A Challenge To Close Out The Year

I started this yesterday (November 30) and I’m going to continue throughout the rest of December.

The No Negativity Challenge

No talking crap about people, in print or in person.

No talking crap about things, in print or in person.

Note: if I’m writing a post like this one it has to have a positive, more helpful, slant.

No cynical statements in print or in person.

No negative conversations with people via Skype, Gchat, etc.

No sarcasm. Often sarcasm has a negative connotation. Certain people can pull it off as funny and not negative. Easier to refrain altogether.

No complaining. (I don’t complain like I used to, but I still probably complain about something every day.)

Side challenge: Don’t read negative articles/essays. Which will be especially tough. (Whoops, is that a negative statement?) I’m using Self Control App for Mac to block CNN.com and Reddit.com. I can do it for 24 hours at a time so I just have to restart the app once per day. If I find I’m browsing other sites that go against this I’ll add them to the block list, but CNN and Reddit are my main culprits.

The goal here isn’t necessarily to become a Pollyanna. I don’t expect to completely stop negative thoughts/feelings. The goal is to simply be conscious of negative thoughts/feelings/actions and to stop them as they materialize.

I think it will get easier over time. And I think I’ll have a generally more positive outlook on things. In addition, I still do my daily gratitude (been doing this since 2011), though I’ve updated the way I do it which I’ll talk about soon. The daily gratitude helps a lot with realizing how good our lives are even in down times.

Note to my friends who read this: please call me out if I say or do something negative.

If you’d like to join let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail. I’d especially like to hear from you at the end of the month to see how it went.

Updates

1: Added news.google.com to the Self Control app list.

2: Adding news.google.com to Self Control blocks Google Drive, Google Reader, and Google Maps. Oops! Will remove it from the list tomorrow and simply force myself to not visit.

3: You can tweak Self Control and increase the time beyond 1 day. I currently have it set to 2 days, just in case I have another Google News mishap with a different site.

{ 51 comments… add yours }

Jeannette

I like it.
It changes brain wiring.
I like it.

Some years ago I was dog-training with a woman who tended to carry anger around (even if she didn’t speak, you could see it in the set of her shoulders). Because I am human, and because we humans are a social species, I started doing it also. And then one day I noticed what I was doing. And the next thing I noticed — when I first let go of it — is that carrying anger feels empowering. That realization helped me resist the temptation to do it again.

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Joan

I’m very much in. (I had to erase my next sentence, which was critical of myself and my habits, once I reread it.)

The idea is a great one – and I appreciate that you’re inviting us to join you!

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Karol

Thanks Joan. And nice work catching yourself!

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Jenn N

This is a hard one! (I’ll start right off with a complaint apparently). Let’s see if I can aim to reduce the negativity and complaining for a month. Good luck to us all.

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Jonathan

Sarcasm would be the toughest, but it is worthy of a challenge.

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Annie Larsen

Love it!
I do not like to be around negative people . It wears me down. So I’m hoping this will change us all.
I’m in.

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Karol

I think we all need to watch what our default responses to this challenge happen to be. :)

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Chris

I see what you did there…

Just take Jennifer’s comment the way I did. Instead of becoming negative about a topic that usually perturbs me, instead I became thankful she gave me an opportunity to choose to not be negative.

Think of it as a secular Temptation of Christ in the desert.

:)

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Karol

Nice work Chris.

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Cindy

I accept this challenge with joy in my heart. I wish us all success!

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Jennifer Wright

Karol –
Thank you so much for this challenge. I’m finishing up work on a book that talks about how God brought me through a very dark valley, and it’s been affecting my mood. I’ve been increasing my Bible memory over the past month to bring balance. I have especially enjoyed 1 Peter 3:8-12 from The Message. “…No sharp-tongued sarcasm… Say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth.”

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Karol

I will share my favorite passages after January 1. :)

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Kate

I’m in. This is really great, and goes really well with my mindfulness practice. Love self control app also! Good idea to use it in this way.

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Karol

Killer. Have you read Mindfulness In Plain English? I read it last year and really enjoyed it. I feel like it’s time to reread my highlights/notes.

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Gayle

Okay, I’m in.

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John Anderson

I’m in too…I’ll have to figure out a way to catch myself throughout the day. This is a great habit to have. Thanks!

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Machelle

I am in. This is amazing.

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Doug

I’m in.
I definitely agree — practicing mindfulness helps to banish negativity.
I got into practicing quiet mindfulness through fitness yoga, meditation, self hypnosis, and reading works by Krishnamurti and Tolle. And let’s not forget Anthony Robbins and Owen Cook from Real Social Dynamics.
And I will definitely take a look at Mindfulness in Plain English.
I had a funny experience while I was raking leaves on a beautiful gorgeous fall day a few years back: I realized that my mind was ranting about some challenging personalities in my life, even though the birds were chirping, the air was fresh, and I was outside in the midst of nature (my yard is on the edge of the Minnesota Big Woods). Same thing happened while I was cross country skiing on a winter day of epic grandeur. Too funny. Yet quite alarming.
By contrast, practicing mindfulness, to silence the mental ranting and mental chatter, let me really enjoy my surroundings.
Thanks for doing this Karol!

