Real Mind Control: The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment

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The thought-awareness bracelet and the latest straw that broke the camel’s back.

“This $@#&ing Mac will be the death of me. Intuitive, my ass.”

It just slipped out, and I don’t think I can be blamed. I was ready to leave the PC behind and take my mac overseas for the first time when I couldn’t figure out how to resize photos. On a friggin’ mac? I felt swindled. I also now had to move the bracelet.

For the last four months, I’ve been experimenting with a few types of thought experiments. The two most notable are Radical Honesty, which is 100% guaranteed to get you slapped or worse, and anti-complaining, which I’ll explain here. The latter started in my book agent’s office, where I spotted a pile of purple bracelets on his desk…

“What are these?” I grabbed one and it was inscribed with ‘acomplaintfreeworld.org.’

“Another author of mine. Interesting story, actually.”

And it was. The author was Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister who had recognized — as I have in a previous post — that word choice determines thought choice, which determines emotions and actions. It’s not enough to just decide you’ll stop using certain words, though. It requires conditioning.

Will designed a solution in the form of a simple purple bracelet, which he offered to his congregation with a challenge: go 21 days without complaining. Each time one of them complained, they had to switch the bracelet to their other wrist and start again from day 0. It was simple but effective metacognitive awareness training.

The effects were immediate and life-changing.

The bracelets spread like wildfire as others observed these transformations, and, to date, more than 5,900,000 people have requested the little devices.

“Can I have one?” I asked my agent.

It all made perfect sense. Fix the words and you fix the thoughts. I’m not a negative person, but I wanted to cut out the commiserating most of us use for 30-40% of all conversation (if you don’t believe me, keep track of how many people start conversations with you in the next 24 hours that center on a complaint or criticism).

I made it 11 days on the first attempt, then I slipped. Back to zero. Then it was two or three days at a time for about a month. Once I cleared 21 days at around month 3, I no longer needed the bracelet. I’m using the bracelet again now because I’m preparing for some large projects I expect to be challenging enough for Cornholio-style meltdowns.

But what is a complaint?

This is where I disagree with some of the rules set by Will. He asks you to switch wrists whenever you gossip, criticize, or complain, and the definitions can be a bit vague. He also requires you to switch wrists if you inform someone else they are complaining. I think this is counterproductive, as I’m big on constructive criticism.

I defined “complaining” for myself as follows: describing an event or person negatively without indicating next steps to fix the problem. I later added the usual 4-letter words and other common profanity as complaint qualifiers, which forced me to reword, thus forcing awareness and more precise thinking.

Following the above definition, both of the following would require a wrist switch:

“Man, I went into the post office and had to stand behind this rude jerk for 30 minutes. What a waste of time.”

or

“John can be such an a**hole. Totally uncalled for.”

The following variations would not:

“Man, I went into the post office and had to stand behind this rude guy for 30 minutes. It was a waste of time. From now on, I’ll go in the mornings before 10am to avoid the crowd.”

“John was a bit of muppet in there, wasn’t he? I suppose I’ll just send the e-mails directly to Mary in engineering for the next two weeks to get buy-in, then he’ll have to agree.”

Here are a few of the changes I noticed then and am noticing again now:

1) My lazier thinking evolved from counterproductive commiserating to reflexive systems thinking. Each description of a problem forced me to ask and answer: What policy can I create to avoid this in the future?

2) I was able to turn off negative events because the tentative solution had been offered instead of giving them indefinite mental shelf-life (and “open loop” in GTD parlance), resulting in better sleep and more pleasant conversations with both friends and business partners.

3) People want to be around action-oriented problem solvers. Training yourself to offer solutions on-the-spot attracts people and resources.

###

For those interested in the more sophisticated applications and results of the the no-complaint thought experiment, I recommend you order a copy of A Complaint-Free World. I received an advanced copy and finished it in one afternoon, ending up with two pages of notes.

Want to take the 21-day no-complaint challenge for a test drive now?

Last a friend checked, the bracelets had a 3-5-month waiting period, but a rubber band or other bracelet will suffice. If you want the real deal, I have four bracelets that I will mail (might take a bit, as I’m leaving the country Friday) to the best four commenters below who answer the question:

What other behavior, besides complaining, do you think people should stop? How could train themselves to stop?

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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734 Replies to “Real Mind Control: The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment”

  1. People should stop the negative self talk about themselves first and foremost as so you think so you will be. We project out to the outer world our inner

    world of thoughts which then determine our behavior.

    To train yourself to stop you could start with a large glass jar and fill it with a $1 when you find yourself going down the negative path. At the end of each month donate the money to a charity of your choice.

  2. El no quejarse no es un acto de “imponerse la voluntad de no quejarse” (que de todas maneras sirve). El no quejarse, to do not complain and be able to have the peace, the space… the mind space to pause and use the correct thoughts and the correct words come from an irreversibly decision to love everything (or don’t be attach to the image of oneself).

    —–Es que podemos amar, respetar a todos antes que nuestros deseos y nuestras necesidades? Esto es la base. El cual sobrepasa el sistema de creencias mundano en el cual estamos entrenados a vivir.

    We can develope the good habit to do not complain, but we may lose it very easily if we do not develop this overwhelming love for everything we touch. WE can achieve the 21 days and maybe a year, but this habit won’t have the real foundation for the rest of our lives ó ….

    para la eternidad.

