Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Case for Living Life Without Complaining

Cover of "A Complaint Free World: How to ...Cover via AmazonBy Donald Ardell

You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses - Ziggy

A REAL wellness perspective on complaining is a mindset that boosts quality of life while enhancing your well-being. A REAL wellness view of anything fits this standard.

REAL wellness is simply a way of thinking and functioning that protects and enhances your sense of exuberant living, personal freedoms, positive relationships and common decency.

With this understanding, let's look closely at complaining. What might a REAL wellness perspective on complaining entail?

Thanks to my friend and colleague Lutz Hertel, founder of the German Wellness Association and leading European expert on REAL wellness advances at worksites and destination spas, I recently became aware of Will Bowen, author of A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted.

Bowen's work sparked a worldwide movement to reduce the volume of complaints, a goal at which he has enjoyed more than a little success. Alas, while there is still plenty of complaining going on, there would have been more if this book had not unleashed a campaign to knock it off. The good news is the campaign continues.

Mr. Bowen's advice is simple but sweet - stop complaining. Eliminating or even reducing complaints will make your life simpler, pleasanter and more enjoyable. Who could argue with that?

Of course, urging readers to do something obviously wise and sensible - stop smoking, lose weight, get fit, love life, eat less and so on because it's good for your health and makes life simpler, pleasanter and more enjoyable is usually not enough.

So Bowen went further - he created a campaign! Really. He promoted no complaints with purple bracelets and, thanks in part to appearances on Oprah, The Today Show and endless media exposure, sales and giveaways of bracelets (and his program) took off. At last check (today), about ten million bracelets have been distributed.

At this point, you might be wondering if there is credible evidence, scientific research or studies that support the beneficial claims for not complaining? Well, not really. However, there are plenty of sensible behaviors that have not been subjected to double-blind, randomized trials that are, in fact, effective nonetheless. Sometimes, that which is seemingly obvious is a good as it appears.

Besides not complaining, Bowen urged his readers to avoid chronic complainers and become more competent as a bulwark against needing to complain. He identified four stages of competence:
  1. Unconscious incompetence.
  2. Conscious incompetence.
  3. Conscious competence.
  4. Unconscious competence.
Bowen said it takes from four to eight weeks to advance from one stage to the next for any particular skill, including eliminating complaining from your life. Complaining a lot or even at all has consequences, among them being:
  • It traps you in a state of something is wrong that never seems to go away.
  • It makes you a manipulator.
  • It can make you angry and stressed.
  • If done with no tact or skill, it can get you thrown out of a bar or worse (e.g., your own house).
Among the major advantages of eliminating complaints are:
  • Doing so promotes finding solutions rather than staying stuck in the problem. It helps you get out of a rut and move on. The discipline of no complaints trains your brain to search for solutions. Bowen quotes Maya Angelou, a big supporter of no complain campaign: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
  • It makes you less of an ego-maniac. You realize that you are not the center of the universe. It helps you get over yourself and get on with life in constructive ways. Prisons (and the halls of Congress) are filled with complainers.
  • You become more interesting and enjoyable to be around. Nobody loves a whiner. Furthermore, just talking about the advantages and processes of not complaining will benefit your friends and confound your enemies, if you have any.
  • You will be a wonderful role model and attract positive people.
  • You will think more creatively. It's just too easy to complain, gripe and whine - and such a pattern is a dead-end neural pathway. When you commit to being complaint-free, your brain lights up looking for new ways to see things (this is not an accurate scientific description of brain physiology but you get the idea).
Naturally, any program that goes over well on Oprah must have it's elements of goofiness, psychobabble and religiosity, and this program is no exception. Being a priest, I suppose one should expect advice from Bowen like, "God will provide." That is part of his counsel for dealing with the difficulties when operating without the crutch of complaints.

All things considered, the book is a good read and a fine antidote for negativity.

There is a very nice website devoted to the cause with a video featuring Dr. Maya Angelou. I recommend it.

Be well, complain not and choose instead to look on the bright side of life.

Publisher of the ARDELL WELLNESS REPORT (AWR) - a weekly electronic newsletter devoted to commentaries on current issues that affect personal and social well being from a quality of life perspective.

The emphasis is on REAL wellness, which is also the topic of Don's latest book. Read about it here - - The "REAL" acronym reflects key issues embraced and advanced in Don's philosophy, namely, Reason, Exuberance, Athleticism and Liberty. Sample copy of Don's latest edition by request. If you like it, you can sign up - the price is right - free. Contact Don at

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