Even the Dalai Lama would have failed! The “complaining” has to be embodied in words to be considered a real complaint and avoid elimination. Indeed, words are powerful and become our own reality. By constantly repeating over and over again that we are tired of doing everything at home for instance, we forget that we could just ask our husband or the children to lend a hand, and we end up really doing it all ourselves grumbling under our own breath.
Stop Complaining: good reasons
By being in control all the time (time schedules, a desire to be always on top) we forget to let go from time to time to make room for the unexpected. By putting a halt to complaining, free space is created to allow thinking about other more positive things. It is important to understand that happiness does not depend on external circumstances but how we choose to live out these circumstances. If happiness depended only on external events, how is it that some people who have nothing are happier than others who have everything? In reality, it is all about mindset. When you’re positive, motivated, and serene vis-à-vis the vicissitudes of life, you can be rich or poor, unemployed or with a job… you will be happier than someone feeling stressed out and victimized.
Christine Lewicki even mentions a study * which shows that lottery winners were as happy or unhappy a year after winning the draw that changed their lives. So why wait to have won the lottery, on to be on a vacation or to have found a soul mate to be happy? Why not try to be here and now? And if we’re not, why not change now and make every effort to become happy?
Complaining creates a gap with others! We all agree on this: nobody likes the company of a professional moaner. The doting old aunt, who is always complaining about her children, dogs and neighbors … No thank you! While the colleague who’s always smiling and always has a kind word doesn’t have time to complain.
Positive thinking develops our potential! This is obvious because complaining is done automatically and requires no concentration! Reverse the trend and try to look on the bright side and find solutions necessarily demands becoming more conscious. But the consequence is that instead of being overwhelmed, we are relieved to have found a solution! We are feeling responsible for our lives and not victims and it feels GOOD.
Restoring the place of happiness in our lives! The idea is to replace all the “complaining” by celebration. It is always necessary and important to replace a habit with another. Christine Lewicki decided to take the time every evening to celebrate the good things that happened that day. During the meal, each family member tells about a positive element of his or her day.
* By Daniel Todd Gilbert, a great professor of psychology at Harvard University.
A few tips to help stop complaining:
Adapt expectations to the reality of the moment
Where does complaining come? Sometimes it’s simply because we have not adapted our expectations to the reality of the moment. The author offers a scenario from her own life experiences: complaining while at the beach with her 3 children unable to read her magazine because she is interrupted every 3 minutes! It becomes clear that being at the beach with her 3 children is absolutely not the right time to enjoy reading. Try this experiment and it will lead inevitably to frustration. Timing plays a crucial role in the challenge, as time at the beach for example, is more suitable for family games. It’s all about adapting to the situation! Christine realized that if she wanted to enjoy a peaceful reading moment she could better plan some time in the evening for it spend an hour at the local coffee place when her husband is home with the kids. Part of this challenge is also to allow yourself the permission to take care of your needs and ask for support.
Complaining is not constructive: it does not help things, it worsens the situation and that of our surroundings. Instead of finding one in situations that make us rattle, better anticipate. While on vacation with our friends, at work, or as a couple … it is useful to forewarn your entourage about things that irritate you or make you uncomfortable. The idea is to put limits and to avoid situations that can pollute our existence and put us in a bad position.
How about you, are you ready for the challenge? Would you be able to stop complaining for 21 days?
Christine Lewicki is a Certified Business Coach, Speaker,Trainer , MasterMind Group Facilitator and Published Author. She is committed to help Entrepreneurs claim their expertise and allow them to enroll more and more clients. You can subscribe to the O Coaching Newsletter published monthly to share tools, tips, and advice to help you awaken your entrepreneurial brilliance and feel like a Ferrari on the Entrepreneurial Dirt Road. To sign up for your subscription today, visit www.ocoaching.com