A Different Take on Eliminating Tolerations
by Connie Vanderzanden
Tolerations. We all have them.
They show up in the work we do – whether that is as an entrepreneur, an employee, or a stay-at-home parent.
They show up in our relationships – our love life, our friendships, our team, even in our relationship with money.
First, one tiny toleration creeps in. We just don’t think much of it, but that’s when it’s got you!
Then another one.
By now, the door is open for more to enter. Even if it’s a small opening, there is still enough room for the toleration to creep on in!
Individually, they seem so small and insignificant, we just don’t realize the power they can have over our lives. Combined, they can really bring us down – physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, financially.
For me, I know I’ve hit my toleration limit when I’m no longer able to find my joy. Tolerations have shut-off my creative muse. Work swirls on my desk and the piles of paper get higher.
I’m tired and find that I want to crawl into my hidey-hole. Which means I’m not connecting, I’m not selling, and I’m not providing the level of customer service that I know I am capable of.
My business slows down. At first, this doesn’t even seem like a “thing.” Then a day of hiding turns into a week. Then a month. At the end of the quarter, you look back at your calendar, your cash flow, and wonder, what the holy hell is going on?!
I recently found myself in this place as I grieved the closure of a 19-year-old business. The process was drawing out further than my comfort zone would allow, and I was having some problems pulling myself out of the downward spiral.
That’s when the universe reminded me of a tool that I have used in the past with amazing success.
This exercise has shown up in a variety of coaching programs over the last few years. The first time I did the exercise I thought it was odd. My inner “good girl” did not want to call those tolerations out. Who was I to complain?
Once I got past that “odd” feeling, it was one of the most freeing exercises I have ever done! After crafting the list I felt lighter. An unseen weight had been lifted from me and I felt I was back in the driver’s seat of my own life.
Try the exercise yourself. Here’s how:
- Grab a piece of paper – pen to paper is the best.
- Set a timer and start writing. Every little thing goes on the list. Remember, this is just for you – no one will see it.
- Find the top 10 items that would make the biggest difference in your life if you stopped putting up with them.
- Take action – even small steps to resolving your tolerations will make a difference
Maybe you recognize this exercise or have even done it before. As I said, many coaches use it as part of their programs. However, I find that although listing out your tolerations is quite cathartic, it stops short of resolving the issues… and the instruction to “take action” to eliminate them is pretty vague.
It’s time to create a new set of boundaries, a new way of interacting with the world.
If you are feeling this is about blowing up all the things you are frustrated about, pull back on that first instinct. Venting will lead to emotions that can cloud the process of setting a firm boundary. Here are four strategies for resolving your tolerations for you to try.
Identify the Benefits
Grab that trusty journal and start exploring the benefits. These are some questions I find helpful:
What payoff are you getting? Is it really something substantial? Or simply that you get to avoid standing up for yourself and/or your values? How does tolerating it add to the comfort of your life?
Perhaps some examples to get you started:
- Customer who consistently crosses the line with after-hours texts and calls, we get to avoid having a conversation that makes us feel uncomfortable.
- Debt increases, almost magically, when we avoid the deeper reasons for why we spend. Especially if that spending is to fill an unspoken need in our lives.
Time to Raise Your Standards and Quality of Life
How do you ultimately want to be treated? This part of the process is you drawing a line in the sand and screaming, NO MORE! Moving forward you are no longer willing to accept this behavior, allow these items to pile up, or to lower your quality of life.
This may seem harsh, but definitely a good visual example. Consider, how many seconds you’ll allow someone to be boring before you redirect or stop their routine? Or how many hours or days you’ll invest in a thorny project before you tell yourself, “Enough. Too expensive. Move on.”
Face the Fear
The same goes for whatever risk you run in ridding yourself of the toleration.
Yes, I said risk!
One of my examples was tolerating an older car that I didn’t feel totally safe in. My fear was the cost, the cash flow needed to support a new car. It stopped me from exploring the option. (The rest of the story – This hit my toleration list and when I went out to “explore” an option I ended up driving away in a brand new car that same day. It was actually the first car I ever purchased on my own, within my budget and loan approval was easy. Crossing that toleration off my list was one of my biggest accomplishments!)
Time to be honest. What would help quelch that fear? Would super-reserves of time, money, space, etc. help? Quite possibly. But sometimes all it takes is a resolve to not be pushed around by fear.
Embrace the Lesson
I know this seems a little counterintuitive to the entire process, but hear me out.
These tolerations may actually be signaling an area that needs strengthening. Let them be your “seeing-eye dog.” Learn from your tolerations before eliminating them.
Let’s explore the client that consistently ignores time boundaries with calls and texts after hours.
- The benefit is avoiding a difficult conversation, of not being a good girl;
- Fear could be in lost income and the risk that someone may not “like” you;
- The new boundary is to work with clients who are respectful, and willing to pay you well;
- The lesson could be adding a new client guide or process that clearly outlines your availability. During the onboarding process discuss it, or even have a form that you ask them to sign acknowledging it.
Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.
This quote from Helen Keller reminds me to imagine how much more productive I am, how much more joy I have, how much more energy I have when my tolerations are few!
My encouragement and invitation is that if any of this sparked something in you for change, take the action step and schedule 30 minutes with me to talk about what roadblocks you are experiencing. Perhaps I can help shine a light or provide a different perspective!