  3. hi Tim, being a middle-aged Australian, we have this big drinking culture. Most events are centred around drinking alcohol, and every social event is. To the point where people wouldn’t turn up to an event where alcohol wasn’t served. I’m not talking what you would call ‘rednecks’ – I’m talking successful, professional people leading otherwise productive lives. Parents with families – your average middle class. Almost everyone I know drinks at least a few every day, and always at social events. Almost everyone I know would like to cut down – maybe just drink on weekends? But it’s really hard having the willpower to do that. Would this be a behaviour that needs changing?

  4. Despair is interesting. Complaint is interesting. Going to the bottom of the complaining is rather important. When you realize that something doesnt feel good, it is important to NOTICE that, and QUESTION why this is, what it really means to you, and why it is so bad. We all have an inner compass of what feels good and what feels bad. We know we prefer what feels good of course, yet Suppression hurts us in the long run, and some of us can be very good at “putting things away in a drawer and loose the key” until it comes back to us one way or another. So next time you catch yourself complaining about Anything, ask yourself what this situation means to you and why it is so bad, and go all the the way down to your core belief if you can. ( to practice this check out Teal Scott’s video on “Finding Core Beliefs” at askteal.com , she explains it very well). Complaining means you have overgrown a state of being and you are about ready to move onto a new way, whether you have already identified or not what that next thing is. It is important to dare go to the “breakdown” to get to the “breakthrough”, to go to the bottom of it, to be self-aware, self-responsible, and avoid walking thru life like sleepwalkers !)

  5. It’s nice to stop interpreting every statement of someone in one’s own context instead of first considering the background and situation of the speaker. It gets you so much further… The training is easy: before you answer to ANYONE, first take one deep breath. That gives you enough time to reconsider.

  6. Great post

    I quit swearing for one year.

    same principals as above, if I swore out loud I would have to start again from day zero.

    took me 6 attempts.

    The way i kept myself in check was by recording the start/restart date in my phone and making a note of it above my desk.

    The leverage for me was the burden of having to start again and being accountable to one trusted friend.

    The Results;

    Reduced the amount of arguments I got into to almost zero

    and it was very hard to offend anyone as I found it very hard to hurt anyone’s feelings without swear words.

    Once you became self aware enough to catch yourself, before you swore out loud, the moment/event/incident that had triggered the swear word would usually have passed, resulting in a less emotive and more thought out response.

  7. Haha.

    1) picking nose in public

    2) hawking up a lougie in public – spitting fine, lougie…. Eh.

    3) talking loudly on the phone

    4) stopping on the middle of the aisles at Costco

    5) people being on the phone when it’s supposed to be a social event – gtfo, talk to ppl in front you!

    And I just switched it lol

  8. Instead of something to stop, try getting someone to laugh 21 days in a row? Think about ways to give good humor, not the insulting kind.

  9. Thinking you have a better solution and realizing that you only need to receive the view point in a positive manner. THE most positive manner with “no bias attached.”

    I realized I could save time mailing things from home or understand the environment whole mindedly when a gentlemen also completing an errand at the post office made me understand i am grateful for knowing when I focus on the positive or am neutral in the situation more often I receive more positive results.

    I realized in your example that I too can become a more popular me, just by following through in movements or sharing my thoughts more frequently. After the input I received from a Ball last evening I know I am already helping people. Scaling my work up is how I’ll help more people and drive more people to my website that are looking for value that I provide.

  10. What’s your take on Think and Grow Rich

    By Napoleon Hill

    Or his follow up

    Outwitting the Devil

    These two classics nail it.

    He spent a lifetime working on the formula using

    similar practices – lots of research and oberservation.

    d his follow up Out

    1. Hello Jeremiah, I absolutely agree with you. He has really helped me to turn things around, both personally and professionally. Outwitting was an amazing read that made me wonder if I would have shelved it like he did – that may have been a bit too much given the time period. If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to hear what you liked most about each or any particular thoughts.

      Thanks – Mike

  11. I believe people should stop being outraged about things. Its okay to believe in a cause (usually). It’s not okay to be loud and misinformed all over the internet with it. If instead of just sharing every link with a provacative title, they read the article and then at least one other article from a diferent view point then everyone who have more clarity and there would be less misuse of hyperbole.

  12. Silva mind control was the kind of summer entertainment I had growing up. I remember using mental white boards to effectively replace a bad habit with a good one. Also for sleeping problems. A good bad habit to get rid off could be: making assumptions as they stop us from trying out and getting to know. I like the wristband idea.

  13. Negative thinking should be stopped. Two similar methodes can be applied: 1st Emett Fox: Mental Diet; 2nd Earl Nightinghale: The Strangest Secret in the World

  14. HI Chris,

    I am going to try this starting…..now.

    Also, I am an Apple Distinguished Educator. I don’t have all of the answers, but if you have questions while you adapt to your new computer, feel free to send them my way. I will see if my network or I can help you out.

    Oops, I see that you wrote this in 2007. The offer still stands 🙂

    Have a great day. Thanks for all of the high-quality interviews that you have done with some of my favorite podcasters through the years. 2014 started for me with a mountain hike before sunrise listening to you via ‘School of Greatness’

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

    Ken

  15. I have done the Complaint Free World Program and teach it to co-workers in a Culture of Ownership workshop. I have not made it to 21 days, but I am more aware of negativity by using the bracelet. We also discovered that the bracelet may not be appropriate for some areas (we are in a hospital setting). So a good alternative is a coin or a stone that you switch in your pocket.

    We use the premise that it is not a complaint if you are discussing with the person that can remedy the problem. Not to someone who cannot. If you are able to remedy it yourself, there is no need to say it to someone else. Remember- if you think it, but do not say it…..it does not count. 🙂

  16. I like the idea that people wants to be around problem solvers. It’s simple but if you think about it, that’s so true. Thanks for the amazing article!

