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.”
“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 900 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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752 Replies to “Real Mind Control: The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment”
Besides complaining: envy wishing something someone have even resources are unlimited, fear focusing on what we don´t want to our life and criticism when we talk about someone and that person is not present.
complaining is strongly related to expectations – when we have no expectations about anything, there is nothing to complain about
“I was ready to leave the PC behind and take my mac overseas” – Mac is a PC (Mac is the hardware, OSX is the operating system), and at least 10% of PC users are GNU/LInux users – and btw, at https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html#PC we can find “The term “WC” has been suggested for a computer running Windows.” 😀
Love this. Been thinking a lot about negative thinking and how it derails me. I think of myself as a pretty positive person, but once the negativity starts, it’s hard to stop the slide, particularly when stressed or distracted.
I have been trying to stop mindlessly perusing social media (though mindfully doing it led me to this post, so….). I will use this same tool for sticking with a set time to check in on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. If I scroll outside of a set time, I have to start over.
Thanks Tim for your great content! Recently started commuting and loving using the time wisely by listening to podcasts, you’re being one of my favs.
Interpersonal relationships are a big one. There’s so much complexity, egos, self-confidence challenges. Things can be up, down, upside down. A really tough task I’ve been taking on is how to *know* when my partner is going through something without them telling me. I’m a strong, independent women. I like a strong, independent partner. We’re attracted to this idea. But we’re human so we don’t maintain strength *all of the time*. My thought is, perhaps there is a way to have a bracelet that we exchange, maybe without words, when we’re feeling like our partner isn’t quite getting us. It’s almost like moment where we act without words, ponder, and come back to it later with a different perspective. We all know relationships are challenging. Just a thought!
Suicide is one such behaviour. It is partly the result of complaining, negative thinking. So to avoid suicide you would need to first tackle your thought patterns. It is pretty obious but still worth noting.
Self deprecating comments. Nobody wants to hear somebody else putting themselves down, even when masked with humour. It makes the listener uncomfortable and is an indication of low self-esteem.
Rudeness. Period. I began noticing a couple of years ago that people are just rude – at the grocery store they cut you off and don’t say excuse me; on the road, they flip you the bird if you make a mistake or don’t signal and cut you off in your lane. And what happened to good ole fashioned manners? Few people say “please,” “thank you,” or “you’re welcome.” It really began to bother me. More than that, I noticed that I was displaying these behaviors too.
It sickened me and I didn’t like how I felt about how I was treating people. I began to smile, at everyone. Then I began to say good morning, to ask the grocery clerk about his or her day, to say “excuse me,” even if I wasn’t the one at fault. And I’m not talking about the sarcastic, insincere “excuse me.” But an honest, heart-felt sentiment. I have worked really hard at always being polite to everyone, thinking about how I want to be treated and sending that into the world. What I soon began to realize is that most people would smile back, say good morning back, and genuinely be kind in return. Somewhere along the way, our society lost touch with the golden rule. We need that to return.
One of the other behaviors people should stop is “Story Topping” Everyone absolutely hates it when their best stories get trashed by someone else’s. These “toppers” are the people who constantly feel they need to “add value” as Dr. Goldsmith says. Sometimes shutting up is the very best option to help make other people feel great!
Hope that helps!
With every good wish,
Procrastination. Everyone, even the most successful people, have some elements of procrastination or delayed action in their life. Most of the time if we have our lists of to-do’s or steps to take toward executing on a goal or project, the lists can run long and evolve into behemoths. And for many of us we may tick a few boxes off our respective lists, but never actually finish all the projects we’d like to because we often reward ourselves too often. I’m absolutely a proponent of taking realms and unplugged time but when your in work mode and intending to get things done, be 100% there and “jist do it” as Nike would say. Action will always trump inaction even if you make an mistake a long the way. So my point is, we should all take action and stop putting things off no matter how small or large.
I think that people should every day do at least one thing that makes them happy. In the rat race we forget about ourselves. And the positive energy never stops with 1 person, it spreads like a good desease. I learnt to do it and I wish more people would spend a couple minutes to do something good and feel better about themselves.
Judgement. It’s really easy to point a finger or whisper to a friend about someone’s appearance or voice or style but the we wouldn’t want people to do that to us so we should make an effort to stop judging people. Please hook me up with a bracelet! I’ll pass it to my wife ince I complete the challenge and then we’ll definitely pay it forward. Thanks Tim!!
People should stop feeling like it is not okay to reach out for help. Every time you complain you think of a person that will have a great solution for the issue you have thought of.
