Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another Take on the Pundits: Try 21 Days of No Complaints!

Just after writing that the pundits were getting me down, I happened upon a program the next day on complaining less. OK. I’m guilty. I should have been kinder to the pundits. But, I do wish they’d be more constructive!

CBC Sunday Morning profiled a Kansas City pastor, Will Bowen, who in 2006 started his congregation on complaining less. He gave out a purple bracelet to anyone who wanted to try: 21 straight days of no complaints! The rule is that if you find yourself complaining, you have to switch the bracelet to the other wrist and start counting all over again.

He has found it takes the average person 4 to 6 months to do 21 days straight. Reverend Will has written a book (of course!) called A Complaint-Free World. His main message: people who get things done are not great complainers. And a quote from Jane Austen: “Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

It’s become a movement where his church has now shipped 6 M bracelets around the world, including Canada.

My interpretation is that this doesn’t mean we must stop noticing issues and problems. Rather, we should aim to re-frame: “How can we move forward on this?” Going around in circles, gossiping and playing around in the mud, is replaced with more constructive and thoughtful actions. Not easy!

It reminds me of “oppositional thinking” where we are encouraged to see the “silver lining” or problem-solve or let go. Sports psychologists use the technique with elite athletes. They know that upside thinking is powerful for unleashing one’s potential.

Certainly, this fits with building more vibrant, healthier and productive organizations. A “no complaint” operating principle is an inspiring leader’s best friend.


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