30 Days of No Complaining – Wisdom Multiplied

I’ve learned more about my habits of thought during my thirty day “No Complaining” challenge than I have in the last six months – such an intense microscope on one area of my life. “No Complaining” forced positive change. The deeper I looked at how complaining affected my life, the easier it was to use this wisdom to my advantage.

I posted 7 articles about my No Complaining journey, each one giving a little different insight than the last:


30 days of no complaining was so intensely interesting that I’m going to do more of these 30 day challenges. I haven’t cured myself of complaining. Far from it. I’ve actually become more convinced of the importance of complaining. We all know the basic methods of complaining.

  • Whining (The worst form of complaining)
  • Complaining to create laughter (A skill that most comedians have perfected)
  • Complaining to share experiences (Excellent social tool)
  • Complaining to probe (This form of complaining allows you to informally protest. If people agree they will join in. Then you know that you are of like mind.)
  • Complaining to take action (Maybe my favorite form of complaining. We all need to vent about stress and problems in our lives. The idea is that we put ourselves out there to others, which means that we state an informal complaint. Now that other people know what’s bothering us, it’s up to us to take action. That may mean changing the situation or just letting it go and not complaining about it any longer.)


I’ve never met a person who didn’t complain in some way. They might not come out whining about what’s wrong with their life, but they will make judgments.

A father may say, “I wish my daughter would try harder at her school work.” He may say it in a loving way, but we all know it’s a small complaint. He might say this to a friend in passing and his friend might say that he has a similar problem with his son. They talk about it and bond. Maybe they even come up with a solution. The solution isn’t as important as the bonding because as most people know teenage daughters and sons do what they want to do, not what their fathers want.

If that father complains about his daughter to everyone, that’s just whining. He isn’t trying to bond, create laughter, probe or take action. He just wants everyone to feel his misery.

Rephrasing of Language

It all comes down to how you phrase your language. I might say, “I don’t feel like going to work today. I’m tired. My job doesn’t give me any incentive to work hard.” This is just whining. If I rephrase it and say, “I’ve been working really hard on this project and I need a break.” Then we start to turn the complaining into something more positive. If I rephrase it again and say, “Going to work is probably not the best choice for me right now, but I need to work on this important project.” Then we get into more of a “sharing complaining” territory.

You could say in a boisterous voice, “I’m going to work today and even though I’m tired, I’m going to accomplish great work.” It doesn’t sound so much like complaining, but reinforcing a positive state of mind. We all know it’s still complaining, but it’s a lot easier to handle for the people who have to listen.

I was surprised by how rephrasing my complaining in a more positive light changed the attitude of the people around me as well as my attitude. Many situations have become a little easier to enjoy. My wife sure finds it easier to listen to me.

Internal Complaining

We all have been around complainers who just wreck the mood of the office. I didn’t want to fall into that trap, so I put my thoughts, emotions and actions under the blogging microscope.

In my own head, I noticed that I would complain about doing easy and hard tasks. There wasn’t a task that I liked. I wasn’t interacting with my external elements in an intelligent way.

I was hating for the sake of hating. I did this because I didn’t want to impede my dream. I wanted to create my own business. I tried to hate all my jobs so I would keep my focus on the big goal. As I began to reduce and rephrase my complaining into a more positive direction I noticed another impediment – my fear. I’ve been afraid to make mistakes.

I hate making mistakes because it makes me feel embarrassed and scared. Afraid to lose my job and lose face to my co-workers. The ego doesn’t like to feel inferior, at least mine doesn’t. This isn’t a bad thing unless it locks the person up, rendering them unable to take action.

I was sabotaging my own motivation.

What if I tried really hard and the project didn’t work? It was easier to stay out of the game and watch from the sidelines, judging everyone else.

By complaining, I was putting the blame on external things instead of myself. By noticing this habit, I’ve been able to lean into my fear and not let it decide my actions. After becoming more aware of my thoughts and emotions, I’ve learned that if I don’t give in to my fears, I could choose actions that may be scary at first, but they would reap greater rewards in the end.