  17. I’m taking the challenge for 21 days(how ever long that takes). To stop complaining. And I’m excited to send of a thank you note every day. It will help me remember how many nice things people say and do. And help me to be more greatful for everything. Thank you

  18. Well, there maybe a world things to complain about but it only takes you out of position to be a winner. like I can t do that because its to hard, I am to small or if I only was big enough, or had more money, in the right place. If you fail or fall short its because you complain to much.

  19. This lesson was meant for me. It couldn’t have come at a better time. i am starting the 21 day challenge right now.

  20. Basically my understanding of this whole concept comes from spiritual writings. Why? The basic tenet is rarely fully explained in most teachings but it is always there: in the Bible-turn the other cheek, forgive, in taoism( nurturing a positive mental outlook) in Bhuddism, show gratitude, etc —every spiritual teaching i have ever read. Many law of Attraction teachings talk all around it but rarely understand the principle themselves. The two books that gave me the most clarity are “Conversations with God” by Walsh and “Ask and It is Given”and even better a kid’s book called “Sara”( see youtube for audiobook for free) both by Hicks. The basic principle is your mind creates( see double slit experiment in quantum physics for some scientific comfirmation). Positive feelings and thoughts create an energy that brings these creations to manifestation: negative ones hold them outside of manifestation. The lower worlds of experience are a balance of positive and negative yet we love to focus on the negative. The higher worlds are pure positive energy. We are here trying to EXPERIENCE in the positive and negative worlds what we KNOW in the higher positive worlds. LOVE is our highest expression and Unconditional Love is being loving in all conditions( see Jesus -crucifixion)

    In a nutshaell, we are in the Matrix of the lower worlds and every thought you have creates! Life is hard–it will be hard. I can’t lose weight- you won’t. Life is easy-it will be easy for you but it is not so simple as a superficial thought or statement. You can’t just say life is easy but then act or speak like it is hard. There lies the rub with affirmations and all these other law of attraction tools. As their belief and so it was unto them.

  21. A little late to the game, but no matter – I’d like to share my idea even though the bracelets are likely gone.

    I believe people should avoid habitual behaviors such as, watching TV every night, scanning Facebook before bed, playing video games, etc.

    Training yourself to stop would be done by setting personal goals (weekly or daily) of trying something new in place of the habitual behavior. Subsequently, the behavior would stop as people learn they enjoy new experiences over the habitual, mindless ones.

  22. Talk to your food to eat better. Before you eat anything say out loud directly to the food, no matter who is within earshot “I’m eating this apple (or whatever it is) because I want to be healthy” or “I’m eating this double chocolate super fudgie brownie because I want to be fat as **** ” trust me. It works.

  23. Use this as an excuse to go meet some women… or men if that’s your fancy. It doesn’t say no sex, just no masturbation. The point is to quit wasting time with things that just make you feel good for a few minutes. Use this as an excuse to get away from a computer screen and find something better. You could meet someone that could potentially be your partner for life. Take note of how you feel without booze providing your courage, ask yourself why you feel that way and in turn learn yourself and better yourself. It’s an experiment but the end result could be life changing.

  24. I just LOVE this idea. I hope that it will prevent some road rage…which I am often vocal about with kids in the car. (Definite no-no…they see driving as negative.) And I may actually find some substitute and hand them out to my mommy group. The complaining never ends during a playdate, Seriously…you HATE Starbucks? Their coffee sucks, you say?! One location every other block says it doesn’t, my fellow mom. I purposely did not respond to this mom, it’s as if she was ready to pick a fight about the beverage king. So that’s my idea for the bracelet habit to break. Don’t engage with anyone who clearly WANTS to complain or fight or argue about a subject. It just brings you down. So much easier to reply “that’s interesting,” and turn to the other gal next to you instead. Soooooo here’s my other suggestion: if I (or anyone else here) am not the winner of said bracelet, I’m going to have my 8 year old daughter make purple Rainbow Loom bracelets for the whole family (AND the moms group!) as an alternative. This is definitely a move toward the positive, Tim. You always bring good things to the table and I love your style! Keep it up! 🙂

  25. We’ll, I need this, and I am also a little confused about what constitutes complaining. Earlier today, I read a short editorial — then I applied critical thinking to identify holes in the author’s logic. Was I complaining? I think critical thinking is a good thing, but perhaps it can devolve into complaining easily.

  26. As a way to help people be more peaceful, I created a one day event on Facebook called the No Complaints Day Challenge! on 12-August. Everyone can do at least one day! It will be a good way to test and experience what is possible. I created this in honor of my mother’s memory.I hope you’ll join me.

    You can find the information on FB searching No Complaints Day Challenge!

    Working for a better world

    Thanks

    Joe Kirin

  27. one of my favourite experiments was in not using a capital letter for ‘i’. it de-emphasised the self at a time when i was working on zen meditation and wanted to destroy the ego. my argument was that caps gave ‘i’ more weight that was necessary. it’s sort of stuck since, and i’ve ended up with a very fluid definition of self as a result, and behavioural changes don’t take as much effort as there’s very little ego blocking the change, and plenty of experience of overriding it.

    the band thing isn’t new, by the way. it’s a less painful version of something that aleister crowley used to do (albeit his involved slashing himself with a knife every time he used ‘i’ instead of ‘one’) that became a popular thing among chaos magicians who replaced the knife with a rubber band, and snapped it against the wrist. iirc, it was phil hine who popularised this technique.

    what you’re talking about is a less painful variant on that technique being used to change the way that you think – or more accurately, to change the way that you model your behaviour internally and thereby lead to a change in the external expression of that behaviour. as a technique, you can apply it to any behaviour you can think of: dieting, workouts, swearing, cooking proper meals, neglecting housework/work/family – pretty much any and every behaviour that you consider negative. personally, i’ve found it worked best at changing the language i used, and that the language you use is intrinsically linked to the world you perceive. change your perceptions (via changing the language you use to describe them), and you change the world around you.

    that’s why ‘wizard, know thyself’ is sometimes proclaimed the first rule of magick.