You can apply the same 21-day rubber rand wrist rule complaining without considering your network means you have to switch hands.
People should focus most of their conversations on others rather than themselves. Nobody finds themselves more interesting than the person talking lol
People should stop making excuses – based on external factors – for mistakes they’ve made. “I’m sorry I’m late – I got caught in traffic”. Instead, take full responsibility for the mistakes and move on!
In Stephen R. Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People he talks about proactive thought versus reactive thought. Saying something like, “You make me so mad!” would be an example of a reactive thought. The narrator has expressed their desire to remove themselves from their emotional reaction and put the blame on someone else. A more proactive response would be to think about why you are beginning to feel angry, and what you can do to change yourself so the situation doesn’t arise again.
I have chosen the words React and Respond carefully here. A reaction is a knee-jerk instinctual twitch, with little to no thought involved. A response is a thoughtful, empathetic interchange with growth and understanding being the desired effect. For that thought I give credit to Jason Mayden, whose interview on Impact Theory was one of the most inspirational interviews I’ve ever heard.
I love how I can arrive on this site at any time and walk away with something so fucking worthwhile! Thanks, much appreciation 😍
I think double-ignorance (not knowing someone doesn’t know something) laid out by Plato in his dialogue titled Alcibiades should be avoided by people. He puts forth that this type of ignorance is the root of many problems in our world. People could change this behavior by analyzing their beliefs and world views, and admitting to themselves they may not know things completely, which brings them to single-ignorance (awareness of one’s ignorance) which could then lead to knowledge. As Plato states, “wisdom begins in wonder”.
Reading this almost 10 years after it was written, I was struck by a couple of things: 1. Some studies have shown since then that (particularly in females) complaining makes them healthier and more stress free. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/complaining-for-your-health/385041/. There are other studies I have read about this relating particularly to female relationships and I have not found them yet; 2. I have found anecdotally that people don’t know how to relate to you if you don’t complain. I used to work in retail and I had worked in a particular store for years when one day I said something about having a hard day. Someone said to me that they had never heard me say anything negative before and now they felt I was more human. As an experiment, I started to complain more at work and people seemed to be able to relate to me more. It is like people saying they are voting for a president because they feel they could have a beer with him (i.e. Bush Jr. and Trump). We all want to relate to those around us and be heard/understood by them. I definitely would like to try this out as I do feel I have become a bit more complain-y than I used to be and that makes me feel bad, especially when it is consistently about the same person, relationship or event. I also recognize, that if I don’t complain, I explode from all the anxiety I have from feeling so alone in my emotional state. SO, constructive complaints! I like the idea of having an action item attached rather than being just negative. People wanting to be around doers is a very male approach to life. I don’t always like getting advice – especially when I just want to vent – I just want to feel like I am being heard.
People should stop making excuses.
When it comes to performing actions or making decisions, people usually tend to find ways out of it by replacing the relevant task, by something easy and unimportant for the further development of the person or one’s goal (in some cases we also call it procrastination). Additionally some people love to put the blame for their own failure on somebody else destroying that way the team’s spirit or their relationship. We are all anxious about our future and consequences of our decisions, but still we need to find a way how to stop balancing reasons and become more risky.
The first linguistic mind control experiment I have seen came from occultist Aliester Crowley and was simply to avoid the use of the word “I.” (He also suggested a shallow cut in the skin with a razor rather than switching a bracelet for failure – no thanks! I just snapped a rubber band.) I found it gave me more awareness of my speech but I never really figured out the purpose, if there even was one, beyond that. Others reported mystical experiences to which I am either immune or less inclined to lie about.
I subsequently discovered the work of linguist Alfred Korzybski (Google his name and “dog biscuit” for an amusing illustrative story) and something he referred to as E-prime – essentially English without the use and form of the “is of identity.” “The boy is running” is fine, “the boy is an incorrigible douchenugget” would need to be rephrased to something like “the boy has been exhibiting some very douchey behaviors and I have not been able to compel him to change.” The former version implies and unchangeable trait intrinsic to the boy while the latter allows us to consider there may be something else we can do to bring the kid in line. He may need more discipline or maybe more love and reward when he does behave so he doesn’t form an identity as a ” just a bad kid.” (This example is in no way inspired by my middle child. Nope. Not at all.) With this experiment, I really experienced the number of assumptions built into my thoughts and speech. Hearing myself say things differently made a huge difference. The downside is I talk funny and have to make an effort not to use this when trying to be more persuasive.
