Every February for three years now, my friend Pieter and I try to stop complaining for a month. Every year, we fail miserably. Yet, like every year before, I’m still very happy that we tried.
Complaining is great. It’s satisfying when you can complain about your loud neighbor. But let’s be honest: many of us whine too much, so much so that it’s sometimes tiring. For us and for our friends. I’m not talking about real, serious grievances. That’s fine.
What I try to get rid of during this month are complaints about things I can’t change, such as the missed bus, the rainy weekend, the noisy neighbors. When someone asks me how my week was, I will tell them about the great moments, not the slightly bad ones that really weren’t all that horrible. Get rid of the First World Problems in your life. It makes for a much happier life.
While insignificant on their own, those complaints eat into your happiness, one small bite at a time. They leave you less happy, less able to enjoy the good times. To misquote Mary Schmich, complaining is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.
STFUebruary is worth the trouble. Each year I learn new things about myself. Each time I slip up is a chance to remind myself of the goals set for this month, a chance to get better at it.
Friends sometimes freak out over all the sudden positivity in my life. It’s unusual to brush away things that you would normally complain about. And it’s tough not to start lamenting all the small things when your friends do so in February. But, if nothing else, STFUebruary is a good topic to fill the void left by the now-missing complaints.
I will repeat it next year. Complaining is vital. Both for my own psychological well being, as well as for overall societal hygiene. Everybody needs to vent from time to time. It’s frustrating not to be able to participate in this, not to let off some steam. But it is great to be aware of how often you do it needlessly, and how to change that. One complaint at a time.
My biggest take away this year is that I love doing such short experiments to change small parts of my personality. It’s a great way to test new tactics for personal growth.
Over the coming months, I plan to start multiple week-long challenges similar to STFUebruary. If you have any suggestions of what I should try out, let me know at @blancpain. And join Pieter and me next year!