The more successful you become, the easier it will be to enjoy your job.

My Two Favorite Methods When Trying to Reduce Complaining:

1. If a complaint pops out, I try to redirect my thoughts toward something positive.

Ex. “Arrgh, why do I have to do this report over? I wish they would make up their minds.”

Instead I would say

“Okay, they might not be right, but I don’t know all the reasons behind their decisions. I’ll redo this report and also take mental notes on how I would handle this situation. When I become an owner/manager I won’t make the same mistakes.”

We have to figure out a way to use the experience to improve our skills. That way we don’t feel powerless.

2. Rephrasing a complaint before it pops out.

Ex. “Arrgh, why do I have to do this report over?”


“Hmm, it’s interesting that they want me to do this report over.”

A simple turnaround of a complaint or a rephrase can make the difference between staying angry or letting the anger go and finding a way to enjoy the situation.

“No Complaining” for thirty days made me aware of many areas of my thoughts and emotions that were invisible before this challenge. This month has given me the most personal improvement I’ve seen all year. It helps to take a microscope to your inner thoughts. I’ve taken my work happiness to a whole new level. I’m contemplating my next thirty day challenge – any suggestions?

What do you struggle with at your job? What type of 30 day challenge could you try that would help you?

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25 thoughts on “30 Days of No Complaining – Wisdom Multiplied”

  1. Nate @ Money Young

    I may have to try this. I find myself complaining FAR too much at work, and I don’t like it.

    Nice Post, I’m glad you’ve grown in the past thirty days!


  2. Stephen - Rat Race Trap

    Karl, OMG this is great. You have totally motivated me to take up a 30 day no-complaining challenge. My employer tried to do a 7 day challenge and nobody could last a day. I’m committed now. Thank you so much.

  3. I’m blown away and impressed by what you have learned about not complaining, and when to complain! I love the examples of turning things to the positive. Great adice.

  4. Great experiment that you’ve gone through! I like your suggestion of rephrasing our language, so that the words come out more positive. We also get a better response from others when the words are not perceived in a negative light.

  5. Very interesting. I am sure if I think about it, I made complaining an artform when I was in the corporate world. I wonder if I still complain- I must right? I think maybe I need to do this challenge as well. Thank you for the great idea and your experiance with it.

  6. Hi Audra, saying thoughts in a positive manner is such a better way to communicate.

    Hi Nate, give it a go and let me know how it goes.

    Hi Stephen, Good luck. Just take notes. The growth will happen.

    Hi Marc, let me know how you feel.

    Hi Evelyn, it’s all about being a good politician. Whether we are in business or politics we must get our point across in the most desirable way possible. It’s all about the honey.

    Hi Jay, the corporate world can drag that side out of us. Any world will if we let it. The more aware we are the better we get at creating the thoughts and language that’s positive.

  7. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome

    I’m still toying with the idea. I think I’d just end up beating myself up every time I complained and then get stressed monitoring myself, so I’d have to approach the process slowly and carefully – no cold turkey or my obsessive perfectionist self will just see it as a great opportunity to complain even more! 😉

  8. I’m a fan of driving change and finding opportunity. I always liked the saying, be the change you want to be.

    Complaining is disempowering and is a victim mode. I think my parents drilled into me I’m either part of the solution or part of the problem.

  9. Thanks for posting. I really needed that morale boost. You explained perfectly why I find myself complaining.

  10. Hi J.D., parents give us so many tools that only when we are older do we realize how much we’ve learned.

    Hi Alex, I complained. I wasn’t even close to 100%. I say just go for it and learn as much as you can.

    Hi Rachel, thanks. I’m glad I could help.

    Hi Vered, rephrasing is doable and something we should all practice.