There are lots of changes I could imagine having good and maybe even unexpected results. Eliminating profanity could be one, for someone who uses a lot of it. Changing the volume of one’s voice is another – I tend to be too quiet, so I think I will try switching the bracelet any time someone asks me what I said. Women (I understand this is a problem for women) could try getting the excessive “pleases” and “if you don’t minds” out of their professional language. Those interested in arrant pedantry could use this stop ending sentences with a preposition.
Another idea is to switch the bracelet any time you leave a comment longer than the original post. Unfortunately I don’t yet have a bracelet…
I’m hoping someone put in here blaming the ‘Government’ for everything that is wrong with society. With so many expecting legislation before changing their own behaviour it is no surprise the world is in it’s current state. We all need to take more responsibility for our behaviour, everything from community spirit to environmental conscience. Teachers should this… The Government should that…
Be the change you want to see people!
To me your examples above of variations of no-complaints like ““John was a bit of muppet in there, wasn’t he? I suppose I’ll just send the e-mails directly to Mary ……” is still a complaint because you didn’t have to say John was a bit of a muppet. If you omitted that word “muppet (this is called labeling in my book) and just described what it is that he did or didn’t do and continued with the next sentence, then yes I would not consider that as a no-complaint.
Personally i think that some sort of safety valve is useful. Keeping all negative emotions inside can make you boil. Of course thinking of other people in pessimistic way is a mistake, but you should never tame your demons or they will get only stronger
I would like to see people stop exaggerating. Everything is “awesome”, “amazing”, “horrible”, “the worst”…. Can’t we just have some honest, plain language conversations??? Getting someone to stop something starts with awareness; which is why the bracelet is such a great idea. Let’s just stick with that concept; give yourself a challenge and move the bracelet as needed. 🙂
Mr harish md aurz pharmacy company Bangalore tortured by mind control technology I want to teach a lesson what I have to do
You asked: What other behavior besides complaining should people stop, and how should they train themselves to stop?
My answer: People should stop the nasty habit of engaging in “waiting-to-talk” conversations, in which you’re not really listening to the other person as much as waiting for that person to pause so you can say what you want to say. These conversations are often a form of showmanship, either in personal or professional settings, to allow oneself to appear smart, clever, connected or funny. But the acute listener knows s/he is not really being heard. So the habit is self-defeating and, as well, shallow. Because, as Simon & Garfunkel famously put it, you’re “hearing with-a-ouut listening.
You can train yourself to stop this behavior this way: when you catch yourself waiting to speak instead of authentically listening, acknowledge it to you interlocutor and ask for a reset: “I’m sorry, you said something really interesting just then, but my mind wandered, and I missed it. Can you tell me again?”
Such a response is authentic, genuine and appreciated by the perceptive people whom you want to cultivate as your advocates. As with most things, acknowledging fault and making an effort to correct things wins the day, and papering over your mistakes and hoping nobody notices does not.
Mindless excuse-making. I see this mostly in the form of “I dont have enough time to exercise/meditate/read/etc.” (I am guilty of doing so). I feel like its hard to not find 5 mins a day where you arent doing something. I find that the best way to eliminate mindless excuse-making is to write out your average day and find times where you generally aren’t doing something. Then, dedicate little pockets of time to whatever you didn’t feel like you had the time to do before. I find that it helps to do mini versions of activities. For example, if you work in the office but dont have the time to do a full workout, dedicate 5 minutes twice a day to walk around the block. Simple and effective!
Stop simple sitting, this is where we sit for the sake of sitting. There are a bunch of times every day that we sit when we could stand and/or move. Run to the local shop rather than drive, the school run could be just that. Eat standing. Walking meetings not new idea but new practice for most. Honestly i could write a book on the subject…hmmm there’s an idea, and i will only write when NOT sitting!!
Self deprecation or comparing ones self to others. Saying things like “I suck at this” or “I can’t do this” or “so and so it way better at x then me…”. Replacing these auto responses with more constructive phrases like “I currently struggle with x and I’m doing x to improve” (yes I stole this from P90x but its awesome!) or even asking someone what they did to achieve the skill level you want and are comparing yourself to.
I am doing my best with this while trying to learn to play the guitar and sing. It’s so easy to mess up and say something like “I suck” (which isn’t helpful in anyway) instead of accepting making mistakes as part of the learning process. It’s also easy to compare yourself in a negative way to someone who has put in thousands of hours to get to their skill level.
