Tolerating situations, things, and people drains your energy and keeps you from being your best self. Taking the time and effort to fix them plugs the energy drain and helps you learn to deal with things as they occur and to “step over nothing”.
Hiding A Stain
Imagine you throw a big party. Lots of good friends, good food and good wine. But sometime during the evening, someone spills a glass of wine on your freshly-cleaned carpet. You can’t deal with it right now, but you plan to see to it in the morning.
Morning comes and you are faced with the huge stain. You can’t deal with it right now, but you plan to see to it right after work.
You come home, tired from a day of hard work. You walk in the door and see the big stain. You can’t deal with it right now – you’re way too tired – but you’ll see to it soon. Meanwhile, you cover the stain with a throw rug.
In the morning, you see the rug and think, “I’ll have to clean that stain up soon.” Then, you set out for the day.
More days pass. You barely even notice the rug anymore. But occasionally, it creeps into your consciousness and you feel a sense of unease. You think, “Oh, yeah! I have GOT to clean that stain.”
“Things that bug us . . . and could be eliminated!”
Welcome to the world of tolerations. “Let’s define tolerations,” said Thomas Leonard, the “father” of coaching, “as things that bug us, sap our energy, and could be eliminated!” [Leonard] Something needs to be repaired, cleaned, corrected or dealt with. But, for whatever reason, you don’t repair, clean, correct or deal with it right away. You have an “open loop” that continues to nag at you. [Allen]
“By ignoring the problem,” said Cheryl Richarson in Take Time For Your Life, “you raise your threshold for pain and make it easier to put up with more.” [Richardson] Major issues become minor ones. Minor issues become petty. Petty issues drop off your radar. And you get stuck in place because you aren’t dealing with your stuff.
Suppose you have some cool new music you want to listen to.[*] But when you turn it on, suddenly a lot of noise fills the air — people talking, car horns blaring, a lawn mower running. You have to strain to filter out the unwanted din. Some of your energy is going into hearing the music, but some of your energy is going into not hearing the other noises. Some of the notes will be drowned out. You’ll hear less music.
Similarly, “tolerations make you block out a lot of life’s happiness, just because you’re trying not to be affected by what annoys you.” [Leonard] When you deal with the issues rather than blocking them out, you close the open loops and plug the energy drains. You hear all the music.
According to Leonard, most of us are tolerating dozens, maybe even hundreds, of things. [Leonard] Here are things that some of my clients have dealt with.
- Not having a pair of scissors where I need them.
- No pen or notepad to take messages at the phone.
- Needing to forgive a friend.
- Biting my fingernails.
- Clothing that is torn, stained, or ill fitting.
- An appliance that doesn’t work.
- A car that needs mechanical work.
- A car that needs cleaning.
- Not being able to find important papers because my files are unorganized.
- Having to store my bike in my apartment.
- Health issues that need to be dealt with.
- Refrigerator that doesn’t keep things cold enough.
- Not enough money.
- Not enough time.
- A door that sticks and doesn’t open and close properly.
- A lock that doesn’t work.
- Always being late for appointments.
- A friend that doesn’t respect my boundaries.
Sometimes, we become so numb to the things we are tolerating, that we have difficulty recognizing them. It may help to begin making a list. This gets your brain engaged and seeing one or two things may remind you of others. Another helpful exercise when you are stuck is to walk around your house with a pad and pencil and begin noticing the things that you are putting off or putting up with.
Of course, listing them is merely the first step in dealing with the things you are tolerating. Here, again from Thomas Leonard, are the steps to begin dealing with them once and for all.
How To Deal With Tolerations
“First, recognize the many actual benefits of tolerating.” [Leonard] Determine what the payoff is for hanging on to the things you are putting up with. There must be a payoff or you’d already have dealt with them. It may be substantial or it may simply allow you to avoid dealing with the issue.
“Second, develop a goal or raise a standard that doesn’t permit you to tolerate in that area.” [Leonard] If your files need organizing, set a deadline of a number of days until you have them in order. If you are drowning in debt, make an appointment to meet with a credit counselor. Get it down on your list.
“Third, reduce and / or eliminate whatever consequence you fear or whatever risk you run in ridding yourself of the toleration.” [Leonard] Change can be scary – even a change for the better. And all actions have consequences. Consider the cost of NOT changing – that is likely even scarier.
“Fourth, develop a healthy respect for your tolerations.” [Leonard] They are good signals for areas to strengthen and improve. “Before you eradicate your tolerations, learn from them.” [Leonard]
For example, I began noticing that I had fallen into the habit (again!) of putting things off till “later”. I recognized this several years ago and took steps at the time to eradicate that unhelpful habit. Somewhere along the way, though, I had fallen back into my old pattern of picking up something that needed to be dealt with, then putting it aside, thinking, “I’ll do that later.”
However, I recently come across a quote by Stuart Wilde: “If you say to yourself that you will do something, do it. Don’t make promises you won’t keep, and don’t make promises to others if you can’t or won’t follow through. Become immaculate.” [Wilde] I decided I wanted to become immaculate.
So I spent some hours this past week-end cleaning up, filing, discarding, and organizing. Then I attempted to learn the lesson. I set an intention to “become immaculate” and to deal with, schedule, put away, and clean up things as they arose . . . instead of setting them aside to deal with later.
The result is my desk is uncluttered, my house and garage are neater, my car is clean and I am resolved to handle things as they come.
Toleration Free Does Not = Intolerant
Note that being free from tolerations is not the same as being intolerant. To be intolerant is to refuse to acknowledge others’ the right to their own opinions, beliefs, or worship. [Leonard] To be toleration-free means you don’t put up with situations or other people’s behavior when it is bad for you. [Leonard]
Become Toleration Free
What are you tolerating? What are the things, people and issues you need to deal with to zap the energy drain and “become immaculate”? Begin a list of everything you have hanging over you that you’ve been putting off or ignoring.
Then attack the items on your list. You can go about this in a couple of ways. One way is to go for quantity. Complete as many of the smaller tasks as you possibly can in your allotted time. Of course, if you can work till you complete the entire list, that’s even better.
The second option is to pick one major task that may take the entire day to complete, and then work until it is finished. Either way, after you’ve completed the work for the day, you will feel lighter and more energetic, as you feel the burdens lifted from your shoulders. Some people report a surge of creativity after they complete this exercise, a result of the energy that is freed up.
You are creating your life and your reality each day. Why not create the life where zero tolerance of energy draining annoyances is the reality? That is embracing the Excelerated Life™!
Dealing with the things you’ve been tolerating is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
[*] This is a riff on an example that Thomas Leonard presents in The 28 Laws Of Attraction. See Resources.
Allen, David. Getting Things Done. New York: Penguin Books, 2001
Leonard, Thomas. The 28 Laws Of Attraction. New York: Scribner, 1998
Richardson, Cheryl. Take Time For Your Life. New York: Broadway Books, 1999
Wilde, Stuart. Infinite Self: 33 Steps to Reclaiming Your Inner Power. New York: Hay House, 1996