The Stoic concept of knowing the difference between what you can change and what you can’t may be useful when you are dealing with tolerations – those aggravations and annoyances you have been putting up with and putting off dealing with.
The Car Fire
When I was a young man, I confess I was not very responsible. I learned to ignore and put up with many things instead of dealing with them. And looking back on that time, that behavior showed up as a haphazard life, with no direction and little control.
For example, when I dropped out of college and went to work full time, I bought a new car – a Volkswagon 412 station wagon. It was very, very nice. But I did little to take care of it. It stayed filthy most of the time, with overflowing ashtrays and piles of beer cans in the back floorboard. Over the years, I ignored the minor problems and put off having maintenance work done, and the car deteriorated.
We need each other. We depend on each other. We literally cannot live without each other and we cannot be our happiest, our best, and our most productive without building healthy relationships.
All Together Now
“We’re all in this together.” I can’t count the number of times nor the number of people from whom I have heard this sentiment over the past months of the pandemic. I suspect you’ve had a similar experience. From doctors on TV to product advertisements to personal injury lawyers to friends on Zoom, these words have been spoken again and again. “We’re all in this together.”
I am painfully shy. I am uncomfortable in crowds and especially in groups of people I don’t know very well. Some of you may be surprised by this revelation, although some of you will not be. It began about the time I reached junior high. I often got tongue-tied when called upon in class so I rarely spoke up. I avoided parties. And I didn’t have many friends. It was difficult to get to know others and for them to get to know me. In fact, some of the older guys at my school gave me a nickname: “Oddball”.
Use your Signature Strengths to improve your life, building on positives and learning from the negatives but don’t neglect your other character strengths. If fact, you can use your signature strengths to practice and build up your lesser strengths to better use all of the strengths.
Signature Strengths are one of the foundational principles of positive psychology. Early proponents, including Martin Seligman, Chris Peterson, and others, combed through the wisdom literature of many of the world’s religions and philosophies. They identified six “virtues” that were common across all the cultures and thinking, ancient and modern, that they examined.
Then they identified 24 ways the six virtues are lived out. These they called strengths. We all embody all 24 of the strengths but we rely on and use our top 5 or 6 strengths more often and more naturally.
There are six facts about positivity — discovered through rigorous laboratory experiments — that can help you understand the importance and the pull of positive emotions. A thorough grasp of these facts starts you on an upward spiral.
We are living in dark times, some say, troubling times. But remember it isn’t the event that troubles us, makes us sad or angry or afraid; it’s our judgement of the event. For many of us, the world is a far different place than we’ve ever seen before. We could easily slip into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and emotions. Some wisdom from neuroscientist and author Dr. Alex Korb might be helpful.
Consciously choosing the values you want to shape your life and then taking steps to base your actions on your values leads to joy, contentment, and feelings of well-being.
Facing A Choice
It was date night for Martha and her husband and she had been looking forward to it all week; an evening when they could pay attention to each other and re-connect. But at 4:00 PM, her boss came to her with a problem that needed her attention. If she resolved this issue, it would be a feather in her cap and add to her chances for a promotion.
David has the opportunity to take an online class, paid for by his company, that would improve a key skill. But the class is every Saturday morning for two months – the same time he usually reserves for his two young children.
Allen got a substantial raise. He is having a difficult time choosing between increasing his contribution to his retirement account or buying a new car he’s had his eye on for a while.
We are faced with decisions every day. And occasionally they are hard ones to make. It helps to consider our values when we make the hard choices. Thus it is useful to know what our values are.
Tolerating things, people, situations, and environments holds you back from making changes to improve your life. Eliminating tolerations clears the way to creating your Excelerated Life™.
What was wrong with me? Although I was constantly busy, I couldn’t get anything accomplished. I bounced from one task to another, but there was always something that prevented me from finishing what I wanted to do.
So I decided to do an experiment. I had been reading Thomas Leonard’s book on personal coaching, The 28 Laws Of Attraction, and one of the chapters, “Step 15: Tolerate Nothing”, had caught my attention. Tolerations, Leonard said, are “things that bug us, sap our energy, and could be eliminated!” [Leonard]
And that, I thought, pretty much summed up what I was dealing with. Perhaps it was time to start eliminating tolerations.
Change your perspective and the way you think about and deal with irritations and you can transform your behavior from reacting in anger and frustration to responding mindfully with love. Choose your response to irritations with care.
“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way. The way we learn those lessons is not to deny the feelings but to find the meanings underlying them.” ~ Stanley Lindquist
Have you ever admired an exquisite pearl necklace, each lustrous pearl perfect in shape and shimmering iridescence? Do you know how pearls are made? Natural pearls are created when an irritant, a grain of sand or bit of stone, gets inside the shell of a mollusk. The mollusk reacts to the irritant by coating it with a substance to reduce the irritation.
Over time, as layer upon layer is added, a pearl is formed. The source of a natural pearl is irritation. The mollusk responds to the irritation by creating something of beauty and value.
The “rugged individual” is a false ideal. We are social animals who have evolved to bond with and depend on other human beings. Our attitude and actions can improve the quality of our relationships or cause them to deteriorate.
A story from India about relationships :
A young woman married and went to live with her husband. Her mother-in-law also lived in the house.
It didn’t take long for the young woman to discover that it was nearly impossible to get along with her mother-in-law, a critical and mean-spirited woman, able to find something wrong with anything the young wife did. They constantly argued and bickered, even though custom dictated that the mother-in-law was to be treated with respect.
Finally, the young wife reached the breaking point. She went to see one of her father’s old friends, a dealer of herbs, wise to the ways of the world. There she poured out her sad story about the situation that had become unbearable to her. She asked if he could give her a poison that would solve her problem once and for all.
True acceptance brings perspective and power. Power to make a change. Or the power to face a situation you cannot change. And perspective to know which it is.
“What you resist, persists.” ~ Carl Jung
The First Step
A daughter has a stroke and her life changes forever. A loved one is diagnosed with cancer. A son is stricken with a debilitating disease and becomes disabled. A spouse has become disoriented by dementia and has to be placed in long-term care. A child commits suicide.
How does one cope with difficult life changes such as these? How do you begin to put the pieces of your life back together? One of the first steps is acceptance.