It would be interesting to track adding behaviors in a similar fashion for example: giving honest, sincere appreciation a la Dale Carnegie.
I think the band could be used for over apologizing. I am guilty of this and have noticed other will tell you their fee in act like they are asking too much for their service with an apology. Also apologizing for something beyond their control over and over again. Once is enough.
This will be challenging. Going to have a crack starting now.
This is easy, Tim. Unfortunately, I’m not going to list a behavior to stop. I’m going to list a behavior to start (which will act as a “lead domino” and prevent numerous negative behaviors). The idea actually comes from Tony Robbins, so he gets the credit.
Action: Pay attention to your identity.
If you view yourself (not how you want to be, or should be, but how you actually are) as a complainer, you will complain. If you identify as a solution-oriented person, you will look for solutions where things can be improved. How you identify yourself affects every interaction in which you are involved.
Change your self-identity. Change your life.
Well I’m a Little late it seems, but stombled over this post because of the Podcast. Nice Thing, going to test it out.
Other things to condintioning?: What about “Not-giving-advises-when-you-re-not-asked-for” I Thing this common manner inhibits good listening skills.
And snapping a rubber should be working as well. I would not now on wich day of a challenge I am, but the Feeling of a snapped rubber should be enough to cure bad behavior.
A good behavior change would be exluding “but” as part of a reason something occurs. Such as I am sorry I didn’t get the project done on time, BUT it wasnt my fault I lost internet access an hour before the deadline.
Excellent idea! So, what you’re saying is: Take an already great idea (21 Day No Complaint Experiment), and raise the bar by making it the 21 Day No Complaint, No Excuse Experiment, right? I’m in!
I think when you find the peace of God and scriptures flowing through your mind I think that would help tremendously on having a thankful heart and songs and hymns in your heart that set of complaining
I just heard about this challenge on a recent podcast. I’m going to give it a try. I really like the addition of no swearing as that’s something I’d definitely like to cut out of my everyday speaking habits.
A lost behavior is common courtesy. Please and thank you or a simple acknowledgement that you are sharing the same space with someone with a smile or excuse me. We need to bring back manners to show mutual respect.
I love the idea of using the bracelet for the 4-letter words. I’ve been swearing far too much lately, and at the end of the day, that’s a kind of complaint (at least in the way I use those words). Will definitely give this a try. I’m also going to use a bracelet that’s harder to take on and off so I do some thinking prior to blurting out things, because I do far too much of that too.
1. Avoiding the difficult path; the road less traveled. Getting out of our comfort zones
2. Pointing blame instead of looking in the mirror
Poor health! So much if what we suffer from is self affordances. You would advise a dear friend to please follow their physio prigram, get fit, quit a bad habit but won’t extend yourself the same concern… maybe change the conversation to “Wow! I feel stronger than ever…I have started xxxxx and it’s really helping!”
I started 21-Day no complaint challenge, but after 10 days of continuous going back and forth on changing the bracelets from one hand to another.I got frustrated and gave up. I want to start challenge again, I was wondering if you could provide any tips.
The bracelet is a great idea. I’d suggest using a similar system for every time one gives oneself a let-off by making excuses for not doing something, doing it properly or immediately.
Excuses might be simple like,’No one will know’ or ‘No one will see it anyway’ through to,’ It’s all my parent’s fault for not supporting me’ or ‘I can’t do that because; my education was bad/ I grew up in a poor neighborhood/ people like me wouldn’t be allowed’.
You get the idea.
I think those kinds of excuses hold us all back, so overturning those ideas could free us of those self-defeating behaviours.
Hey, let’s all stop being our worst enemy: “I’m such an idiot'”, “I’m ugly, I’m fat'” etc. Language we use on nobody but ourselves – let’s apply this method to this ‘srlf harm’.
Saying I believe. As an identity statement I believe is a limiting belief that keeps you fr a knowing.
Hi I actually met a gentleman and We are in a relationship nowAnd I am pretty happy inThe relationship. We were getting along well and we have plans for the future we have plans to get married and buy a home together and that is going to happen I know that. I recently had some things going on with this gentleman where he didn’t consider my feelingsI have a lot of self love them myself I also am a priority in his life I know that and what it is is that he has these friends the female women these fetishes and things that are trying to come in and take over and I am going to ever meet that they go away and that we continue to have a great relationship I did not complain really about theFetishes he has you know I just excepted him the way he was he went ahead and asked it on a couple of his fetishes the other day behind my back and then he came out and told me that he did those things and Felt betrayed and let down and I’m not gonna let it take over my life you know I’m not gonna complain about it anymore to him or anybody else the way I felt when it happened but I do love myself I know that I’m cherished I know that I’m a priority I know that I am important I know that I am secure I am confident I matter I am loved I am lovable I’m capable of being in a committed I am in aCommitted faithful trustworthy relationship and this man is is going to get it together as I am going to get together I have relationships that last I have to know if and believe this I Have the kind a relationship others are envious of I deserve a man who is going to spoil me and treat me like a queen and only has eyes for me and desires for me I deserve that stole from now on I’m just going to if I feel like I need to complain you know just pray
Behavior to Change: Procrastination.
