"Change your thoughts and you change your world." - Norman Vincent Peale
The title of an article recently caught my attention "A Complaint Free World" - now who wouldn't want that? So I read it. Quite interesting. A pastor, Will Bowen, handed out bracelets to his congregation one Sunday & invited everyone to take the 21-day challenge to a complaint free world. The idea is simply that you can not complain, criticize or gossip for 21 days consecutively. If you do, then you need to switch the bracelet to the other hand & start over…. Doesn't seem too hard, huh? Seems like a great idea. I was excited about the challenge & the thought of living complaint free. So I told my cousin about it & she wanted to embark on this journey with me. I ordered our bracelets & it comes with a book too which goes into more detail… Off we went. My first day – Sunday, Sept 9.
Now I'm a pretty positive person – people have referred to me as Pollyanna – but as of late (as in the last couple of years) I've not been quite up to Pollyanna par. So I thought – this won't be too terribly hard for me. It'll be great. Day one – not too bad – only had to switch the bracelet once. Day two – to be honest, it was a bad day… I had to switch the bracelet about once every couple of hours…. Well, that wasn't how I wanted to live. That was a huge wake up call. A bad day at the office shouldn't be cause for me to complain & criticize & be totally negative. Irritable things happen yes. But that showed me just how much my attitude toward them can affect not just my mental state but others around me.
According to the book - "A Complaint Free World" - there are four stages – Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence & Unconscious Competence. Also according to the book it takes the average person anywhere from four to eight months to successfully complete 21-days consecutively.
- Unconscious Incompetence – you don't realize how much you are complaining
- Conscious Incompetence – you realize how much you are complaining
- Conscious Competence – you realize & you are complaining less, making an effort to change
- Unconscious Competence – you no longer have to make the effort, it comes naturally
I moved from stage one after day two…. Day three I did better – only had to move it once. Then I was on a roll… day four became my new CFW Day 1 (that's how I label it in my notebook – CFW – complaint free world – I either have a change notation or a number notation – change means I had to change the bracelet; number means I successfully completed a day). And I went from Tuesday, 9pm until the following Monday without having to change… I was bordering Conscious Incompetence and Conscious Competence. And I was excited. Sure I had to move it on that following Monday and didn't have a string of successful days last week… but I notice that if I have to move it – I typically only have to move it once, rather than multiple times a day. That is progress, my friend. The Pollyanna I had been over my life disappeared but I am slowly finding her again.
It takes a lot… you don't truly realize how what you say comes across as complaining… but once you are in Conscious Competence you stop before you speak and rephrase something - or you stop & just don't say it. It's the thing our mothers taught us – if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Rephrasing what you want to say or realizing your intention behind what you say has a profound impact. Actually it has made me happier. Even when things aren't going so smoothly.
Will Bowen states in his book that once you finish the challenge successfully, "You will find that your mind no longer produces the deluge of unhappy thoughts you used to live with. Because you are not speaking them, you have no outlet for them & the complaint factory in your mind shuts down." How great will this be??
He also says that who you are creates an impact on your world…. Whether my impact is big or small, I know I definitely want it to be a positive one.