The Complaint-Free Challenge

At this very moment, I am wearing a green Girl Scouts bracelet that says “BFF” on it.

Why am I wearing this oh-so-manly bracelet?

Because my daughter wasn’t using it, and I needed a bracelet for the Complaint-Free Challenge.

I read about the Complaint-Free Challenge last month in an old post on Tim Ferriss’s blog. It is a pledge to go 21 days without complaining. During this time, you wear a bracelet (it’s supposed to be purple, but any color will do in a pinch).

Every time you complain, groan or grumble, you switch the bracelet to your other wrist and start all over again. Even complaining in the privacy of your own head means you have to switch bracelets.

It’s based on the concept, from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, that changing your thoughts changes your feelings and outlook on life.

Minister and author Will Bowen came up with the idea about a decade ago, saying that we as a society were losing time, morale and productivity because we complained too much. He wrote a book that made a big splash on Oprah and the morning news shows. He has since sold or given away millions of official complaint-free bracelets, but the Complaint-Free Challenge has never caught on in a lasting way.

I can see why. It’s really hard to go 21 days without complaining!

But there is a loophole that gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card when you mess up: whenever you complain, immediately think of a solution for the problem you complained about.

If you can think of a solution, you don’t have to start over. It doesn’t even have to be a good solution. All you have to do is try.

It’s harder than it sounds, though, as you will see when I tell you about my own experience.

My Progress So Far

my improvised Complaint-Free Challenge bracelet

Okay, I can’t put it off any longer. It’s confession time.

I’ve been doing the Complaint-Free Challenge for two weeks, and I have yet to go a single day without having to start over.

My disability means I need help to take the bracelet off and put it on again. I’ve had to modify the Challenge a little to avoid asking my assistant to move my bracelet 20 times a day.

Apparently, I complain a lot, and the morning is an especially hard time for me to avoid complaining.

Think about how hard it can be to get up early on a Monday morning. Now imagine going through your morning routine.

What if you needed someone else to do that routine for you? I mean all of it: dressing you, brushing your teeth, and all the less dignified aspects of your morning.

Now imagine that person had only helped you once before, had forgotten almost everything over the weekend, and only understood about 20% of the words you said without your having to repeat yourself. I think you can see why it’s hard for me to avoid complaining in the morning.

So I have decided to set more modest goals, at least for the time being.

Every morning, I set a target time that I have to make it to without complaining. If I fail, I put the bracelet on my left wrist, which is uncomfortable because of the position I sit in in my wheelchair. If I succeed, I get to put it on my right wrist, which is much more comfortable.

This system has worked for me for the past few days, albeit slowly. I have gone from less than an hour without complaining to over two hours.

I’m hoping to make it to 48 hours before the end of the year. Wish me luck!


Have you done the Complaint-Free Challenge? Do you plan to do it soon? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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