May Goal Progress: Week 1 Check In

I think this month’s challenge to stop complaining is my hardest yet! I will fully admit that I don’t think I’m making much progress thus far, but I’m hoping to turn that around this week.

Looking at “no complaining for a month” under the framework of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound), I think it is achievable, (somewhat) realistic, and timebound. But where I’m struggling is that “no complaining” isn’t really specific or measurable.

How do you define complaining? It seems easy until you try to catch yourself doing it. Over the last week, I’ve found myself in a number of situations where I’ve wanted to point out something negative but factual. Is saying “It’s raining” a complaint on its own, or does it only count as a complaint if I say “I wish it weren’t raining” (which is my point in bringing up the fact that it’s raining)? I thought I could solve for this by declaring that I wouldn’t say anything negative unless I’m asking the other person for a solution; however, some things aren’t controllable but are still relevant and worth mentioning. (Or maybe that is just me railing against giving up venting?)


Anyone else have some friendships like this?? Venting is fun!

Plus, how does sarcasm fit into this? Today while driving to the airport, I encountered two cars on the two-lane highway that were going well under the speed limit but at the exact same speed – which meant I couldn’t pass them. Normally, I would complain about that; today, with my goal in mind, I said sarcastically something like, “I am so happy that you are both working together to keep everyone else on the road from speeding!” But I think a complaint veiled in sarcasm is probably still a complaint :)

Even beyond defining specifically what a complaint is, though, I’m also having trouble measuring my progress. I’m finding that probably the hardest part of all this is recognizing when I’m complaining and catching myself in the act. As I mentioned last week, I did create a complaint tracker in Google Docs (so I can get to it from my phone, a la my to do list). I was hoping that would make my complaints measurable by assigning data to it: how many times I complained each day, what situations caused me to complain, and who I was around when I was complaining. One of the impetuses for this challenge was that I felt like I was complaining around coworkers too much, which is definitely not professional, and the one bit of success I’ve had so far is that I think I’ve reduced how much I complain to coworkers (vs complaining to close friends).

However, I’ve logged a paltry 1-2 complaints per day so far… and I can assure you, that’s not because I’ve been super successful overall :) The toughest part of this challenge is just remembering not to complain, because it means I have to be on guard every second of every day. (For comparison, even going on the strictest of diets means you only have to think about your goal when you’re about to put food into your mouth.) It’s easy to tell myself I just need to be more mindful, but as anyone who’s ever struggled with changing their speaking habits can tell you, having a conversation also requires thought, and the brain has trouble focusing on two things at once. Most of the complaints I’ve logged so far have been when other people call a complaint out to me, although I’ve caught myself a few times as well.

I found this article on correcting verbal tics to be useful in figuring out how to attack this next. While complaining isn’t a tic, it’s definitely not a conscious choice for me to do it so much, so I thought figuring out how to correct unconscious behavior would be a good starting point. Since awareness is the first step toward correcting a speech pattern, I’m going to start asking more people in my life to call me out if they hear me complaining. The more ears the better! Everyone I’ve told about this goal has been incredibly supportive (and many have mentioned that it would be good for them to cut back on complaints too), so hopefully I won’t take flak for sharing.

One other mini-goal for this week: I found Will Bowen’s A Complaint Free World at the library, and I’d like to read it by the end of the week. From what I’ve seen of the summary, it includes a 21 day challenge, so starting that challenge ASAP will let me finish right around the end of the month. I’m looking forward to getting some structure from the book that will hopefully make this a little easier!

Anyone else trying to cut back on complaining along with me? What tips do you have?


  1. I think that you’re 100% right – being honest with yourself and measuring was is a complaint, what is a statement of fact, and what is venting is very difficult. Doing that after the fact is hard giving the complexity, but doing it real time might be almost impossible.

    That said, I honestly didn’t think that you complained a lot before. Certainly no more than what I would consider normal. To be fair, that said, I do feel that complaining or even venting at work is something to be watched closely. One thing I would struggle with during a challenge like this would be maintaining the essence of who I am. That is, if I’m constantly second guessing what I am saying and remaining guarded for fear of complaining, I would likely be less sarcastic, quick whited, or even less empathetic (all traits that I feel define me – good or bad). I feel like there is an art to constructive complaining and complaining as a group towards a common goal. Similar to your SomeECard, nothing brings people together like a common complaint.

    • I don’t think I complained an excessive amount before, but recently I’ve been complaining about so many trivial things that I felt like it was bringing my OWN mood down. I agree that there’s definitely an art to constructive complaining :)

  2. I think there’s complaining just to complain, and there’s complaining because something isn’t right/isn’t working/is stupid.
    I’ve significantly cut back on my complaining just to complain (and am actually working on a post about how I did it!) but I definitely still complain sometimes. Certain situations suck (hell stupid cars!) and sometimes venting helps. My general rule is that if nothing can be done about it, I probably grumble, and then carry on with my day. If I can enact change, then I’ll work to do that instead of merely complaining without any action.
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    • Yes – I have tried to define it as, I can complain IF it is asking for advice. (I.e., XYZ isn’t working, what do you think I should do.) But for this month, at least, I’m trying to cut out the venting too. I thought that would be an issue but so far it’s been okay!

  3. I definitely am trying to focus on a more positive mindset, however you would view that. To me that means less time complaining and also figuring out what does make me happy and how can I feel happy more often. It is hard to not get caught up in the gossip especially in an office environment but I try to keep to myself as much as I can.
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    • I love how you framed that goal! And totally agree with you about the gossip. The book I am reading suggests that a rule around gossip is, if you wouldn’t say it in front of the person, it shouldn’t be said. Simple, but true.

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