With so many new distractions with technology and networks, people are losing much of their time and opportunities to pursue their goals or give their time to a worthy cause in their life. Maybe it’s a book they don’t finish, seeing an opportunity in which a neighbor or friend can be assisted but not offering a hand, a project to help in the community , a conversation with their child, a bible devotion, a food drive, working out, a diet change, or any of the other innumerable options to better ourselves and our communities not taken for whatever reason.
Solution: Donate something you own when you find yourself directly impeding your own progress. You may start with things you just wouldn’t mind getting rid of, but eventually you will reach a point where your options are all important to you. So you will both remove clutter and surround yourself with what is important to you; and with the goal of removing procrastination from you life. Anti-procrastination then becomes symbolic of the important things in life, motivating you to take action and being mindful that your time itself is important.
Hi! I love this and think people (including myself) should stop getting angry at inanimate objects!! We really look like a bunch of monkeys when we beat on our steering wheels because the car won’t start or tap aggressively on the phone that won’t work!!
I’d say Judgmental thinking. I try not to judge people on daily basis, I then found myself judging through thought, which is much harder to recognize than actually screaming your judgement out loud. I then started noticing how Judgement works, through seeing other people judging their peers or me, and I also started to observe as much judgmental thoughts as possible. After, a 3 to 4 weeks I noticed something incredible. I noticed that I was judging myself all along. One day I was driving, then all I see is a car passing beside me at high speed, I got the thought of “Woow Slow down @#&@head”, I then became curious about that thought, which reminded me of the time I did the exact same thing. I learnt, to stop judging others I simply have to stop judging myself and accept my imperfections.
This sounds like a great challenge. It takes 21 days to form a habit or break one 🙂 I will give this a shot!
What other behavior, besides complaining, do you think people should stop? How could train themselves to stop? I’d recommend ‘stop bad self-talk’; so really the same thing, but when you’re telling yourself you’re rubbish. As above, if it’s constructive and has a solution ‘I should have been nicer to that dude, I’ll apologise’, that’s fine, but if it’s really broad ‘you’ll never make it’, ‘you’re an awful person’ etc. then switch that bracelet. You need to treat yourself like you’re your best mate. Loving and kind but with necessary gentle honesty sometimes.
They should stop looking for a mate and start doing what they love!
Typically negative emotions run deep and we tend to get pulled into a downward spiral that could lead to depression. Avoid negative emotions running deep by keeping it shallow. Example if you have a bad experience like a car cutting across from another lane in front of you, don’t keep complaining about it throughout the day to the people you talk to. This way you avoid keeping and passing on the negativity to others
I believe it would be helpful if people would stop analyzing others, as if they’re their personal parent of life. Instead of looking externally, looking internally instead, asking “what is it in me that needs healing in order for me to move forward with love and understanding?”. Instead of the all too familiar, it’s them not me mindset. If the person is in the receiving mode, dropping seeds that would enlighten their mindset is how I train a new mindset in others. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. I believe it boils down to the person being receptive or not.
I believe people should stop being guilty, or being angry/mad at themselves. Forgiving others is still an easy process when compared to forgiving ourselves. Maybe that is something that can be worked out with the same bracelet experiment.
Prevent people from letting their immediate circumstances cloud their decision making/attitude toward others in subtle ways. *Hangs up phone after bad conversation —> curtly replies to an important email* . Create a feature which queues/drafts correspondence so people are more likely to read twice before sending. Preferably it will hold messages for 24 hours, because it should be a phone call otherwise. Let’s all work slower.
I find ruminating to be a particular challenge and have devised some interesting visualization/re-framing techniques to deal with it… using colors, shapes and movement, you can literally move the rumination off your visual field. I picture the thought going into a blue box, turning it (changing the thought) then moving it off to the left.