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Karol

I can’t comment on Tolle or Robbins, besides stating that Robbins was somewhat valuable at some point in my early adulthood. The others I’m unfamiliar with (though I do know the RSD company).

Thanks for sharing and joining!

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Juliana

I am so in. I love your article, Karl and have enjoyed reading all the responses. Just think of the world we can create if we keep this up. Thanks Doug, thanks Jennifer. Oh thank you, everyone.

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cdub

Tough challenge and I like it! I’m in!

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Carsten Legaard

Hey, Karol. Are You aware Your challenge caught me with great timing.
Yesterday I got fired from a workplace where the focus has been outright negative the last couple of years. This is my first grey paper in 32 years, so I am quite proud of it and happy, too.
I was thinking a lot about how to celebrate it, and then Your challenge came in (pling!) to my Sparrow Inbox.
Am I on? You bet I am ;-)

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Karol

Sorry you got fired Carsten. Congrats on focusing on the positive.

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John

This is a great idea. I could really use it. In keeping with the theme, I will just say that I am very “good” at being negative and berating myself. I have done it for a very long time. Like my doctor told me regarding my weight loss endeavors, that I would not be perfect, and to not beat myself up about it. I will apply that for this as well. I actually did a similar thing for Thanksgiving; New rule, there was to be no critacism or derogatory talk toward anybody. That went ok. I will use this challenge the way you described, as a way to help me be aware of when my mind starts to go to that dark place. Thanks,

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Susan

I’m in! I wonder what is about negativity that we humans love so much? And why do we reinforce it with each other? Do we think it resolves us of responsibility for ourselves? I believe that is delusional because nature/God/universe/whatever makes sure that we get the correct response to our actions whether we like or not. Not a negative comment just a personal obervation. It will be interesting to see other peoples reaction as well as the reaction in my own head! Thanks for such a great challange.

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Karol

There is no correct response and there is nothing that controls us or our actions or the universe. It all just is. [EDIT: Within the boundaries of science and reality, of course.] And that’s beautiful. Thanks for joining the challenge.

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Doug

Susan and Karol,
What you two are saying really resonates with what I learned from Jiddu Krishnamurti’s work. So I just thought I’d mention his name again. Here’s a quotation (below) concerning the antithesis between awareness and negativity. Being aware means being able to observe or watch the workings of our own minds, so that we can let our minds become quiet, and then see things the way they truly are. By contrast, being negative, or condemning, allows us to avoid any depth of understanding. But Krishnamurti always repeated that we shouldn’t take his word for it, but go into it deeply and seriously for ourselves — it’s the only hope, the only way to save the world.
It’s that important.
Anyway, here’s the Krishnamurti quotation I just found:
“When you are aware, you see the whole process of your thinking and action, but it can happen only when there is no condemnation. That is, when I condemn something, I do not understand it, and it is one way of avoiding any kind of understanding. I think most of us do that purposely; we condemn immediately, and we think we have understood. If we do not condemn but regard it, are aware of it, then the content, the significance of that action begins to open up. Experiment with this and you will see for yourself. Just be aware – without any sense of justification – which may appear rather negative, but is not negative. On the contrary, it has the quality of passivity which is direct action, and you will discover this if you experiment with it.”

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Karol

Thank you for your added insight Doug.

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Joy

Beautiful challenge.. I *love* it! I live it :)

When connecting with others, and talk turns into gossip or something negative, I just simply insert something like, well you chose to be friends, married (whatever), tell me what do you like best about this person…or what have you recently done together that makes your heart smile…or that feels a bit heavy, tell me something you’ve been creating that is new/different/fun…seems to work well…

Ah, and I have been labeled a Pollyanna :)

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Karol

I like that reframe. Thank you Joy.

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Katherine

Well, this sounds like it could be a challenge/heap of fun. Conveniently, I dig both challenges and fun.

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Emily

Karol -

I LOVE this! Thank you for issuing this challenge. I’ve tried something similar in the past and was astounded by how many negative waves made it into my thoughts each day. My biggest challenge will be with self-talk (I don’t count that last statement as negative, but rather constructive).

I’m in! :)

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Karol

Yes, self-talk is coming up a lot in comments and e-mails. I don’t have a solution, but maybe paying attention to what we vocalize for 30 days will help with self-talk as well. We will soon know!

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Andrew

Accepted. Thank you for posting this Karol

Happiness, ultimately, we’re all in it together :)

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Dustin

I’m not in :)

Inner awareness doesn’t have to trump outer awareness.

As a global servant (to be) I want to stay aware of the world, and unfortunately objectivity involves negativity sometimes. Constructive criticism and all that.

