I’ve had “write the results of my ‘no complaining’ week” on my to-do list for a few days now, since it officially ended midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday. Today is Thursday, so I’m a bit behind in writing it. I knew there was a reason I hadn’t written it yet, and now I know why — I hadn’t learned the lesson behind the week yet. Tonight, just a few minutes ago, I finally got it.
An Intense Two Days
Every once in a while, I get this huge cleaning urge. It obviously doesn’t happen often, because the target of this particular urge was old cubicle junk from when I worked at Cobalt Networks in 1999 and 2000 — junk which I had actually toted around faithfully in moving boxes since 2001! (Come on, admit it. You have some junk like this, too.)
I ended up spending 2 1/2 hours going through it last night, and filled half the recycle bin, half the garbage can, and created a huge pile of old books and trinkets to donate. Feeling energized by getting rid of so much stuff last night, today I voraciously attacked two closets, a dresser, and a pile of clothes in my bedroom. At one point I realized I had over 30 long-sleeved shirts. I declared my goal as getting rid of anything I didn’t absolutely love. That meant donating shirts and pants I wore only when I was desperate and had no clean laundry (I know you have those, too!) In the end, I managed to fit all my short-sleeve shirts and shorts into a single drawer in my dresser — a huge accomplishment. The pile of “to donate” in the upstairs hallway now measures 6 feet long by 4 feet high by 2 feet wide. That is more stuff than will easily fit in my car in one trip.
Tonight, I did the final house cleaning before my trip to South by Southwest tomorrow morning — I cleaned the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, refilled it, cleaned the sink of dirty dishes, threw away a ton of trash, recycled a bunch of old containers, and even cleaned some stuff in the garage.
A Different Way Of Looking At The World
At the end of it all, I was standing outside staring at the stars after dumping yet another pile of trash in the recycle bin. I was feeling a bit sad. I had just spent basically two days of my life cleaning, doing laundry, and organizing. This certainly wasn’t what I had in mind for “temporary retirement!” I began to feel sorry for myself. I started my old patterns of beating myself up for not hiring someone to do the dishes and laundry (something I’ve been talking about doing for nearly 2 years now.) I lamented the loss of hours upon hours of time that I could have been doing something productive, like writing or working on my new businesses.
All of that lasted about 60 seconds before something new in my brain spoke up and said, “You chose this.”
It’s true. There was no prerequisite to having a clean house before I left on vacation. I chose that. I chose to spend that time cleaning instead of spending time hiring someone to do it. I chose to clean instead of write. I chose to get my house organized and tackle piles of stuff that I hadn’t chosen to tackle in 6 years.
Instead of complaining and grumbling, I quickly accepted the fact that I had chosen this, with full knowledge of the commitment and effort it would take. The cleaning bug had bitten me; thus, I spent 7-8 hours in 2 days cleaning the house.
Stopping The Self-Pity Allows The Solution To Unfold Instead
Soon thereafter, something even more surprising happened. Having accepted that I had done this, I started to see different avenues for the future unfold in my mind. I was obviously burned out on cleaning. It’s clear to me that I need to hire someone to do the laundry because it’s a drag and a burden on me. I realized that this was an opportunity to hire someone who could help me get organized as well… thus making sure I would never have to go through this crazy mess again. I acknowledged that doing all of this alone wasn’t working for me, even though it may work for other people, and I accepted that.
Two weeks ago, I would have felt depressed for the rest of the night and probably moped around the house grumbling. Instead, within 60 seconds of the initial depression setting in, I had acknowledged that doing this was my choice and immediately moved to about what to change in the future so I wouldn’t have to do this again.
It is hard to express how powerful this new thought process is. My week spent not complaining will have a powerful influence on my future. Complaining is toxic. It is a downward spiral of feeling sorry for yourself and stopping your productivity. While my week wasn’t easy, and I certainly wasn’t perfect, it was a breakthrough for me. This may seem like a small difference, but the shift in perception was obvious to me.
Focusing On The Solution Enables You To Lead An Exceptional Life
I have written on my goal board in my home office: “I CAN lead an exceptional life. I AM what I choose.” Yesterday and today, I chose to be organized…to make way for the new by getting rid of the old…to never open my closet door and see something I didn’t love again. This was a powerful choice. It will make me happier in the long run. It was worth it. I also acknowledged that it is perfectly reasonable to never want to have to clean or organize again, and that my solution will be to hire someone to help me with this.
By being unable to complain about the problem, I focused on solutions. It does take a while for these new thoughts to show up in your brain — you’re not going to see these results in a day or two. Here’s the catch: your brain has to replace that complaining with something. Only by quieting the complaining was I able to see and fully acknowledge all of the potential solutions to my sadness. That’s what makes this exercise life-changing.
Have you tried the “no complaining” exercise? Post in the comments below, or leave a link to your blog post, and let me know what happened!