I think it would be great if people would leave out of conversation discussion of their latest illness,doctor visit and details of either. This is a big problem and depressing especially with older people. I’ll wear a rubber band for that⛄️
Besides complaining, the other behavior people should stop is gossip. I believe Dave Berry said, ‘the most damaging force in the universe is gossip’. He has a point. If you have constructive criticism for someone, be brave enough to share it with them directly. If not, don’t say it.
Blaming. Blaming everyone else for your problems. Maybe a simple fix would be focusing on punishment (bracelet changing) reward ( make it 21 days, reward yourself in a meaningful way.)This also would take delaying gratification:) 🌟
Making assumptions – switching bracelets could work here too….have a great trip
Worry. It is one thing to recognize a potential negative outcome, and quite another to ruminate on it. Address your concern, commit to appropriate action – and then mentally walk away.
always needing to talk, rather than listen more
every-time you offer an excuse to postpone what you should be doing. change the band
OTOH…does anyone find Pollyanna-ish people annoying? You know what I mean, always flipping every comment over into something positive and usually naive. I find this equally alienating.
People ought to stop comparing themselves to others. It is an incredibly inaccurate way to view reality and a self-defeating one at that. I also believe it to be the major cause of many social issues we face in the world today such as depression, crime, hyper-consumerism to list some. Therapy is a great way to shift our focus inward where all real change starts but when that’s not possible or required, honest, self-reflection is the key.
I love this. I wore a wrist band with the initials MYOB for a time to remind me to “mind my own business”. I’ve learned that unsolicited “advice” is just judgement and criticism.
I am coming late to this challenge and I imagine that the bracelets have already been awarded. I will create something to substitute. Thanks for the suggestion.
Behavior to stop: checking phone obsessively, especially at down times like on the toilet, waiting for bus/train, riding bus/train.
Possible way to bring awareness: put picture of Dalai Lama or beautiful landscape on your lockscreen or phone back, or a word or phrase like: “Am I being intentional?” or “Be here now.”
Thanks for reposting this recently Tim! Great reminder and perfect for this time of year! Thanks brother! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Gurdjieff was way ahead of Will Bowen with regard to the power of NOT expressing negative emotions.
The Fourth Way – P D Ouspensky [from the oral teachings of G I Gurdjieff]
The first step is to try not to express negative emotions; – fear, anger, jealousy, possessiveness, pride and so on; the second step is the study of these negative emotions themselves, making lists of them, finding their connections ….. and trying to understand that they are quite useless.
If a person can control his/her mouth, that person can keep the entire body in check. James 3. That’s the ability to channel the power. Our mouths have the power of life and death in the lives of other people, and ourselves. Thanks for this article.
Sorry. Recent comment in which I didn’t see the “Real Name.” Stephen Casey. Our mouths have the power of life and death in others, and in ourselves. If a person can keep the tongue in check, he/she can control the entire body. It’s a small organ with a lot of power and requires intentional effort to direct. Read the book of James, Chapter 3.
I m trying to be positive in my response so I am suggesting a way to change a behavior that I am guilty of. That is, not paying attention. When someone interrupts my work, or internet scrolling, I will try to focus on them, and what they are saying, instead of thinking about what I was working on, or watching, or reading. I just read that paying attention is the greatest form of generosity, and I would like to be more generous.
Worrying so much. Anxiety!
Thank you Tim for this. My life is so overwhelmingly difficult that the once optimistic Pollyanna that I was prior to the last almost 4 years of tragedy and stress has become someone who complains even though most times it’s just out loud to myself. I want to do this. I just bought the book on Amazon and am excited to read it. I would really love a purple rubberband 🙂
Do not begin sentences with the word ‘no”
Love it! Thanks Tim, for inspiring me to do this resolution for the second time.
I like to remind myself that complaining without a solution is just bitching… and that no one likes a bitch. But I like your more actionable steps.