  28. People should consciously stop wasting natural resources like food, water, energy n fuel . As human beings we only take things from mother earth… While all other beings take only as much as they need … We are wasteful n indulgent. A 21 day conscious control and introspection on how an individual could make 5 changes on these lines …. will help one n all !

  29. I work at an English newspaper in Asia, and I have noticed a disturbing habit that I’ve developed of complaining about the news. It’s my job to read it, it’s inevitable (I think) that I will be emotionally triggered by it, and unfortunately it has forced some very uncomfortable frustrations in me that seem akin to xenophobia.

    In the news that my superiors deem fit to print, there’s always a series of young girls getting raped in India. Malaysia is always institutionalizing some new form of “everyone who isn’t Muslim should be silenced” law, and don’t get me started on Israel and Gaza.

    It’s emotionally draining to read about these events, and I think I complain/commiserate to dissipate the pressure that builds (unfortunately, I probably only succeed in divesting some of my frustration onto my coworkers). I bring this up because the post suggests only bringing up a “complaint” if it’s followed by some sort of solution.

    … fat chance, right?

    “So what needs to happen in the Middle East is …” haha

  30. This is my first comment ever to your lovely blog but let me say what a great article Tim!!. Real mind control and let me say it takes also real emotional control as well. Complaining, normally comes from being not able to control frustration in certain situations, an expected appreciation, or angriness of life (maybe due to depression). Controlling the way we think, feel, and react to feelings is the key here I believe from this exercise.

    I can also see that the NOBNOM challenge gives the benefit of control of our mind and emotion and one-self in a form or self-discipline. Great and not easy challenge.

    Let me suggest another experiment of “silence”. I believe in our busy lives, any person doesn’t even a full minute of total silence and stillness. Hundred of Ideas and thoughts always wonder the brain even if we don’t want to. What about being in a still and silent 5 min a day. At home or at every time we are in transportation. This includes being Concise about our movement and eliminate fidgeting.

    I did it for a full 7 days, and Let me say it infuse calmness, focus, and, patience, emotional steadiness.

    What you think ?!

  31. As always, enjoying your blog Tim. Great content!

    Besides complaining I think it would be good to stop:

    1. Inappropriate responses to statements you don’t agree with such as:

    – agreeing with someone’s opinion just to smooth the conversation

    – blunt or condescending remarks that show you don’t respect their opinion

    2. Interrupting others because you think what you have to say is more important

    (politely interrupting because you have to go to the bathroom would be acceptable)

    3. Compromising your moral/ethical standards for a cheap laugh by:

    – putting others down

    – making inappropriate comments (i.e. Joking about plane crashes)

  32. Oh Lord, I am #450 on the “commentator” list – you have long ago distributed your extra purple bracelets. (Sigh) (Light bulb goes on overhead). I’ll find something else to use because it doesn’t have to be a purple bracelet for me to be successful at this. (Sigh) I have to go buy a bracelet to use just for this challenge to work for me. (Sigh) (Light bulb goes on overhead) The magical thinking problem is something else altogether – do the no complaining thing first. Buy a bracelet at Walmart. Tell people at work what it’s about (accountability). Okay, it’s all good.

  33. People should stop swearing. It displays a limited vocabulary and tells the listener nothing, other than, “I don’t know what else to say/how else I can get my message across.”

  34. Great post! We can learn from emmet fox’s mental diet from the 1950s. What a leader

    He was!

    Key point here is yes out words can change our thoughts. But remember.. We can’t say anything unless we think it first.

    So, we can be even more efficient. Rather than think something negative, say it, reframe it positively verbally and change our thinking…

    Why not work on, fine tune, cherish how you think. Work there and there only. All words, actions, plans stem from our thoughts.. Not our Words.

    Care for and Lovingly guide each thought!

    Warmly Pamela

    Founder and CEO

    UniversalGiving

    [Moderator: links removed]

  35. I believe we would all be better off not swearing or using foul language most of the time. I am not perfect and swear when I am extremely angry but really it’s not something I am proud of. I know that I have picked up the foul language from people in my past and is not really true of me. So if we could all stop throwing the F word around so much and leave it out of our speech,conversations would be easier to listen to and a great deal more respectful. Don’t forget our children are absorbing and copying how we talk.

  36. Only a few years late but I’ll chime in.

    I’d love to see a thought challenge in which you exchange the words I can’t, I have to, or I need to (something along those lines) to, I choose to.

    Believing that you actually have a choice in your day to day life is a very powerful thing.

    With gratitude,

    Justin

  37. What other behavior Should people stop? Being inconsiderate by being oblivious to your surroundings when you shouldn’t be. Like the people in the grocery store who start fishing for their method of payment only after everything is checked out, somehow just realizing this time they will have to pay for their purchase. Every time you are inconsiderate by not paying attention, you should change the band. GM

  38. It is easy to become a bitter person these days, especially with Facebook and other social media. I personally have become a bit of an ass, and its time for a positive change. I know it will make everyone around me alot happier too 😉

  39. I think of this as a form of functional intelligence for any given situation this could be expressed as being observant, attentive or just to how much thought you put into a subject , there are four levels in my interpretation of this.