  11. How about 30 days of positive action? A forward moving path that consciously works in the moment. The results might be surprising. LA

  12. I have a hard time dealing with complainers at work.
    First it doesn’t solve a thing, second it is a waste of time.
    Here are my most annoying of complainers:
    Complaining to get sympathy. “Oh poor me, you don’t know how bad I have it!”
    Complaining to cover incompetence. “It is the equipment / software problem!”
    Great post!

  13. Hi Karl,
    This was so impressive – you sticking with it for 30 days! I’m just thinking of the habit you cultivated within yourself over the 30 days. Like you said, it’s not like complaining is completely removed – yet you’ve probably noticed you’ve come a long way – and that you stuck with it for 30 days – it’s become much like a habit – and that’s very cool!

  14. Karl, you have shared so many great insights here. I loved your reframing the language. I agree with you it’s not the complaint but the attitude behind it. Complaining can change negative, harmful, or inhumane practices. Complaining for the sake of complaining can become a cancer in a work environment that affects morale and productivity. Lately, I’ve found myself annoyed but rather than verbalize it to others I took some time to figure out the cause, turns out I’m badly in need of a vacation! 🙂 Now that I’ve defined it I can work on the solution and stop being internally annoyed.

  15. Hi LA, 30 days of positive action is a good one. Hard to measure, but worth considering. Maybe it’s the challenge I need.

    Hi BOH, I can’t count how many times I’ve used the “victim complaining” method. When I fell into that trap it was hard for me to step back and realize it was mostly my fault. Doing this exercise has helped me reduce much of this kind of complaining.

    Hi Lance, the idea of being more aware and not falling back into the same old complaining habits is a great way of looking at it.

    Hi Karen, good point. When we see the routines we live over and over we can break the cycle. Now all that’s left is finding the place you want to visit.

  16. Congratulations on your experiment – that takes a lot of patience! I agree with what you say about rephrasing our language, it is a matter of choice. I also think it’s ok to wake up and say “I don’t want to go to work today”. What becomes frustrating to me is the person who says that, goes to work and continues to say the same thing all day instead of taking a day off. We can state the facts, and then decide what action to take as a result. If we decide to go to work, then stop talking about how you didn’t want to go to work! Again, it’s your choice.

    In your example about the report I wonder your thoughts on asking what the reasons are for the redo – seems to me this information would be helpful for rewriting – rather than just accepting it. Communicating feelings is critical, and there are appropriate and respectful ways to ask so it’s a win-win for both sides involved. What do you think?

  17. Hi Karl: That’s interesting that you “hate” your jobs to make sure they don’t detract you from your ultimate goal of having your own business. I guess that when you complain you’re basically struggling with the way things are at that moment, and that’s a struggle that you can’t win. You can ask yourself: What step can I take now to be in the best position I possibly can for tomorrow?, but you can’t change the present moment. I like your suggestion of rephrasing your complaints to make them more positive and proactive.

  18. Hi Stacey, good point. There are times I do ask and other times I know I shouldn’t. I was just making a blanket statement, but each situation should be evaluated and questioned further if needed.

    Hi Marelisa, not accepting the present moment was a big weakness of mine. I’ve learned to go with the flow much more as I age. It’s made work a lot easier to enjoy.

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  20. My 30 day challenge will be not to say negative things about co workers. I work with people who make this challenge very difficult!

    I’ve tried this in the past, but didn’t set myself a goal, i.e. 30 days. I always failed in the past because gossiping is a form of bonding. I didn’t want to give it up cold turkey. If I look at it like an experiment, though, I don’t think that I’ll feel as much pressure. I’ll have the knowledge that if at the end of 30 days I want to go back to gossiping, then I have the right to do so.

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  22. I think that saying “I wish”is always a complaint.Instead of the father complaining about his daughter not trying harder at her homework,why doesn’t he just ask?or better yet why doesn’t he just focus on the other positive qualities his daughter possesses.
    When people focus on how they wish someone would behave,it’s like saying the person isn’t good enough for them and that person can feel that strain through their body language.Maybe if the father focused on positive qualites of his daughter,she’d surprise him and want to please him more by doing her homework

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