Who knew that a simple, easy turn of a new pepper mill could bring such delight and joy to my life? This weekend I bought a fabulous new mill from a well-informed woman in a delightful cook shop in Alfreston, who provided a wealth of information to help me make a good choice for my budget. The next morning, as I turned the mill just slightly, spicy sprinkles of black pepper rained upon my poached egg and I looked up at hubby with a big smile. Why on earth had we put up with our dysfunctional, irritating pepper grinder for so long, when a simple purchase such as this could improve our culinary pleasures forever?
This got me thinking about how much we put up with, how much we tolerate. Why is it that we let things just slide by? We seem to have a mountain of ‘must-get-to’ tasks, which are like barnacles on the bottom of our boat - they mount up and slow us down. Those things we keep meaning to sort out that take up vast amounts of energy and for which we end up creating all kinds of coping strategies to get round. Imagine freeing yourself from those energy-drainers and sailing more smoothly through life…
In coaching, we often refer to these time wasters as tolerations. These are things that irritate us because we know they need to be done, or sorted, or changed, but we haven’t done anything about them. The problem is that having a lot of tolerations nagging at us and playing on our mind can be exhausting. Deciding what we need to do about tolerations becomes a lot easier when we clarify WHY we are not doing anything about them. In some circumstances a toleration does not need to be sorted or removed, but needs to be 'reframed.' A reframe means that we find a way to change our perception from negative to positive.
Here are some of the reasons why we let tolerations continue to exist, and what may need to be done to overcome the obstacles.
1. I don’t have the time
This is a classic, and we all fall into this one. This is really about what we are prioritising in our lives. Here it’s helpful to schedule a chunk of time each week for things that we REALLY want to do but that never quite have the will to move to the top of the priority list. The other way to look at it is to accept that they are not important, that we don't really care about them, and then no longer allow them to bother us. So here, we are re-framing.
2. I don’t have the supplies or resources to get it done
List what you need and add it to your shopping list or borrow from someone who does. Once you get the supplies you need, place them near where they will be needed and schedule a time to use them.
3. This means doing something I don't enjoy
What do you think is worse, doing something you don’t enjoy for a short time, or putting up with and enduring something for the long-term? Decide. Then either do the task anyway, or look to reframe the toleration as the lesser of two evils that, and as such you accept it as your choice. Then quit moaning about it.
4. It’s just too complicated
When something seems complex, it needs to be untangled. Break it down into bite-sized pieces and look at what needs to be done, and then decide what the absolute first step is. Take it. Then take the next step, one at time. Smaller steps are easier to handle. If you’re really stuck, ask for help.
5. I don’t want to consider the alternatives
Have you really looked at all your options, or are you stuck in some weird comfort zone of ‘no choice’ and putting up with stuff? What are the other choices you have? Explore those options with a friend or coach, and you may see an alternative view.
6. There are some things I just can’t change
First, consider the alternatives. If you really cannot change the circumstances, carefully review the situation to find some advantages. There must be a reason you put up with whatever it is. Look at reframing situation in light of those advantages so that it becomes a plus instead of a minus. Again, change how you think about that situation.
7. Maybe I get something out of this that I don’t recognise?
Perhaps there’s a more profound reason why you’re not getting something done, for example as a silent rebuke to another person in the household. Perhaps its state of’ ‘undoneness’ provides a familiarity that we seek. There are many reasons for not doing things that lie beneath consciousness. Try and explore it and be open and non-judging to what comes up.
8. I don’t know how to do it
There’s always a resource somewhere…a friend or relative, online, a DVD or book, or maybe pay someone to do the task - and watch closely so you can it next time.
9. The task is physically difficult/impossible for me to do
Try, you may be more capable than you think. And if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it
10. I haven’t decided how to do it/what colour it should be/where it goes/what it should look like..
.Give yourself a deadline to make the decision by. Often, we delay our decision-making because we fear that we will make a mistake. Have faith in your own judgment. You know far more than you give yourself credit for.
If you would like to get on top of those tolerations, try this exercise. It’s not a quick fix but something to be worked on over a period. In fact, working on your tolerations in an effective way becomes a way of doing life.
Start by asking yourself:
- Why do I have tolerations in my life?
- How do they really work for me?
- Am I ready to find other, more positive sources of energy?
- What would it mean to have no tolerations?
Then, write down all your tolerations (and keep adding to the list as you think of them). Don’t worry or concern yourself with how you’re going to resolve the matter. Just put them down on paper, the solution will come. Next, look at pivotal tolerations. These refer to something you are putting up with that, when handled, will resolve about five other tolerations automatically. So, for example, getting a well-paid job means improving your lifestyle, having financial freedom to take on new learning, getting a mortgage and so on. Then, look at handling the source. Look at the toleration and then see how by handling the source of the problem you can eliminate that toleration coming back again. For example, putting WD40 on a hinge may stop is squeaking for a while, but will replacing the whole hinge help eliminate the source of the problem?
To help you start to look at this, break it down in to several areas of your life:
Your Home: make a list of at least five things you are putting up with around your home, whether or not you see a solution to each item. Write down what you are most tolerating, whether they’re big or small. (Ideas: mess/clutter; things that need fixing; drafts; appliances that are broken; space too small; worn furniture etc.)
Your Family/Community: as above, write down at least five things here (e.g. I need to communicate more with X; improve ways I respond to my family; I always act like this with X friend; missing regular company of Y-type of people; acquaintances or neighbours you don’t get on with etc.)
Your work life: think about your daily tasks, clients or situations at work you deal with, office clutter/desk mess, lack of productivity in sourcing work; disorganised outlook files, piles of magazines, or other things you have to put up with.
Yourself: emotional or physical tolerations you put up with e.g. hair you don’t like; nails that need a manicure; a filling that needs sorting; feeling physically unfit; mentally or emotionally stressed and so forth.
You can also extend this to your environment, so even your journey to work, your local 'space' - e.g. people badly parking in your street, and so on.
So, now you have your list, decide what you're going to start to eliminate. One toleration at a time, or one pivotal toleration. Just start, and before long, you'll be surprised how much you are getting done.
The benefits of this exercise are that you:
- stop trying to manage situations that drain your energy and really don’t need to be in your way
- have more energy to devote to your quality of life and to work on yourself
- grow more quickly because you’re not distracted or weighed down with tolerations as you get to a point of dealing with straight-away when stuff comes up
- you become a model for your ‘community’/family as to what is possible for them in this area
Sometimes, the underlying source of continued tolerations is to avoid taking full responsibility for particular circumstances in your life, but eventually you recognize that this is in large part what is holding you back from achieving your goals.
So basically, by handling the things that you are tolerating, you free up time and energy to devote to a higher quality of life. So, avoid the bump and grind and go for a smoother, toleration-free life. You deserve it!
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain