The 21-Day Complaint-Free Challenge

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Have you heard of the 21-day Complaint-Free Challenge?

This is where you try to last a full 21 days without making a single complaint, criticism, or unfair judgement about someone or something. You keep track of your progress by switching a purple complaint-free band from one wrist to the other each time you complain (obtainable from

As a speaker in the self-help field, I thought the 21-day challenge would be simple. Actually, it was more difficult than I thought. I quickly realised that I complained more than I thought I did, especially when I was driving, and I had a habit of pointing out to others when they complained. Of course, that can be viewed as merely an observation, and an observation is OK, but sometimes it can be a complaint. This is when the ‘observation’ is fuelled with stress or negative emotion.

After a few weeks of repeatedly having to go back to day one, my partner, Elizabeth, decided to try too (I think, seeing my rather fruitless attempt, she reckoned she could get to 21 days before me). As the days went on, I had begun to notice that Elizabeth didn’t always notice when she complained so she didn’t move her band. Now, she was telling me how easy she was finding it and that was kind of helping to brew some stress in me. I mean, I was doing it PROPERLY.

There was one evening after I had gone 17 days without a single complaint – only that night and three more to go until I completed the challenge – when we were watching a Saturday night TV show (X-Factor). Elizabeth made a comment about one of the acts. I thought it was an unfair judgement and I pointed this out, and that she should now move her band to the other wrist. Elizabeth countered that it was an observation.

This is where, with more than a hint of frustration, I pointed out that she had been making a little too many ‘observations’ of late and palming them off as such. Of course, that was a complaint from me because my voice was definitely fuelled with a negative emotional charge.

Damn it! I had to go right back to day one again. Aaarrrrrgghhh. Elizabeth thought it was hilarious!

Anyway, I went 21 days straight shortly after that. One thing I noticed right away was that I felt really good throughout and afterwards – it had become a habit. It’s funny, but people don’t realise how bad complaining makes them feel and how good being kind, patient, and gentle makes them feel. The 21-day challenge can be life changing for many people.

I also noticed that people around me were happier too. One surprising observation I made was that there were certain people around whom I did my occasional little bits of complaining. I had in mind that they enjoyed having a moan. Actually, when I stopped complaining around them, they seemed to be much happier. This was a major lesson for me.

It’s not so much the effect on you when you go complaint-free. It has a huge impact upon those around you too.

You are contagious – your emotions and your behaviour – whether you like it or not. When you complain, your negative emotion is contagious. When you talk about positive or happy things, your happiness is contagious.

So the question becomes, what do you want to spread? If you want to change the world in some way, change yourself first.

Then the world will be happier!


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