    Level 1: is oblivion where the expression:Ignorance is bliss takes on all of its sense. it is a level at which you don’t even see there is a problem

    Level 2: is when you sense that something is amiss there is a general feeling of unease and where you just think : Well something is just not right here. Without having a clear sense of what is wrong

    Level 3:Is when you can clearly expose the mechanics of what isn’t working and you have identified the cause(s) or the situations that are problematic.You can express them but the solution hasn’t come forth yet

    Level 4:Is when you can bring a constructive solution after taking the time or making the mental effort to deconstruct the problem

    I think it is a different twist on the evolution of any skill realy… unconcious incompetence, then there is concious incompetence, folowed by concious competence and finaly unconcious competence.

    All that to say that you should take the time to think thru what you are going to complain about and see the process to the end to bring about a solution instead of a complaint!

  40. I don’t believe that when you fix the words you fix the thoughts. Not at all. The thoughts preceded the words – you have to first have a thought about something in order to express it. Even when you react in anger, the angry thought first formed in your head before you externalised it.

    I also respectfully disagree that tagging a solution at the end of your complaint isn’t complaining. Complaining is expressing that you need reality to be different to the way it is in order for you to be happy.

    You can try and dress that up any way you like with a solution to avoid it in future, but you’ll soon run into other people and situations that won’t be your preference and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a complaint again.

  41. I work as a cashier. I guess around 90% of people pay with Food Stamps. These people usually wear Hollister or Aeropostale shirt and sweater, uggs boots, have an iPhone, bling bling nail, a lot of gold jewelry and from their Coach bag they pull out a matching Coach wallet and from this Coach wallet comes out their Food Stamps card. And sometimes I ask them, “Why are you abusing the system?”, they always answer, “Because if I don’t, other people will.” When my children invite me to an expensive restaurant for my birthday or some special day, a lot of these people are there as regulars. And I think a lot of our daily failures come from us rationalizing many behaviors in the same way these people do and something like this bracelet could help a lot to remind us not to rationalize many little things like: I’ll eat this chocolate because there is nothing else and I’m hungry, etc…

  42. I actually prefer to think about what behaviors I or others would want to invite into our lives. My belief is that focusing on “not” doing is not as powerful as focusing on being someone you want to be. I have changed my life radically with this little awareness. For instance, if I am complaining… I am aware that I want to be a person who looks for the good. Who looks for solutions. It’s just a matter of focus, but I have seen it’s power. Now you are moving toward something desired rather than away from something undesired.

    With that said, I would like to see people give drivers the benefit of the doubt. It’s a gift. Most of us would give the same person that benefit if they were not in their cars. Driving is mostly stressful and horrible because of the meaning people attach to it… not the activity itself. I live in a large metro area with heavy traffic. I’ve turned this into a time to listen to great audiobooks, or think about gratitude or work out solutions. Driving is now something beneficial. Just my perspective, but it serves me.

  43. This reply is most likely way too late to get one of the wristbands but I felt compelled to reply.

    The behavior to stop is not standing up for yourself. This includes not addressing issues as they arise, “ignoring” comments or actions against you, or just not being real with people. This all leads to complaining, having conversations in your head that you wish you would have had or never will, and allowing people to just move on knowing what they have done but you are still living it. My favorite quote is “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die” but if you deal with things as they happen (not talking about a cornholio-style meltdown) but just dealing with situations as they arise and not let it take up real estate in your head then resentment can be averted.

    The VIP Party? Arrange for a community service project (such as the Food Bank) where everyone “works” for a few hours on a project that will make a difference outside the group and use the $1k for the group to have a drink and appetizers after the project. People get really jazzed after doing community service projects and they are very often quite memorable.

  44. Tim,

    Love the idea!

    Any way you can layout the challenge in a bulleted memo style format? That way it is easy to share with friends!

  45. A behavior people should stop is automatic verbal thinking/processing. I was eating lunch when I saw the diner employee throwing out some boxes. She muttered something to herself and I started pondering how strange it is that verbal communication is such a norm to the point that occasional compulsive speaking to one’s self is not even considered strange.

    I think that forcing one’s self to reprocess an automatic behavior which is so deeply ingrained might even do more to change a person’s habits than being positive. Honestly, I think what the lady muttered to herself was something negative about the boxes, so compulsive speech is used a medium for negativity anyways. two birds one stone.

    1. I have always “talked out loud” to myself in public but no longer have strangers pointing it out to me or looking at me strangely. I guess they assume I am talking on my phone. How things have changed.

      But think about it – is talking to oneself any different than talking to an unseen person on the phone?

  46. I’m ready to take the challenge. In regards to your other question:

    Something I suggest people do is focus on being at the cause of their life, rather than the effect of it. In order to do this, one must stop focusing on the REASONS why they don’t have what they want, and shift their focus to what they want instead. When realizing one is listing reasons why they don’t have what they want, to state out loud what they would prefer instead. Ie: I’m overweight because I have no time to get to the gym. –> I want to make the time to fit exercise into my weekly schedule. Take it a step further and state: I make time to fit exercise into my schedule.

    Results > Reasons

  47. I think people should stop “stopping” themselves. So many people on a daily basis come up with brilliant ideas, only to dismiss them seconds later, saying “oh that won’t work” or “I wouldn’t know how to do that” or “that would take a lot of time.” I say if a moment of inspiration hits you or perhaps it’s an idea you’ve been mulling over for a while, just go for it. For 30 days give any idea you have a real shot, no excuses. Any time you think “well this could be better if….” Follow it through. If you have an idea how something could be ran better take the time to give your idea. Go forward! Give your ideas a real shot. Every time you catch yourself shooting yourself down switch the rubber band. In summary, a good motto would be to say, “why not?”

