In today’s uncertain world, many people are adjusting to working from home for the first time, managing their children’s learning online and struggling to deal with the emotions the current COVID-19 crisis is presenting. We are all overwhelmed, stressed, panicked and slowly going stir crazy.
Some people are using the extra time at home to break out the cleaning supplies and put on their organizational hats to tackle closets, but I invite you to do the same type of spring cleaning for your mind.
We tolerate a lot in our lives. But until you fully understand what you are putting up with, accepting, and taking on in your life, you may not see how these things are dragging you down.
What are you Tolerating?
Over 20 years ago, I was riding the train home from my job as a trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It was one of the first really nice days of the season, and it was Friday afternoon! By all accounts, I should have felt great, but I didn’t. There was no reason for these feelings. My career was on target. My personal life was where I wanted it to be. I was in a satisfying, loving relationship, and we had a lovely home together. On the surface, there should be no reason for my discontent.
I decided to tackle the issue head on to figure out why I was feeling despair. The next morning, I went to Starbucks, got a cup of coffee and sat down with pen and paper. I began to make a list of all of the things that were not working in my life. What was I tolerating that I considered “not ideal”? The first two items on my list were:
- Waking up to an alarm clock.
- Working five days a week.
I immediately realized how silly my list sounded. Working five days a week was just part of being a member of corporate America. And since I liked to meditate for an hour before going to work, I’d always have to rise to an alarm. I started to tear up my list, but something stopped me. Instead, I kept writing. I tried to think of all the things – big and small – that I had started (or meant to start) but hadn’t completed, as the list just kept flowing. It included basic tasks like resoling a pair of shoes to major exasperations such as not being able to stand office politics. In total, I had 232 tolerations. Yes, you read that correctly.
Needless to say, I left Starbucks feeling worse than I had when I arrived. I felt overwhelmed because I thought my life was pretty good, until I realized there were a lot of things I needed to turn around. So, I took action. I group my tolerations into categories and took the following week off of work to start tackling this list. I ended up knocking out over 100 tolerations in that time, from small house projects to getting those shoes resoled to writing a letter to my aunt. At the end of the week, I felt much lighter.
I had tackled the easy stuff and when it came time to deal with my work category of tolerations, I realized it was time for a career change. I knew I would need to create my own company in order to work the hours I wanted, surrounded by people I wanted to be around, to avoid the type of office politics that drove me crazy and most importantly, engage in the type of work I knew I would find most meaningful. That’s what got me thinking about coaching as a profession, and Jody Michael Associates was born three years later.
What is a Toleration?
If you are like most people, you are tolerating more than you think. These tolerations could include behavior, beliefs, attitudes, habits, external situations, unmet needs, crossed boundaries, mounting clutter, frustrations, uninvited challenges and other people’s behavior. The list can go on and on, like it did for me.
Start to lighten your load and free up your time and energy simply by making a list. Don’t worry – you don’t have to do anything about what’s on it just yet. Just becoming aware of and articulating these tolerations will bring them to the forefront.
A toleration is:
- Anything that is not working in your life
- Anything that’s broken and needs to be fixed
- Anything that you’ve started, but haven’t completed
- Anything that you’ve been meaning to start, but haven’t yet
- Anything that annoys, irritates, stresses or drains you
- Anything you’re putting up with
- Anything you hate doing, but have to do anyway
- Anything you want, but don’t have
- Anything that is disorganized and cluttered
- Any negative emotion that you dwell in
- Any rumination or thought that is repeated and debilitating
- Anything that you want to do, but are not doing
- Any communication or correspondence that needs to be delivered
- Anything you don’t use that needs to be given or thrown away
- Any negative habits that don’t serve you
- Any characteristics of a person that you tolerate (not the person)
- Any person who drains you
- Any aspect of a relationship that you dislike
- Anything you say “yes” to, but should say “no” to
- Anything in your immediate environment that doesn’t serve you
- Any rigidity around attitudes, beliefs and values that you hold on to that doesn’t serve you well
Lighten your Load
Whether we are conscious of our tolerations or not, we are subconsciously carrying all of those to do items or failed assignments with us every day, and it’s a heavy load. As we become more accustomed to carrying tolerations, we may not notice them as much because our brain constantly prioritizes and files, but we can hold on to them for years.
Imagine that you just had your house painted and two weeks later, someone accidentally scuffs the paint on the wall. You can’t get the mark off, and it makes you crazy every time you see it. So, you call the painter and ask him to fix it, but he’s on vacation for a month. You tell yourself you’ll deal with it then. You never stop seeing that scratch on the wall but its impact diminishes over time. In the first few days, it’s highly annoying; a week later it’s annoying; two weeks later sometimes you notice it and other times you don’t; a month later you may not even see it anymore except every once in a while. It doesn’t mean it’s gone, though.
Why Face Tolerations Now?
Honing in on your tolerations while our world is going through a crisis may seem trivial, but it’s actually the perfect time to take our focus away from worrying about things we cannot control and to actually tackle the things we can. As you take on and complete those small accomplishments, those things you never had time for before, you’ll feel better. Instead of being scattered in free-floating anxiety, constantly scrolling through social media and drinking wine in your pajamas all day, this is a pragmatic and tangible exercise you can do to feel better every day. In fact, some of my coaching clients say dealing with their tolerations has been life changing.
Get an Accountability Buddy
One way to help tackle your tolerations is by identifying an accountability buddy to partner with for this exercise. Pick a day of the week for a touch-base. Zoom or FaceTime works great for this as we continue to social distance. Run through the tasks you were able to complete this week, and encourage each other to solve problems systemically so that they don’t reappear on your lists in the future. Don’t ever delete something from your list, just mark it as completed. All of those completed items will one day show you just how far you’ve come!
JMA can be a third accountability buddy for you right now. If you would like information on our free Tolerations exercise and how to get started, fill out this form.