Last week, I started an experiment on myself. I wanted to see what would happen if I went for six weeks without publicly complaining.
It’s really easy, when we see something that irks us, riles us up, or that we otherwise disagree with, to jump on Twitter or Facebook or your blog and post something about it. It’s also really easy to create a cycle of negativity wherein a good chunk of your friends list and twitter follower feeds spend the whole day complaining about things. Now, I’m not talking about outrage over social & environmental issues or treatment of our fellow men & women. I’m talking about the endless posts about the guy who cut someone off in traffic, the fact that the coffee was cold, and laments over not having won the lottery yet…stuff that is not actually critical to our success as human beings on this planet.
I had noticed that on days when lots of my online friends were posting annoyances and arguments, that my energy and mood was dragged down considerably, and along with it, my creativity. The ball of stress I was carrying around seemed to be blocking the flow of my thoughts and daydreams like a big, disgusting tub clog. I needed some metaphysical Drano, stat.
It seemed logical to conclude that if I was affected so easily by that stuff, the people who are reading my updates could be affected as well. Here’s where the contract comes in.
For six weeks (starting July 7th) I will do my absolute best to not only refrain from posting complaints on Twitter, Facebook, my blog, etc. but to also go out of my way to share positive things through those forums. When I am about to post something snarky, or sarcastic, or otherwise negative, I will take a moment to think about whether that sentence needs to be out in the public sphere, or whether I can just keep it to myself.
As I write this, it’s Day 10 of my contract and I am already seeing results beyond TweetDeck.
I was raised Italian, so passion is part of my everyday life. It’s pretty easy for me to get excited about something, and also pretty easy for me to be frustrated. The upshot is that I can let those things go once I’ve yelled or gestured about it for a minute and not have it bother me anymore… but this past week, I haven’t even really gotten to the point of being angry.
This isn’t to say that everything has been sunshine and roses all week. It’s just that, when I feel the impulse to say something snarky, I take a moment to check it. Having to check my impulse before posting something online has directly translated into doing the same thing in person. And you know what? My stress level has gone down a whole lot, and I feel that little well of creativity starting to burble back up.
I decided to extend the contract by a few days so that it ends on my birthday, August 21st, though I don’t think that I’ll ever go back to the level of complaining I used to allow myself. I figure there’s no better way to celebrate a new year than to mark it with a new surge of positivity.
What small change could you make today that would lower your stress level and allow your creativity?