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21 days without complaint or criticism: is it possible?

Photo by: Julie

Note: when this ran in my recent newsletter, I received more comments from readers than any other article! Today, I was inspired to post it here and invite you to post your experiences — if you take up the 21-day challenge. Can’t wait to hear from you! (Not subscribed yet to the newsletter? Don’t miss an issue! Put your name and email in the spaces under the red box that says, “Gabrielli’s Green Business.”)

I have embarked on something I must admit – I did NOT want to do this. Of course, I am absolutely convinced it’s just what I need right now. But when I really thought about it, I had no idea how I could possibly last the 21 days. I imagined myself having to start over, not just every day, but several TIMES a day. And, well, to be honest with you – so far, I have started over three times.

What is this quest, you may be wondering?

Inspired by¬†Edwene Gaines‘ brilliant book, “Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity,” one of the laws is clear goal-setting. We’ve all studied and practiced this, right? Well, she has a twist. It’s a preparatory practice. Ready for it? Go 21 days without complaining, criticizing, or gossiping. 21 days. If you slip, simply forgive yourself and start over. For another 21 days. As she says, you have to be really careful what you say on Day 20!!

As I contemplated doing this, I literally could not imagine how I could last 21 whole days. What would I say? I played back a recent interaction w/ my son, where I both complained AND criticized him for losing not one but both pairs of scissors from the kitchen drawer. (Mind you – I’m not complaining NOW, just telling a story!! Really. . . Doesn’t count, right?)

Who says worthwhile things are easy? Not only did I resolve to do it, I also told my son about my quest and enrolled him as my “minder.” His job is to tell me if I slip up, so I can start over the 21 days. He seems to appreciate the challenge. (He also reminded me that it’s only me doing this – he doesn’t have to!)

So, what does this have to do with green business?

People in the environmental community, myself included, can sometimes dwell too much on the negative. There is, we perceive, much going wrong with the planet’s health. Climate change (aka “Global Weirding”), destruction of the rainforest, massive oil spills, species extinctions. Whew! Just writing that list was exhausting!

While it can be motivating to keep in mind these and other consequences of a mindless, wasteful way of doing business, a more common response is simply to shut down. It all becomes overwhelming and seems hopeless.

Since we tend to get more of what we focus on, let’s try a new approach: one that emphasizes creativity and innovation. Seeing opportunities, rather than limitations. Shifting perspective from fixing what’s broken to asking, what do we really want here?

So far, a couple of weeks into my 21-day challenge, the benefits are already clear. Since complaining and criticism are off the table, I can meet each experience with appreciation and acceptance as the default. This feels very expansive and liberating, as if a whole part of my brain finally gets to have its say (having been drowned out before).

Imagine how the green / sustainability movement would be if we all decided not to complain or criticize. If we focused only on appreciation and clarity about what we want, rather than what we don’t want.

I think it was Mother Teresa who said, “I won’t go to an anti-war march. But, if you hold a peace march, please invite me.”

I am enjoying this so much that I may just extend it indefinitely. With such a light heart, why would I go back to the old ways of anxiety and worry? Try it! I’d love to hear your stories.