  48. I can think of a few : procrastination, negative self talk, any obsessive behaviour. The core principle and the methodology could really work for most negative behaviours a person wants to either curb or quit altogether. This kind of reminds me of conditioning in that it lasts 21 days and forces the individual to be mindful of this negative behaviour. If the behaviour is repeated there is a negative consequence , and the participant starts over. Kind of reminds me of Pavlov. Question : can the core method be tweaked or improved by offering a larger incentive alongside the penalization, once certain milestones are completed?

  49. It is good to eliminate negative thoughts or criticizing (I have this bad habit and use humour as an excuse), but I think this might be a powerful tool to get rid of more mundane habits like sugar consumption or the infamous Starbucks moccachino (wether for dietary or financial reasons). The visual reminder and the fact that once you went trough a few days you don’t want to start again can be very effective.

  50. Like complaining people need to stop procrastinating.

    What if every time we said to ourselves, “I’ll do that tomorrow..”

    Now obviously we can’t do everything all the time ;however, I’ve noticed that as I switch to action oriented thoughts most of the things that consume my thoughts and create worries could have at a minimum the first step towards results taken.. Could be add to the to do list, or call to see if it’s available whatever.. The point is starting an action gets you closer to a result and taking this same philosophy of bad thoughts is something that could help us ensure more results..

    Show me the bracelt Tim this is good stuff ;)!

    Ps- I live in SF and have some feedback for you on your books that I think would create positive action for you and in return I would like your feedback on a business that 4 hour work week inspired me to start.

    Cheers!

    Greg

  51. Stop running away from a challenge

    I almost sold my business and took a job to move across the country with a large salary and benefits. But I didn’t, because I prefaced my thought with the words “truth is…” And I realized I would have been running away from the hard work it takes to grow my business and gain/have the freedom enjoy as well as really affect people’s lives like I currently do. I stayed and don’t regret it one bit. But I know people who haven’t faced it like I did. I’ll be honest, at the time, I was a hair away from either choice so I understand the struggle they faced. A bracelet may have been the reminder they needed. Their “truth is..” So to speak.

    This is a deep example but the daily life is filled with them like eating well, being patient and teaching children as opposed to just “quick fixes”..etc.

    Great post Tim!

  52. Perhaps a suggestion on how to improve a situation, attitude or occur acne for the future would be a great exercise to combat complaining. Recognition of a less than savory situation, action or attitude and then possible corrections or solutions to avoid these uncomfortable people, places or experiences.

  53. So of course this means no Facebook as you will have to switch wrists to the point of skin damage.

    How does one deal with the situation of where everyone is given a voice and thus must be an expert on anything. If I could go a mere week without someone answering, “Well I wouldn’t put it THAT way.” It happens so often now, I started testing by quoting something someone said less than two weeks earlier. “Well I wouldn’t put it THAT way”, was then deemed ubiquitous.

    I’ll try this and I want it to work, I just need an action plan to get past the need to strangle the dilettante world we’ve created…

  54. A common way of being that many people have is the need to be right. We want to be right at our job, right about our religion, right about politics, and so on… This NEED to be right is what creates segregation and all conflict.

    The assignment is to not focus on being right in the conversation but to focus on seeing someone else’s point of view and being understanding.

    This is not to say that you are wrong, however the assignment is to focus on the other person rather than focusing on what you want to say next.

    You must do this for 30 days. If you find yourself in a disagreement and realize you are arguing to be right, you do not reset your 30 days. If this happens you must simply admit to the individual in the discussion that you were too focused on what you were going to say next and not hearing what they had to say. Tell them that you want to come into their world and get what they are communicating to you.

    Following the rules will better your relationships and make you an effective communicator.

  55. Passive aggression is something people need to remove from their lives. It is very destructive for all parties involved. Instead people need to make the choice:

    A) This is an important issue that needs to be addressed… Then address it.

    OR

    B) Decide I can and will let this go, it is not a battle worth fighting.

    If passive aggression isn’t changed it leads to bitterness and as the saying goes ‘bitterness is like drinking poisen and waiting for the other person to die’

  56. I call chronic complainers Dementors. As in the Harry Potter series, these people suck all the happiness out of the room!

  57. I would be down for a 21 day fast on beating myself up emotionally. It amazes me how respectful and kind I can be to a stranger but if I were to say the things I say to myself out loud??? It’s abuse! And sometimes we are completely unaware of how we can put ourselves down.

    I think a similar technique would work in this case…

  58. Behavior to Stop: Making Assumptions.

    How to Stop Making Assumptions: practice follow through and communication. Ask questions and ask them in a way that requires clear/understandable answers.

    We make assumptions when we don’t fully understand a situation. It is a natural reaction to immediately fill in any missing information by making up our own story. We do this because we like to try to make sense of people and situations. The problem with this is that most of the time our story is incorrect which causes all kinds of complications. The fact is, we don’t know what the truth is unless we ask

  59. The best thing people could *start* is always using the turn signal while driving. It may not stop all accidents, but it would encourage understanding of what we are trying to do, and one may be surprised at how that courtesy is returned.

  60. Hello Acar,

    I can only partially agree. There is a role for pessimistic and doubtful thinking in society. It prevents new wrongful ideas from getting widely adopted in societies and is a crucial part of the scientific method.

    On a different spin, as described in the awesome book Attached, if a type of person stays over thousands of years in a society, there is a reason why it makes the society stronger. So pessimistic “what’s the catch” thinkers often reveal liars to the society otherwise not recognized by more optimistic people.

