Reprinted from Spring 2012 InterCom
By Lindsey Baumann
Could you go without complaining for a day? A week? Three weeks?
Forever? Will Bowen can help you do that.
Bowen is a 1983 alumnus of the
School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and he
worked for many years at radio stations in Columbia.
Although Bowen loved radio, he said that he felt a calling
to become more of a teacher, which led him to pursue
ministry. As the minister of Christ Church Unity in Kansas
City Northland, he came up with a big idea to help himself
and his congregation. He developed the Complaint Free
Challenge, a program to help people stop complaining
and live more positive and fulfilling lives.
The goal of the Complaint Free Challenge is to go 21
days without complaining. Bowen says it takes 21 days
to form a habit and participants of this challenge learn
to make a habit out of not complaining. As part of the
challenge, you wear a purple bracelet on your wrist,
and when you complain you must switch the bracelet to
the other wrist. The act of moving the bracelet helps
to make you and others around you aware that you are
When you can go 21 consecutive days without moving the bracelet, you have completed the challenge.
After seeing the impact his program made in his life and within his congregation, he wrote, A Complaint Free World - How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted. It was published in 2007. Bowen later wrote Complaint Free Relationships - How to Positively Transform Your Personal, Work and Love Relationships, published in 2009. Both are international bestsellers.
The author inspired our class to try his complaint free
challenge. He sent us all bracelets and a DVD, which
explains how the challenge works and how it will improve
our lives. After the first week of the challenge, I have
not been able to go a full day without moving my bracelet
but I am not giving up! Classmate Bo Wood says, "As a busy college student, it's hard not to complain about assignments and tests, but after starting this challenge, I've found it easier to study and do my homework."
The Complaint Free Challenge,
which started as a local mission, has now spread to almost
10 million people in 106 countries. Bowen and his Complaint
Free Challenge have been featured on Oprah, NBC's Today
Show, The ABC Evening News, CBS Sunday Morning and Fox
News. Stories about the Complaint Free Challenge have
been published in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek,
People magazine and the Los Angeles Times. Bowen says
he thinks that his broadcast classes at the journalism
school prepared him for these live television appearances.
One person's idea can make a difference all around the world. Bowen says he has seen his program make a positive impact on people of all ages, from first graders to those in retirement communities. The idea behind this program is that changing the way you speak will also change the way you think.
Bowen cites Charles Darwin, who said, "The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize we ought to control our thoughts." Focusing on solutions instead of problems and learning to live with things you cannot
change will make you a happier person overall, Bowen says.
Bowen says he would love the chance to come back to visit his alma mater and reach out to current students.