Saturday, March 15, 2008

Expectations and Achievement

I often tell people that I am striving to be an underachiever. People laugh and think I am joking. I'm not. I have been an overachiever and no longer wish to be a member of that rank and file. I know my IQ is average and I have always worked to be above-average. I was a hard worker as a student and even received the Good Citizenship Award three years in a row at Brookwood Junior High School. At any professional job I've held I have worked hard to do an excellent job, not disappoint, and care too much about my job performance and what others thought of me and the job I executed.

I no longer wish to be an overachiever. People come to expect that overachieving standard from you at all times. Once it becomes known that you can perform a task, handle a responsibility, meet a challenge, and conquer a hurdle, those around you demand that performance level all the time.

I now advocate setting the bar low, not mastering a skill, refusing a challenge, and not learning the task at hand. If you don't know how to sew on a button, no one will ask you to do it. I'll give a specific example from my past. We owned a hot tub which I used occasionally. Owning a hot tub means maintaining certain ph levels (that involves measurements, readings, chemicals, and probably math.....not good tasks for me to master even if I wanted to). I knew if I learned how to maintain the hot tub I would be expected to do so. Hence, I did not learn to do so.

It is a good thing there are overachievers in the world eager, ready and willing to overachieve. Someone has to, I suppose. It is fine if overachievers can overachieve without being Type A personalities. I was a Type A as an overachiever and it wasn't always pretty. As an underachiever (Type F -- I don't know if there is a Type D but I like the idea of a Type D.... I think a Type F or G would be less than an underachiever)I am happier, less impatient, have a better sense of humor, and am nicer. It is when I slip back into my overachiever mode (unconsciously) that I get impatient, irritable, and unhappy.

I do think overachievers burn out and die before they get to enjoy life. Vacations, weekends, and retirement should be about fishing, sitting in the back yard sipping coffee in the morning, working in the workworking shop, doing crafts, taking a walk, or doing whatever makes you relax. For an overachiever I fear relaxation is always off in the distance......always a hurdle ahead to be jumped.

I'm not saying people shouldn't work hard, be productive and accomplish good deeds, produce products, create necessary items. There are responsibilities that have to be met in everyone's life. We can and should all push ourselves, but we also need to know when to step back, take a breather, and decide whether to raise that bar or lower it. Too often people don't step back and assess just how happy they are and whether they need to rearrange priorities. To any unhappy overachievers out there, its not to late to underachieve.

Other Complaintants

My vow not to complain is not going well. It is important to note that it is easier not to complain when I am by myself. Get around other people and the no complaining attempt is out the door. It also doesn't help that I live in Wisconsin; the official state past time is complaining about the weather. This is an addictive past time and residents unthinkingly partake in it. I have tried not to complain about the weather and find a weather related gripe just pops out of my mouth.

I need to further distinguish between criticism and complaining. If I comment that the leather fringed vest, bolo tie, and cowboy hat are a tad ugly, is that a criticism or a complaint. I think it is a criticism.....a complaint would be to say, "That guy in the ugly cowboy get up needs to walk faster to I can get away from him as quickly as possible." In that statement I am complaining about him not walking fast enough while also criticizing his fashion statement. I suppose I could stop complaining AND criticizing but geez, that seems to set a pretty high standard.

I am going to continue on my attempt to not complain although I can tell I am not approaching it in fully motivated fashion. I am feeling overwhelmed but will give it a try. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Weber Grill Worship

"He just sat in the church looking up at nothing in particular & whispered what are you doing? & he said if Jesus had been a chicken would we have Weber grills all over the place instead of crosses? & I had a hard time concentrating after that, too."

Brian Andreas
Trusting Soul

Monday, March 10, 2008

No Complaining

The March 10 Newsweek has an article on preacher Will Bowen's "No Complaining" campaign. Basically he believes that "complaining has become such an automatic response to life's little setbacks that people don't even realize they're doing it." To raise awareness of the problem and help people to stop complaining, Pastor Bowen distributes purple rubber bracelets which say SPIRIT. The person who wears the bracelet is to stop complaining for 21 days. The person wears the bracelet and each time the person hears himself/herself complain, the bracelet is switched to the other wrist and the 21 day calendar begins again. Bowen's rationale is that complaining impairs happiness and rather than complain about a situation the person should just handle it. If your car breaks down, don't complain, just call the mechanic and get it fixed.

Supposedly it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, thus the 21 day time period. I can actually understand the bracelet as a reminder, too. I had a student who wore a rubber band around her wrist. When trying to break the nose-picking habit, she would snap the rubber band on her wrist when she wanted to pick her nose. It worked and she became nose-pick free.

Part of me likes the "no complaints" idea. But first "complaint" needs to be defined as to understand what behavior needs to be eliminated. defines complaint as: expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment, or grief; lament; faultfinding: his complaint about poor schools.
a cause of discontent, pain, grief, lamentation, etc.

Some synonyms for complaint:
grumbling, grouse, gripe, fault-finding, bitch, whine, wail, blame, castigation (isn't that a great word!), criticism.

Just to clarify further, some antonyms are:
forgive, absolve, praise, vindicate

If I understand this, one would say "We have a lot of snow" as an observation rather than "We have so much flippin' snow, and I'm sick of it." I understand that the second statement is a complaint.....BUT, what if "We have a lot of snow" is said in a nasty, hostile tone of voice? The statement itself is not a complaint, but the tone of voice could make it a complaint. So, if I decide to undertake the 21 day challenge, I would not only have to take care not to complain but would also have to watch my tone of voice.

Now, what situations cause common complaints for me:

other's driving, the weather, car trouble, the weather, people's behavior, living in New London, RA, other's politics, Gladys's existence.....

I know there are more but this is a start....a daunting start. Is saying it's daunting a complaint?
Attending a no complain workshop would be helpful. Maybe at a workshop complaining would be better defined and practicing alternative thinking, behavior, words could be role played.

My fear in trying this is my sense of humor is often based on sarcasm and isn't sarcasm negative? So much of conversation is based on complaint....what will one say in conversation?
That said, I think I might put on my hot pink Tropicana rubber bracelet and take the concept out for a spin. Even though I'm not ready to send for the purple SPIRIT bracelet, it can be inexpensively purchased at

I'll let you know how it goes!