    Cheers,

    Roland

  61. I think people should stop being emotional and reactive. It brings forth negative energy and vibrations. As soon as you allow yourself to enter that low vibration state, you lose awareness and good judgement. So if someone says something we do not like, instead of being emotional and reactive, we should communicate our feelings. Communicating that we are hurt or offended is more productive than exploding, losing our temper, and saying something nasty as retaliation.

    How I trained myself not be reactive or emotional is to always be mindful and observe my emotionals when I hear someone’s crictism that is hurting or offending me. Just the act of being more mindful and exercising control over my emotions has helped me not to lose my temper considerably. I sometime lose my temper if I choose to go into that state. I no longer unconsciously lose my temper.

    When you become adept at doing this, you are in control of your emotions instead of your letting your emotions control you.

    I will probably write a blog post on this topic (eventually), if there’s enough interest in reading it.

  62. Great Post!

    I think we should also stop judging other people as what we see fit in our perspective.

    l look forward to reading your next post.

    Ciao,

    Pamela Simamora

  63. I would add-in polarizing judgements/thoughts that often leave a person on the “wrong” end of the happiness spectrum:

    Always/never

    Good/bad

    Right/wrong

    Everybody/nobody

    All/nothing

    Those are some good ones to start with.

  64. I’d love to see a world without the words, could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. Especially when directed to another “You should have…” A choice was made. There were consequences, positive or negative from that choice. You can’t go back. Instead you must now focus on what to do going forward and make the outcome a positive or learning event.

    The wristband will work for this.

    VIP party make it Unplugged

  65. I told my 4 year old daughter that she couldn’t have candy because she didn’t eat her dinner. She sighed and dropped the F bomb. So I’ll be using this for complaining and swearing.

  66. Jealousy. Not sure how best to define it, but probably something like “An envy of others which causes one to consider some aspect of one’s own life in a lesser light”. Cure jealousy by either (1) re-casting one’s viewpoint in terms of inspiration (eg, from “that darned Tim Ferriss gets to do all the cool stuff, my life is so boring” to “Tim Ferriss’ latest trick inspires me to get back on my bicycle/etc…) or (2) if it cannot be helpfully re-cast as inspiring, the. just call it out for what it is (see definition of Jealousy above), and gently bury it in your mental graveyard as useless.

  67. People should stop, leaving their dogs in cars on warm days in bright sunshine!

    How to train?

    Visit your local sauna, put three of your warmest woolen sweaters on, go sit in the sauna and ask your friends to lock the sauna from outside and leave for an unknown time.

  68. Tim, posture! Kelly and Anthony both address. Slouching drains your energy but when you straighten up a surge of energy goes thru your body and you are ready for action! Plain old physiology that’s what we should change!

  69. Stop blaming others for current circumstances.

    Everything in your life is where it is because you brought it there, or are allowing it to be there. Own it.

    Solution? Blame Game.

    Instead of playing the “blame game” and pointing fingers at others, make it a point to responsibility for anything going awry. Obviously if you have nothing to do with it, don’t take the blame. But, if you are a major player or even if you are only partially at fault, take the blame. It’s so easy to save face when things go wrong, but how many have the balls to stand up to their mistakes?

    Late for work? Don’t blame it on traffic. Simply apologize and accept responsibility for being late.

    Subordinate screws up an assignment? Take the heat.

    Just like a swear jar – make a blame jar. If you point the finger and blame situations, circumstances, people, or things – put in a dollar.

    If you take the blame and own a mistake? Take a dollar.

  70. Negative self-talk. Wen wouldn’t stand for someone talking to us like that, or even a loved one, so why do we give ourselves a pass?

  71. Tracking this one word for what precedes or follows it, delivers an abundance of insight into how we create or inscribe relationships. The word is “you”.

  72. In a statement like your post office example, instead of making a direct negative judgement on the guy, simply make a judgement on the act.

    Instead of saying “this rude guy,” and labeling him, say “This guy was being rude.”

    On a flip side, when someone does something nice for me, I don’t show gratitude to the act, I show it to the person. “Thanks! I appreciate YOU.” rather then, “Thanks! I appreciate your help.”

    Our choice of words not only change the context, but it changes our own perceptions as well.

  73. Prejudging is a big one. How many times have you met someone only for what you thought about them to be completely turned upside down?

    It doesnt just happen for for people, it can go for events, hobbies, stereotypes and more. It is very similar to complaining, in which we do it automatically without even being conscious of it.

    Realising and remembering when a prejeudment is wrong and reflecting on it the next time you go to prejudge something is one way to stop. Basically anything that can interrupt the pattern that has been created. NLP and just being mindful can have a big impact too.

  74. I’ve actually been saying for years that, “If you’re not complaining, you’re successful.”

    Great read and experiment, agree whole-heartedly.

  75. This is so up for me right now. Been trying to figure out how to eliminate complaints and complainers….Semi-confronted someone the other day, but thought there might be a better solution.Time for the book!

  76. The habit of subconsciously assigning oneself and others titles of either victim, villain, or hero in situations.

  77. I think it would be rather interesting to stop “being bored.” Either be still for the sake of stillness, meditation, or reflection, or entertain yourself with your own interesting thoughts and ideas! Or go OUTSIDE! 🙂

  78. Addiction. Some addictions can be good, but most of the time they are bad. I believe that addictions are mostly caused by a lack of stimulation. Like excitement or happiness. A good way to solve this would be trying to expand your friend group, or even opening up more to your friends and loved ones. Create better communication. Create more exciting conversations. Put effort into making people feel that they are cared about and (hopefully) this will be reciprocated back to you, thus creating more meaningful and stimulating relationships. Not quite a complete thought, but something I find that needs to be addressed. Also, I think the world would be a happier place. Thanks for the stimulating read! Haha

  79. Tim, THANK YOU. I am leading my 12 grade English students through the 21 day no complaining challenge. From there, we will go to gratitude journaling the first 5 minutes of class each day. You are changing the world.

