A Complaint Free World

The first thing to understand about A Complaint Free World is that Will Bowen is NOT saying to be a doormat! He explicitly says "Directing a comment to someone who can improve your situation is not complaining." He says "I am NOT advocating remaining silent when there is something that has happened which you need corrected." His assistant, Marcia, says "It is NOT about stuffing your emotions in and putting on a Pollyanna face."

What they are going on is Dr. Robin Kowalski's definition, which was used in a famous study on complaining. "Whether or not the particular statement reflects a complaint ... depends on whether the speaker is experiencing an internal dissatisfaction."

So it's important to know this up front. This book is ALL for speaking out, speaking up, making changes, seeking improvements. It is about doing those things in a way that keeps you healthy, and will best reach your goals.

So, with that being understood, what is this book about? Will Bowen was trying to inspire his church members to live more attentive lives. Many of them had financial difficulties. The financial planning books they had talked about how complaining did little good to help - that people had to face their problems head on, work out solutions, and then work through them with energy and focus.

Will liked this idea and thought he could help people with the complaining part at least. He ordered 500 purple wrist bands that said "spirit", passed them out, and asked everyone to try not complaining for 21 days. If you complained, you moved the wrist band to the other wrist and started counting again. The moving-the-band was key - it was a physical action, something that your brain began to pay attention to.

People thought this would be easy - and then discovered they had to move the band 20 times in one day! Will himself broke 3 bands with all the moving before he succeeded. The average person who tries this takes 4-8 MONTHS before they succeed. However, they improve as time goes - and they report being SO much happier by the end.


"You can best get what you desire by expressing what you WANT rather than complaining about the way things are." People actually made far more progress in their lives when they phrased their desires in a way that enticed action, instead of in a way that was negative. Listeners get defensive and hostile at criticism - but they feel drawn to help if you are going for a positive goal.

"You have a right to get what you deserve. To achieve this don't talk about or focus on the problem. Focus BEYOND the problem." This is echoed in many other books. What you focus on is what you tend to get. If you complain about being fat and unhappy, you'll probably stay fat and unhappy! If you talk about your goals to go walking more, and your desire to go walking, I bet people will cheer you on and offer to go walking with you.

As Earl Nightingale says, "We become what we think about".

They have distributed 6 million FREE bracelets already, so this is resonating with a lot of people.

Will lays out the four stages of achieving mastery of ANY subject, including non-complaining.

* Unconscious incompetence
* Conscious incompetence
* Conscious competence
* Unconscious competence

What this means is we start out trying a new thing without realizing just how hard it could be. That's fine, otherwise we might not even try smile So with complaining, we start out thinking "heck that's easy" and then realize just how much we DO complain. So we're now conscious of how much work is ahead of us. But then over time, we get much better at it with attention - and finally it is a normal healthy part of our lives and we do it naturally.

The Psychological Bulletin study on complaining found that many complain to get sympathy, attention, or to dodge out of doing something. They even found that doctors felt 2/3rds of all visits to them were based on something mental / emotional! For example, someone gets extremely stressed by work - and this drives up their blood pressure. Think of how much more healthy we could all be if we found a better way to deal with stress and issues!

Ben Franklin said "The best sermon is a good example." Will points out that you shouldn't complain about others complaining smile Don't try to change others. Just be yourself, and don't "feed" their complaining. You might find they change naturally when they don't have a complaining buddy!

Will emphasizes that this is NOT about being a passive doormat. Martin Luther King Jr had his dream. Rosa Parks took her seat and held it. They had a positive vision of the future, and they went for it. They achieved great things.

He reminds you to think about why you are complaining, if you do. Criticizing a place (like a cheap restaurant) if often a form of bragging about your more sophisticated tastes. Criticizing others is a way of saying you are better than they are. He says it is fine to "process" - to share your feelings. "I feel upset because of what was said." He says it is less healthy to deliberately bash others, "She is a stupid jerk for doing that."

Overall I found this a very well written book, with great examples, a healthy dose of humanity, and a wonderful message for us all. Will doesn't say this is easy. He doesn't even say this is for everyone. But I definitely agree that many of us complain at the drop of a hat, over things that are really not a big deal at all. All that stress affects our bodies and our health. If we were able to find the humor in life - and find positive action to fix the things we want to fix - our world would really be a much better place.

Highly recommended!

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