What I will remember to do is rest, relax, and be honest with myself.

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Karol

What does inner vs outer awareness mean? Isn’t it all just awareness? In which case, it’s all important. This isn’t about being dishonest with yourself. Objectivity does not have to involve negativity. You can tell someone they’re wrong (as I am doing now) or otherwise messing up without being negative. Rest, relaxation, and honestly are all important, but they’re not mutually exclusive to not being negative.

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Dustin

Sorry, I didn’t notice I was responding to your side challenge and about how you blocked CNN and wanted to block Google News. That changes things a bit. The first challenge is great.

Do you classify righteous anger at political injustice as a “negative” emotion? I do — it’s still righteous, but it wouldn’t exist in a positive world. And I’m talking about all of human society, not the Stoic personal paradigm world. In a negative world negative feelings are totally justified as a call to action. To attempt solving problems, it’s important to perceive them as problems, which has the side effect of sadness, fear, anger, etc. For example, as people become aware of climate change or unsustainable energy production, fear of disaster motivates behavioural changes. That’s what I was getting at.

Thanks for replying!

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Karol

The truth is the news very rarely has anything that inspires me, motivates me, or makes me happy so that’s why I’m blocking the news type sites I used to go to dozens (literally dozens) of times per day. It’s more worthwhile to find all that good stuff on my own rather than through CNN, Reddit, or Google News. I’m only a few days in and I don’t miss it though I have “accidentally” typed cnn.com or reddit.com into my browser a few times.

re: anger. Anger is negative, yes, however it manifests.

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ROlmsted

Great habit to get in to. I’ve been doing this for quite sometime and find that most of my negativity is my self talk. Once I started paying attention to my words as well as others, I was amazed at the amount of negative thoughts and words we are bombarded with daily. Sarcasm is huge so definitely stop it, even if it seems funny and shut off the tv as well as news sites. 1/2 the battle will be then won! Good luck to all and Karol, thanks for the positive challenge! : )

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Karol

Negative self-talk is an issue for me sometimes as well. (I’m going to guess it’s an issue for 100% of the population.) I wonder if paying attention to external words/actions for 30 days will help with internal thoughts?

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Logan

Absolutely joining, my parents have just started marriage counselling in part due to the negativity between them (hope that doesn’t count). So to improve myself and them I shall try to get the whole family in on this one.

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Samantha

I’ll have to write this on my hand maybe both hands but I like it :)

Sam

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Treavor

Im in. Time for moments of self revealing :)

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paurullan

Go for it; and thank you for the post :D

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Rebecca

This is a great thing to do…especially with the holidays coming up and having to deal with maybe that one family member that is not your favorite to get along with or deal with. Plus people seem to be rather up tight more not sure if it is the rush to buy gifts,holiday parties, decorating or maybe having to wear that holiday sweater or horrid gift someone gave you and you have to wear it the next time they see you. I do my best to tip more and smile more I especially love smiling more at the people with the scowls or just grumpy faces to try and get them to smile back but usually they just frown harder.

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Martina

I like your challenge and will join you… I’ve been already doing some of the actions for some time so will add some more from your list. I’ll talk about your challenge on my website with empowering news because it is exactly about this – empowerment, being grateful and seeing the silver lining in all what we experience… have fun Karol!

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Tom

Hi Karol. Having performed this experiment for over a decade, starting about 40+ years ago, I would like to pass along my observations. I sincerely think that everyone should perform this experiment, but I eventually terminated it, because it did not give me the results I sought. I should have terminated it a lot sooner, but I couldn’t come up with a better alternative at the time.

I found that becoming mindful of the constant dichotomy between negative/positive, good/bad, right/wrong accentuated the issue rather than resolved it. My moods became more polarized and I became more aggressive in my responses. This experiment focused me on the problem, not the solution.

The solution that I found was to transcend the dichotomy through non-judgment of people and non-attachment to “the way things ought to be.” I focused on discerning my own path and creating my own life, rather than judging the relative value of other people and things.

Christianity refers to this plus/minus consciousness as the Consciousness of Good & Evil. Hinduism refers to it as the Illusion of Maya. Buddhism refers to these dichotomies as the source of all suffering, anxiety and discontent. Thanks for providing such opportunities for insight.

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Mark Powers

Hey, dude! In regards to the “adding news.google.com blocks Drive, Reader & Maps” issue . . . did you try unchecking “Block common subdomains” in SelfControl’s preferences?

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Karol

I didn’t! Didn’t even know about that. Thanks Mark!

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Karol

So, this kind of works. Google Drive works now, but Google Maps doesn’t.

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Jakob

What I really like about your post is that you have the self confidence and courrage to do what you feel is right for you no matter what people say.

Especially posing a blog post about your experiment underlines that self confidence of you!

Often as I experienced people do not like if I change. How do you (as a non-negative) handle that problem?

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