Day 16 of 30 – No Complaining

No complaining can feel fake. I complain to get empathy. This social skill that I’ve strengthened and perfected over the last thirty years is no longer available. This isn’t easy to let go. Like I said in my last update – Day 8 of No Complaining, I’ve fallen off the complaining wagon many times. I’ve been able to catch my mistakes more quickly, but you and I know that old habits only die with a lot of effort.

It was time to put up Christmas lights and I don’t get excited about stringing lights from one end of the house to the other, but I does encourage a festive atmosphere. My technique used to always be to complain about my sacrifice, (oh how hard I work) get my wife to thank me for all my future effort, then get it done as quickly as possible.

This same pattern started right on queue, but with a different ending. Instead of rushing to get it all done I relaxed with the work. The complaining in my head stopped. I was there in each action. The placement of my ladder was calculated, executed and enjoyed. Even the tangled wires didn’t frustrate me. I’ve been working on building this skill, but most days I have fallen back into old thought habits. This time I was able to stop rushing and just enjoy the task.

I’m pretty sure it was because of this 30 day challenge. By not letting my thoughts go wild I’ve been able to steer them toward the feelings that bring happiness, or at least a relaxed state.

What is frustration? It’s internal complaining. The moment isn’t exactly how you want it to be, so you unleash a barrage of complaints to vent.

I just untangled the string of lights and made an effort to look for the fun about the situation instead of what was bad. I was also able to let go of worrying about what else I would rather be doing. I was there stringing up lights and that was good.


Feeling Fake

I came back inside and told my wife that the Christmas lights were all done. I wanted to go into a mini-tirade about how much of a pain it was (like I usually do), but this time I knew that I didn’t really feel that way. My old habits couldn’t be applied any more. So what to do? Just tell my wife that they are done and hope that she thanks me. I knew I wouldn’t get my gushing hug and kiss. It would just be a “thanks hon.”

I realized that I was relying on validation from my wife instead of giving myself the love that I needed. I shouldn’t need my wife to gush over a simple job like putting up Christmas lights.

I decided to have a mini celebration. 10 minutes of Yoga then on to the next task. After I was done I was happy with where I was at. I didn’t need my wife to create a big fuss for me to enjoy stringing up the Christmas lights.

I started Work Happy Now to help people (myself included) to maximize their work happiness. I thought about how managers can create a better work environment, how CEO’s can lead better, and how HR managers can improve their incentive programs, which are all needed.

These ideas are all well and good, but the 50/50 Effect yells louder than words.

50% of our happiness comes from external circumstances and 50% comes from within. I’ve found that the more I cultivate my personal development at work and at home, the happier I become.

Some of you may think that you don’t complain that much. Maybe you don’t need a 30 day challenge of no complaining. You may be right, but I’m sure there is something you need to personally develop in order to reach a new level of happiness.


Intensifying Your Awareness

The more you challenge yourself to become aware of your thought process the easier it will be to handle a difficult co-worker or a difficult child. You may be like me where the process sometimes feels fake, but eventually this barrier will crumble. You are intensifying your awareness which helps you see the truth.

Many alcoholics don’t want to quit drinking alcohol because it helps them relax and enjoy a party. They don’t want to focus on the negatives (hang-overs, poor judgment, and cell damage (liver and brain especially).  They see what they want until they hold a magnifying glass up to all those warts.

A thirty day challenge forces you to take a good hard look at a weakness. I used to complain about presents. I didn’t like this or that about them, but I’ve realized that presents aren’t about just me. They are about the giver and the receiver. If I could stop complaining and enjoy the act of receiving a present I could make the person I’m with happier.

If you can be more flexible at work, you will cultivate happier co-workers. So try a 30 day challenge of your own. Pick out a weakness and try to improve it in thirty days. You may not stop your bad habit completely, but that’s okay. I have a feeling that I’ll still complain, but as the months go by it will be less and less.

What do you need to work on to get to that next level? Would you like to make more friends? Then create a thirty day trial that forces you to interact with new people. It’s all about the numbers. The more people you meet the better chance you have at making new friends. Would you like to start your own business? Then put a thirty day plan together that makes you work on your business plan until it has a foundation that gets you so excited that you just want to keep going.


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Image courtesy of Amarand Agasi

8 thoughts on “Day 16 of 30 – No Complaining”

  1. Fantastic post – great point that sometimes complaining is a way to get validation from others when instead we should be happy with our efforts for ourselves. It’s easy to forget that approving of yourself means a ton. 🙂

  2. I agree with Nicki – this is fantastic Karl! And what is fantastic, is that this 30 day approach doesn’t have to be for just complaining – it can be for whatever it is that’s limiting us. I’ve been looking at this through the lens of complaints (and that’s been good) – yet the bigger lens is that this can apply to so many different things. And looking through that lens is indeed very awakening. Thanks Karl! (and nice job with the Christmas lights – although there’ll be NO kisses from me!!!)

    Lance’s last blog post..Bounce!

  3. Hi Karl: I find that setting an amount of time that you will devote to a task and then having a reward ready at the end–even if it’s just a cup of coffee or a candy–is one of the best ways to get a task done. So your approach of just putting up the lights and then giving yourself the gift of 10 minutes of yoga is excellent 🙂

    Marelisa’s last blog post..Five Ways to Keep Your Spirits Up During the Holidays

  4. Hi Nicki, we need to create our own love. Sometimes it’s easier to get it from others, but in the long run our own love is what makes us stronger.

    Hi Lance, thanks for keeping your kisses to yourself. My wife is appreciative too.

    Hi Marelisa, Yoga is a passion of mind and anytime I can carve a little time out for it, I’m a happy man.

    Hi Chris, internal complaining can also dictate our mood. The more we are in tune with this the better we can direct our thoughts to more positive actions.

  5. I dont vocally complain much, but I think I complain in my mind a lot.
    “I’m tried from working all day”
    “My back hurts”
    “My health care is sky high”
    …and so on. This a good challenge and one I may take up.

  6. Great post Karl, however I have a little different thought about happiness. I think 99% of our happiness come for our own mind and that’s only 1% that come from our circumstances.
    I remember a quote from John B. Sheerin : “Happiness is not in our circumstances but in ourselves. It is not something we see, like a rainbow, or feel, like the heat of a fire. Happiness is something we are.”

    Arswino’s last blog post..No More With Me

  7. Hi Carla, most of my complaining is done internally. It’s a tough vice to break.

    Hi Arswino, I’ve read similar thoughts. I’ve thought long and hard about this. I truly believe it’s how we interact with the elements inside and outside our body that determines our happiness. Some people believe there is no separation, everything is connected.

    When I say 50/50 I believe, like you, that it’s up to us to make the best of a situation. But I also can’t discount abusive relationships. It’s hard to get in the right frame of mind if someone is physically or mentally abusing you. I know this is an extreme case, but it’s a force that’s hard to ignore.

    The same goes for oxygen. If my oxygen is cut off I’m going to be in pain. It’s hard to be happy when you can’t breathe. I could be happy that I’m going to heaven, but not many of us can feel the bliss of dying. Another extreme case, but it shows my views on happiness.

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