One of the biggest mental challenges that has plagued me most of my life is indeciveness or more simply put the inability to make a decision and not doubt myself. This has kept me from being productive in most circumstances and is a lot of times accompanied by a overwhelming sense of paralysis that prevents me from moving forward as I ponder all the other directions I could have taken. There is always multiple ways to solve a problem but not picking one and sticking to it has proven to be the biggest hindrance to success in my life and something I am taking steps to overcome. I think a lot of this is rooted in fear of failure or fear of not meeting other people’s expectations of me. A steadfast mind is something that has eluded me in the past but I know is obtainable and the first step for me in the positive direction always starts with prayer. Most of the time a simple prayer to Jesus for guidance and direction is the best way to get moving in the right direction! When the decision has been made the biggest obstacle to carrying it out has always been the lingering thoughts of self doubt such as, I should have done it this way or why didn’t I do it that way instead. These thoughts can have a place in our thinking but i find it is best to never let them take hold until the task has been completed using the initial choice of resolution. It can be very productive to look at other ways a problem could have been solved once it is solved, but very counterproductive to obsess over this rather than just move forward and finish! I am preaching to myself more than anything right now because I still struggle in this area, but just taking small steps forward in a situation without second guessing myself is proving to be beneficial in this battle. Once I have completed the task I can then look at other ways to attack this problem should it occur again. I think the key here is to just stay positive and know that you are not always going to be perfect in everything you do. Trust your higher power and trust yourself. Don’t give up when things are not turning out like you hoped they would and stick to your plan. There is something about just following through with a decision to the best of your ability at that time that lays a foundation for developing confidence in yourself and trust in God! There is nothing to big or to small for God and he wants to help us in this area by showing us the path to take when we are faced with important decisions to make. As stated earlier this will always start with prayer, and is best followed by seeking his voice through time spent in the word! God will not lead you in the wrong direction! His way is always the right way and I am confident that when you apply these basic principles to your everyday decision making you will stay on the best course for your life that is available to you!
Proverbs 3:5-6 says to Trust in God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight!
How great it is to know that God has our best interests at heart! Make the choice today to seek him first and watch him do wonderful and miraculous things in your life as he is doing in mine!
I would love to wear the bracelet and practice your technique for negative thoughts and worrying. If I could stop this behavior I believe my life would be so much more fulfilling and the people in my life would also benefit.
Dreams are good. Setting goals are great. But what happens in a society where people consistently fail to recognize the good that they already have. When is the last time you sat down with a cup of coffee or tea or water or whatever it is you enjoy and really appreciated each sip. I work in a retirement community, and we have a man that hates coffee. The reason he hates coffee is because while he was serving our country in world war 2 there was a time where all his platoon had was coffee. They were low on all supplies and it was freezing cold. All he had was coffee day in and day out. Now he hates coffee. But you know what he enjoys more than anything? Chocolate icecream. He has chocolate icecream on a near daily basis and he enjoys it more than anything. He will sit in the emptying dining room, quietly savoring each bite until it is gone. I want to enjoy my chocolate icecream! Or my cold cup of water. Or my coffee in the morning. The same way he enjoys his chocolate icecream. If we could all stop taking for granted the simple things the world would be better. When you achieve something do you immediately start thinking of the next goal to achieve? Or do you sit quietly and enjoy what you created first?
Oddly enough, I was complaining about my feelings dealing with the quarantine and COVID- 19, which caused me to ask for help.
Someone suggested that I watch “How to Use Stoicism to Choose Alive Time Over Dead Time.” He felt your content would help me out.
I found your YouTube channel and watched it. Near the end of your video, you mentioned The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment.
I’m a complainer, and I’m not going to deny it. I thought this might be a cool experiment to take on.
As I was reading your content in the “21-Day No-Complaint Experiment” when I got to the variations, I thought about how I would react in that situation. I added the variation below.
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 10 am to avoid the crowd.”
A question came to my head because if I put myself in that situation, I would have rolled my eyes.
Being that I am not supposed to complain, I know this is an odd question but is rolling of the eyes considered a form of complaining?
Looking forward to hearing your answer.
Ppl. should stop breathe fear (live in fear). How?
By assuming death can occur every day. Why so? Fear of death. It is the root of all fears and ultra-fears. By “treating” the fear of death, we can cure fear of looking a person in the eyes when we speak to them.. How can ppl get rid of fear? By facing the fact one day we all will go “there”, and this is one step in evolution. Maybe Becker’s book “The Denial of Death” can help some ppl, but that will be a long run..
I think it’s not an easy thing to get but can be a good achievement for our personal development and well being.
Just met your blog recently and I read your words every morning. Hope my idea can solve something.
Alex @Romania, [Moderator: contact info removed.]
I am banishing the word ‘can’t’ and am teaching my children to as well. Every time I say ‘can’t’ now, I have to find a way to do that thing.
eg Child: (on a bridge over a river) ‘Mummy, can you reach those blackberries?’
Mummy: (Sizing up blackberries and judging them too far, too dangerous to reach) ‘Sorry baby, I can’t.’
Mummy (in head): ‘Damn it, now I have to find a way to reach them’. Then I have to climb over the other side of the bridge and lean out as far as I can and nearly fall in the river, but reach 3 delicious blackberries!
