I have been working my way through The Power of No by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher, and last weekend, one of the homework assignments started calling out to me. Actually, it has been tugging on my arm for a while now, but last weekend, it started screaming my name to get my attention. So I resolved that—starting on Monday—I would begin a “Gratitude Diet” and do my best to stick to it throughout the week.
Here were my rules:
For the purposes of this diet, I defined a complaint as what comes out of your mouth (or runs through your head) when you feel frustrated, angry, and/or overwhelmed. It is a verbal (or mental) expression of lack of control and does nothing but add more tension, frustration, and anger to the world . . . rather than resolving any issues. And I wanted to be clear that a complaint is very different from the productive processing of an idea or issue with the intention of reaching a resolution or outcome.
Additionally, an important part of this process for me was not only that I would not complain, but that I would not sit around and listen to others complain. (This rule was instituted for two reasons: the primary reason was that if I don’t have room in my life to complain, I shouldn’t have to listen to others do it; and secondarily, I was afraid that if I listened to others complain, it would pull me back down the slippery slope with them.)
I woke up on Monday morning, nervously excited for my challenge. Honesty time: I try to be a positive person, but I can carp and complain with the best of them when I feel out of control and overwhelmed, so I was expecting this to be a challenge for me. I started with a phone call to my mom and informed her of my diet – she excitedly expressed her support and said she would join in as well. Off to a good start, I headed into work and, before doing anything, else sat down at my computer and printed out my “No Complaints Zone” posters and hung one on the door to my office. I was met with reactions throughout the rest of the day that were not as positive as the one I received from my mother. Instead, people reacted as though I had slapped them in the face;
MY diet was viewed as a personal attack on them. At first I was shocked; I was really surprised that the reaction was so negative (although I was very proud of myself for managing to refrain from complaining). The more I thought about it, I began to realize that perhaps the reaction I received was exactly why I felt the need to institute this diet.
Mother Nature was kind and gave me a chance to retreat back into myself and the protective bubble of my home for two days when we were hit Monday night with a snow storm, which continued until Wednesday morning. During that time, I was able to really focus on avoiding complaints . . . and something magical happened.
When you stop giving those complaints a place in your brain and your life, all of a sudden, gratitude moves to center stage.
I found I was not only more grateful for people and things in my life, but I also felt a strong urge to express that gratitude. I also found that it felt so good to be full of gratitude, and to dismiss the negative energy and emotions that come with complaining, that I didn’t even have patience for cattiness on television (I found myself uncomfortable watching The Bachelor because, despite the fact I love the show, the girls are so mean to each other).
Upon returning to work, I found it was much harder to keep the complaining at bay. I was several days into the challenge and it had not yet become second nature to dismiss the complaints, but was also no longer so novel that I was constantly aware of it. Additionally, there were several coworkers who were not able to respect my wishes to not be subjected to complaints, and I was right – that slope is very, very, very slippery!
Ultimately, after a week of my No-Complaining challenge I have learned the following:
Saying no to complaining also means saying yes to gratitude. And that replaces a seething pit of black tar in my chest with a bubbly fountain of glowing, joyous light.
When surrounded by negative and critical people, it is very easy to be pulled into a vortex of complaints, which seems to grow exponentially bigger and stronger the longe you are near them.
I want to live a life without complaining, where I focus on how to handle things in a productive manner, where I celebrate the gratitude.And this is a conscious shift away from the way I have been unconsciously behaving. And unfortunately, the bigger this shift is, the more I will need to change the people who are around me to avoid being pulled back down into the negativity.
Even though my challenge week is over, I would like to still focus on avoiding complaining as much as possible. Even more importantly,
I want to focus on surrounding myself with people who are positive, who don’t complain and who will help lift me up, rather than drag me down. I want to focus on gratitude.
And ultimately, I want to be filled with that happy, joyous feeling, and not that negative black tar feeling. And for me, that involves learning how to move away from people who dwell in the land
I am going to have to work hard to set boundaries, to put up borders, and to keep reminding those who remain around me that I do not want to listen to their complaints—that I do not want to be in that world with them. This diet was a one-week challenge. I plan on taking it forward with me into the rest of my life, knowing it will always be a challenge, but one with a very sweet reward. And perhaps most importantly, it has pointed me to a path, given me some homework assignments, and sent me off to learn and to grow and to become a better, and happier, me.
Written by: Kate Hesse
Perhaps the secret love child of Jay-Z and Martha Stuart, Kate Hesse lives a life that doesn’t fit neatly into any box. While she might pass for mainstream at work, her passion is for personal growth in unconventional ways. Her enthusiasm for trying new foods and healing modalities and sharing her results with us in technicolor honesty makes her the bravest new age guinea pig we know.