  80. Wow amazing Tim, thank you very much! As a Sales Manager in the automotive industry I deal with a lot of negativity on a day to day basis. The bracket challenge as I have named it has done wonders in the 5 days since implementing the strategy. I am not sure how a came across your amazing ways a month ago but I am sure thrilled I did. All the best l am a huge fan and look forward to following you for years to come.

  81. Update…I’m in to day 13 of my own personal challenge. One of the things I’ve gotten from this challenge is a heightened sense of the relationship between thoughts and words. While this challenge at first appears to “work backwards”…thinking about words…it seems to also simultaneously get me thinking about my thoughts as well…and we all know that thoughts precede words.

  82. Remove “I cant” from you’re vocabulary. I worked with a mixed martial arts coach, Robert Follis, and he would correct my negative self talk. Replacing words with, “I used to,” or acknowledging I couldn’t do something at the moment, but using a similar method to brake down why and a process to correct it, similar to your example.

  83. Doubt. I invite you to be aware of when you doubt yourself and the people and systems that comprise your reality. You have the choice to think positively. That is powerful. This exercise will instill action oriented thinking and the courage to create. Then you will cultivate the resilience to sustain.

  84. I think we have a growing population of bad listeners.. It is so difficult to have a legitmate conversation with someone now a days. I don’t know if it is because people are so fixated on themselves that they cannot process anyone else’s opinions but it is extremely frustrating. One could train themselves to stop this bad behavior by always following up with a question relating to their conversation with the person they’re talking to.

  85. Excuses. Like my old basketball coach used to say, “Excuses are like aholes, everyone has one and they all stink.”

    If you find yourself making an excuse, even to yourself, first, stop making the excuse, take ownership and, second, do 20 pushups immediately. I’m a miltary man so I love pushups, just dont find yourself making excuses not to do your “excuse homework” or you may not be able to shave in the morning!

    1. Ur my type of person tried the army,to be part of thdy wouldn’t accept me, i wasn’t a team player they said,i’d love to fight not with wrapons just my body i was a natural,i’d fight most people i was allways scarred of the end result,i’d let myself be beaten,messed with boxing,judo,athaletics,i loved to swim still do now,i’m capable of a lot i self medicated to calm down,get back to me i need purpose,i’ve lived below my calacity for years the powers that be say i’ve got personality disorders,i’ve done allota good for the man inda street adms well.john williams

  86. I’ve been diagnosed with bi poar type 2 also ptsd,since 16 i heard voices,they tell me to do terrible things,i isolate myself most of the time,i’ve made allota bad choices in my life bjt i’m also very intuative,i’m an adrenaline freak i’ve allways aspired to do dangereous things sometimes floolish,i’ve led a checqured life,i’m loyal to the end,sometimes to the point of stupidity i can be ruthlessley caring & misunderstood,who can help me i need purpose not to be drugged up because i don’t conform,any ideas ?

  87. Going along with gossip and not standing up for what you really believe. You know when someone criticizes another person or idea and a group of people just nod their heads and go along with the direction the conversation is going rather than expressing an opposing opinion. (Especially when it’s your boss or a perceived superior.) Perhaps validate the gossiper’s worth by pointing out a strength of theirs that you appreciate then let them know that “actually, I see it this way….” Point out the gossipee’s strengths. We all have strengths and are more than well aware of our own weaknesses without them being pointed out or gossiped about. I guess in a nutshell listening to gossip is just as bad as instigating it!

    Oh, the thing I do is jump in and “fix” problems without thinking about how other people might benefit from having a go at solving the problem. What comes easily to me can be a fantastic confidence builder or learning opportunity for another. But I’ve already jumped in and done it! I’ve taken that opportunity away from them even though I had good intentions! I think that’s a good one too!

    Thanks Tim for all you do. 😉

    Kelly S

  88. We should have one for anger ,obviously this will entail awareness and understanding as it did for complaining, but that’s the point right?

  89. I love the idea of trying to get people to stop complaining. I know you want another behavior to stop. I’d love to have one of the bracelets. That however is not why I am writing this. Although I am certain it would feel pretty awesome. My father always told me that I live in a fairytale world, but here goes. I suggest instead of having people stop something. I would love to see people pick up there heads and look around. How about the simple act of waving to your neighbors as you’re standing outside while your dog is using his toilet. While your walking to your mailbox. While your driving down your street. Is the world really such a busy place that we can’t say a quick hello to the people who surround us daily. Neighborhoods are only as friendly as we choose to make them. By the way. One good thing about a neighborhood is you take it with you everywhere you go. Never underestimate the power of a smile, that tiny acknowledgement could mean the world to someone. Have a safe trip Tim

  90. Dear Tim

    Your work is truelly inspiring and love to read anything you suggest. One major issue in people’s life in my opinion is the constant urge to controll someone because most of us are lack of self control so we tend to control out spouse, kids, employees, animals, parents, neighbors. Most of the time unnoticed or unconsciously which creates lots of confrontations since nobody likes to be controlled.

    My grandma never wanted to controll me and I love her most. When people turn into unselfish supporters they eventually receive respect, love, attention.

    Love from Holland

    Arnie