Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Bliss List and A Complaint-Free World

The focus of this is post is the driving concepts behind two books that I have not actually read. 'The Bliss List' by J. P. Hansen challenges the reader to determine what makes him or her happy and then parlay it into a job, and 'A Complaint-Free World' by Will Bowen challenges the reader to give up complaining for 21 days. (Spring break reading, perhaps?)

Teachers, as a general rule, have a pretty serious case of the Whine Flu, as Hansen calls it. It's not that we hate being teachers, but we bond by commiserating, and, frankly, the public school system often provides a lot of fodder for that. There are times when venting lets off some steam or when making a complaint brings about a solution, and sometimes it's confirm that you are your work friends are all in the same frustrating boat. However I've been wondering lately just how often there's a positive side to the negativity. Every time I retell a story about something genuinely frustrating, I'm really just reliving the frustration, and, about 90% of the time, there's no reward to reap. I just got to relive the worst part(s) of my day however many times I tell the story.

I grew up at a time in which there seemed to be only two kinds of TV shows: sugary-sweet family sitcoms (think 'Full House') and shows about neurotic urbanites (think 'Seinfeld'). As I got older and realized that life's problems do not solve themselves in 22-minute segments, I think I subconsciously bought into the image of sophisticated, urban adults as judgmental complainers with therapists. (Not there's anything wrong with that...) Complaints are almost a form of currency; it's a signal that we're all in this (apparently) horrible world together. If you aren't complaining, then you're either a naive Pollyanna or a jerky show-off.

But here's the thing: I think I'm ready for a better currency. Complaining is a cop-out for real engagement with others and with the world--it might seem like you're sharing your feelings and connecting with others, but you're often not. You're just bitching about the copier.

I'm going to do an experiment for the next 2 weeks. I'm not going to complain and see how it affects my overall outlook. Instead of reaching out to a friend when something bad has happened, I will reach out when something good has happened. If others come to me to complain, I will just listen and offer support as appropriate. It may very well be super-annoying to those around me, but I'm curious to see how it will affect my own mental state.  

Have you ever put a deep-freeze on complaining? How did it go? Do you have any tricks for breaking the habit? 

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