I was truly honored and blessed to be able to present at a conference in San Diego last weekend. Not only did I present, I got to attend some really great other workshops as well. One of them was Will Bowen's "Complaint Free World" , as seen on the Oprah show. Along with the workshop, we each received his book AND a wrist band that accompanied the challenge to remain complaint-free for 21 days.
Maybe I should start by saying I have been sober---totally alcohol-free-- for 16 years. I think I can handle a little wrist-band challenge. (cue the music from the scary movies that coincides with us all yelling at the teenage girl 'don't answer the door! It's a trick! You'll never make it out alive!').
I presented twice that day and the next morning, I awoke to ready myself to present one last time. As I laid out my black pants and snazzy red jacket, I looked down at my purple wristband and thought, "This band does NOT match my outfit". Luckily, I thought it and didn't say it outloud, or I would be switching arms (so the challenge goes). Then I began thinking back to what Will had said about the reasons we complain in the first place. Every complaint, he suggested, falls in one of five categories (getting attention, removing responsibility, inspire envy, power, or excuse poor performance). I stood in the hotel and actually got frustrated because I couldn't think into which complaint category my fashion faux pas frustration was going to fall . Oh dear....this is not going well so far, is it?
I'm not certain how, but I actually made it through the next couple of days complaint-free. Maybe I should note that folks who attend his workshops end up justifying some of what they say as "I'm not complaining. I am just stating a fact" as in "Eew! You just stepped in dog poo and it really stinks" can actually end up just being a statement of fact when justified in some twisted way.
Two days ago, I was trying to make reservations to head back to visit the elementary school where I used to be the principal for a great mentoring event. I had a reservation all set, when Dave found a "better deal" that would "save lots of frequent flyer miles". "Just call the airline and ask them to add this code" he said, just before I had finalized my easy arrangements.
Quick as a fox and sly as a snake, the words came pouring out of my mouth: "Now this sounds like a homework assignment!" DRAT!!! I mumbled as I sheepishly moved my wristband from one hand to the other.
You see, complaining, as Will Bowen says, has been made by many of us into an Olympic sport. We do it without even realizing it. I'm thinking a new 12-step group might need to be formed for those of us who are willing. The good news is: recognizing you have a problem is the first step to fixing it. Right?
In the meantime, I am grateful to be two days into my "one day at a time" program and I am not saying a word about being squished into a small airline seat next to a man who sounds like he has the plague. Not I......
Just for today, perhaps challenge yourself to go a day or two or 21 without complaining.