Child: ‘Yea!’ and runs off to play with a stick. Mummy climbs back over, sore and scratched, but triumphant with knowledge that child sees mummy doing tough things.
Love this one Tim. I’m definitely gonna try this one out.
Ps I’m really enjoying Tools for Titans!
Hope we can connect some day.
Don’t run around this world
Looking for a hole to hide in
There are wild beasts in every cave!
If you live with mice,
The cat claws will find you.
Try to close the one that’s a fearful trap,
Keep open the shop
Where you’re not selling fishhooks anymore.
You are the free-swimming fish.
I would like people to get out of the habit of thinking they have to have an opinion on everything and share it. Especially online, it appears we often respond quickly even to things we know little about. I would suggest adding to the Like/Don’t Like buttons an emoji of a person thinking. Clicking this would satisfy our urge to respond but basically mean that we will think about it or that we don’t have a current opinion.
I think one of the important things for us to change is differentiating between us and them, in the tendency we have to believe that we are somehow better. It seems to me that this is the root cause of a lot of the problems in our society.
Perhaps this could be a good theme for a another 21 day challenge? It might help us to stop and think, how and why it is, that I automatically think I’m better than this other person or group? Can I try to understand why they are different and therefore empathise more with them?
In the end, we are all different, and that’s ok. The common solution to much of our automatic behaviours would seem to be acceptance.
Other Behavior to stop – blaming others for their own shortcomings or for their own loss (sometimes I do it too, which makes me mad). It’s pretty similar to complaining, but it goes to a different level as people forget that they are complaining and on top of it putting it on someone else’s head.
Worry. It is useless and self-paralyzing and causes one to freeze in doubt. Start a written list:. What will happen if I don’t worry? What will change if I do? How will I fill my time void that will be left when I do stop worrying? How can I change my thinking so that I have positive thoughts and positive actions?
Apologetic behavior. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, has become an everyday thing like I’m hungry, I love you or I need to pee. Don’t apologize just because you don’t have the same method or vision as I do.
Stop using the word “but” and instead use “and”
Not complaining fits well with the four agreements of the Toltecs:
1. Be impeccable with your word
2. Don’t take anything personally
3. Don’t make assumptions
4. Always do your best
Besides complaining, I am trying not to beat myself up for past mistakes (way past). The best way I am finding to do this is to make friends with my past mistakes. This process brings acceptance and forgiveness
the imposition of what we feel others should be doing to make our own lives better.
(i.e. the preface of “you know what you should do….”)
No I’m still here! Phew!
Sugar. I think for me quitting sugar is the hardest but most beneficial thing for changing how I think, work, sleep and feel.
I don’t have a great method of quitting. For me what works is keeping a good journal. Anticipating when I will encounter sugar and try and avoid it.
Long-time reader, sir. I just dug through the archives for this specific post as my wife and I are attempting a similar challenge. Or considering the attempt. I have buy-in already, now it’s a matter of convincing my wife!
It has been 14 years since this article was released, and you’ve iterated yourself several times since then. Would you have any suggestions or alterations if you were to attempt a similar challenge in 2021?
Even though it is an old post, its a timelesss one. I remember a sermon given by a preacher at Gospel mass in Haarlem on the theme of being stuck in the “rut of complaining” covering big and small things. On the minor side, he said stop complainining about the top being left off the toothpaste and put it back yourself!!
Instead of Tim changing his mind set, he changed the challenge to agree with his way of thinking. The red flag “describing an event or person negatively WITHOUT indicating next steps to fix the problem”. He’s really saying it’s okay to complain if you then tell people how they should behave. Oops. Thats complaining and being bossy. The challenge is not to complain about others. So you would say you went to the post office but you wouldn’t mention the rude man at all. If you were at work you’d mention the solution but not the complaint at the start of the sentence.
What other behavior, besides complaining, do you think people should stop?
I think people should stop defaulting to anger instead of attempting understanding when they experience an affront to themselves. We don’t know the experience this other human has had and we can easily and gracefully choose understanding.
How could they train themselves to stop?
Take it as a personal challenge to try to make that person smile. Look at their face and imagine them saying to you “If you knew my journey, you would be proud.” Perhaps a small lapel pin that just says “Grace” would remind us?
Understand that anger always stems from some form of hurt. Decide to not “be” hurt. Don’t get angry, instead be compassionate and attempt sweeter joy for you both instead of wallowing in hurt, anger and frustration.