Clear Up Annoyances To Progress Toward Your Goals

Small annoyances may have an effect on goal progress. Dealing with things we have been tolerating could improve our ability to make progress toward our goals by improving our ratio of positive to negative experiences.

How Jack Got A Promotion

Jack was unhappy at his job. His desk was a disorganized mess. He felt his skills were underutilized. His cubicle neighbor played loud music on her computer, which made it difficult for him to concentrate. His boss was constantly looking in on Jack to check the progress on his latest assignments. He wanted more responsibility and more pay but he wasn’t getting the recognition he deserved for his work. Jack’s goal was to get a job where he could contribute more – and get paid more – but months had passed and he had made little progress in his job search.

Jack was working with a coach to aid him in his pursuit of a new job. She advised him to deal with the petty (and not so petty) annoyances that he was putting up with. And so he did. First, he cleaned off his desk. Then he spoke to his neighbor and explained that her music was disruptive to him – and gave her a set of ear buds. Jack courageously set a new boundary with his boss and they agreed to a weekly meeting to assess his progress in place of the multiple daily interruptions.

Now more at ease at work, Jack heard of a position in another department with more responsibility and a bigger paycheck. His boss, pleased with Jack’s efforts, agreed to recommend him for the job and within weeks Jack was promoted to the new position. [1]

Simple Pleasures, Small Annoyances And Goals

You know that tolerating annoyances can be a drain on your energy but did you know that tolerating annoyances could have a detrimental effect on reaching your goals?

A group of researchers in Melbourne found that simple pleasures, which boost daily happiness, increase the likelihood that a person will make progress on their goals. Conversely, daily irritations reduce the pleasurable affect. This could have an adverse influence on a person’s goal progress. [Mead]

The researchers concluded that the reduction of daily irritations restores positive well-being. It is the increased positivity that favors goal progress. [Mead]

How Much Are You Tolerating?

Talane Miedaner, coach and author, says most of us are tolerating from 60 to 100 annoying, irritating behaviors and situations. [Miedaner] Thomas Leonard, the “father” of life coaching, estimated that up to 80% of our lives involves “carrying tolerations around”. [Leonard]

Tolerations, says Leonard, “are holes in your personal success cup; they drain away your contentment and your good fortune.” [Leonard]

Keep in mind that annoyances and irritations are of two types – those you can control and those you can’t. When you are stuck in traffic, or it rains on the day you have plans for an outdoor activity, or your favorite show is preempted by some other program, well, there’s little you can do about these. These you just accept and move on. But there are plenty of irritating things (60 to 100 perhaps?) that you can deal with.

Annoyances And Goals Progress

Apart from the fact that dealing with those things you are tolerating plugs the energy drains and facilitates the flow of your life, it may also improve your progress toward your goals.

The Melbourne study discovered that “daily goal progress appeared to suffer on days that were characterized by a relatively high number of small annoyances but relatively few simple pleasures.” On the other hand, when respondents experienced a higher number of pleasurable experiences, minor annoyances didn’t seem to hinder their progress. [Mead]

If you are looking to improve your progress on your BIG goal, consider dealing with those pesky annoyances you are tolerating. By reducing your irritations, you also increase your positivity – both of which can improve your ability to make progress on your goals.

How To Deal With Petty Annoyances

“Everything you are tolerating drains your energy, makes you irritable, and wears you down. It is very difficult to be successful if you are putting up with a lot.” [Miedaner]

Here are ideas from Talane Miedaner and Thomas Leonard for dealing with the things you are tolerating.

  • Take a sheet of paper and list everything you have hanging over you, all those things you look at and think, “I need to fix that.” Get them out of your head and on paper.
  • Set aside a Saturday or Sunday and knock out as many of the items on your list as you can complete. Or schedule a certain time period each day to do one or two until the list is done.
  • Some things will be too big to do in one day. Break them down into discrete actions and work these into your schedule.
  • You may have things on your list that you don’t know how to address. (First, be sure it is something you can control. If not, practice acceptance. ) If it is under your control, don’t worry about it right now. Deal with the things you can. Clear them from your mind. Solutions for the other things will come to you.
  • Eliminate the toleration 110%. The extra 10% is to locate and deal with the source of the annoyance. “Otherwise, you’ll be swatting down the same tolerations over and over. That’s not progress.” [Leonard]
  • After you’ve marked everything off your list, reward yourself. Go out to dinner or to a movie or any other small treat you enjoy.

Simple Pleasures And Small Annoyances

Of course, dealing with the things you are tolerating, those irritating annoyances, doesn’t guarantee you’ll suddenly take huge steps toward your goal. But not dealing with them will almost certainly hinder your progress.

At the very least, you’ll get a burst of energy after you mark all those annoyances off your list. And by dealing with these negative tolerations, you’ll increase your positivity resources – the resources required for goal pursuit and which are depleted by negative feelings.

As Nicole Mead and her team of researchers tell us: “If simple pleasures and small annoyances infuse life with positive and negative feelings, respectively, then the happiness instilled by simple pleasures may help offset the negative consequences of small annoyances for goal pursuit.” [Mead]

So if your progress toward your BIG goal has stalled, consider the relationship between small annoyances and goals. Take some time to deal with those annoyances you are tolerating. You just might get the boost you need to get started again. And 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.

Read more about the Excelerated Life.


[1] I adapted this story from an example in Talane Miedaner’s book i-Coach Yourself To Success (see Resources) and credit her for the original idea.


Leonard, Thomas. The 28 Laws Of Attraction. New York: Scribner, 1998

Mead, Nicole L.; Patrick, VM; Gunadi, MP; Hofmann, W. “Simple Pleasures, Small Annoyances, and Goal Progress in Daily Life”, Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2016, 1 (4), pp. 527 – 539.

Miedaner, Talane. Coach Yourself To Success. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Books, 2000

annoyances and goals

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