Can You Go An Entire Day Without Complaining?

Last week, I went a whole day (almost) without complaining.

It was hard.

But it was also really, really good. And eye opening. So every eye opening.

I recently read Chasing Cupcakes by Elizabeth Benton, owner of Primal Potential and host of the podcast by the same name. The book is about mindset and behavior change, two topics I’m incredibly interested in, and find myself coaching more consistently with my 1:1 clients. About two-thirds of the way through the book, Elizabeth tells a story of how she decided to make intentional, in-the-moment decisions while on a trip to San Diego.

A bit of backstory. Elizabeth was once overweight and deep in debt. After years of trying to lose weight, she began the work of shifting her mindset and focusing on solutions instead of problems (I’m greatly paraphrasing her story). While in San Diego, she wanted to avoid the over indulgence that tends to come along with traveling and so she committed to making her decisions in the present, rather than along the lines of “I’ll eat all of this now and get the junk food cravings out of my way for the rest of my trip” thoughts.

I’m sure you’ve done it too – overindulged at the dessert table or else spent far too much money on a shopping spree and regretted it the next morning. That’s what she was deciding to avoid – things that wouldn’t make her feel good or serve her well. She challenged the reader to pick something and make conscious decisions around it for a full day. One of her suggestions was complaining.

I’ve been complaining a lot lately. Among my list of complaints: lack of time, lack of resources, lack of clients, lack of responses to emails/phone calls/smoke signals, lack of checking things off the to do list, even lack of options in the dating pool. Work (the full-time job) is stressful. Running a business is stressful, let alone running two. Trying to eat, sleep, and wash my hair a couple or three times a week is stressful. And putting on a newly washed duvet cover? I don’t know enough words to describe the hike in cortisol that causes.

And the rain. So. Much. Rain.

You get the idea.

Reading the pages of Chasing Cupcakes, that’s what I realized about myself: I was complaining way too much. Not long monologues of complaints, but one or two lines of complaining strung throughout the day at somewhat frequent intervals.

We have another meeting. I’ll never get anything done because I’m constantly in meetings.

It’s never going to stop raining. It’s going to rain forever. My hair will never look decent again, I’ll never get to wear open toed or suede shoes, my dog will never walk on dry grass again…

I don’t have time to focus on marketing to get new clients into the studio. I have to do these 50 other things for the studio instead and there just isn’t time.

I want to grow my personal training business but I can’t seem to find new clients. Probably because I don’t have time (sarcasm).

Let me tell you about this guy on Hinge and how I thought he was going to be great and actually, he was a total jerk…

Rowing and wall balls for 19.1? Are you freaking serious CrossFit? I’m short. That’s not an ideal workout for me.

With Elizabeth’s challenge fresh in my mind, I set out to spend an entire day not complaining.

I love mornings when I can get ready for the day slowly. I purposefully wake up earlier than I “need” to so I can have time to sip coffee, journal, write a bit, check in with clients, and snuggle/play fetch with Knox. Things started off well, but while I was putting on makeup, I heard the too familiar sound of pounding rain hitting the sides of my apartment.

“Are you freaking serious?” I said out loud. “It’s raining again. All it ever does is rain.” And then Knox bumped me in the back of my leg with his ball to get my attention and I remembered I wasn’t going to complain that day. I reframed it:

“It’s good that it’s raining. We’ll inevitably have a dry spell and all this rain will help bolster water levels. Plus, the grass and flowers are going to be beautiful this spring.”

A stretch? Maybe. But there was an instant lift in my mood.

From there, I worked to choose my thoughts and reactions. When something popped up I wanted to complain about, I’d check my words – and my thoughts – and say or think something more positive. There were two more instances in which I found myself complaining – once about going to another meeting and the other about the sole reserved parking spot at my apartment complex all the neighbors are up in arms about. I reframed those, too.

“… but you know what? We’re so close to being done with this project! One or two more meetings and we can move on to the creation phase. It’s going to look great when it’s finished!”

“There are so many parking spots for the rest of us, though. So what he’s reserved a spot? It’s not like we don’t have a place to park. AND we’re not paying anything extra for them!”

At the end of the day, as I laid down to read more of Chasing Cupcakes, I thought back on my day of not complaining. What surprised me most was the realization that it was easier to maintain a positive mindset if I was actively thinking about my response. It also didn’t require a lot more work. It was simply choosing how I wanted to respond. Negative or positive? Complain or not? And if I did complain, reframe it to something more positive.

Since my “Day of No Complaints” experiment, I’ve tried to be more cognizant of my thoughts. It works, friends. It also gets easier. Perhaps it’s the positive reinforcement or the idea that practice makes perfect, but after nearly a week of trying not to complain, my default setting has slowly shifted to a more positive response.

Have I been perfect? Absolutely not. But have I improved? Absolutely. There’s a lot of power in realizing you get to choose how you respond to things. I’ve had moments in which I felt a bit like Pollyanna, but I’d rather be Pollyanna than Debbie the Downer.

Wouldn’t you?

I’m challenging you to do the same.

Spend a day – one entire day – not complaining. If a complaint does fall from your lips, reframe it, immediately. At the end of the day, look back on how you felt and note if you feel lighter, happier.

Report back on your findings.

And if you’re looking for a good book on mindset, check out Chasing Cupcakes.

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