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  • Writer's pictureNat McDonald

What are you tolerating?

I’m currently updating my coaching qualifications undertaking an Advanced Diploma in Life, Professional & Executive coaching. Asides from focusing on the tools, techniques and best practices in coaching there is a really strong emphasis on reflection. So this morning I was reflecting on a full day of sessions that took place yesterday. One thing that really sparked my interest was a discussion about "tolerating".

The simple question was posed:

What are you tolerating?

The first thing I immediately thought was … not much.

(Defensive maneuver - as if the question must be for others !?!)

So once I got past that, I decided there was honestly nothing that I’d consider major, but a whole lot of small to medium impact things I could identify like..

  • Clutter around the house

  • Some unfinished short online courses.

  • My last minute approach to preparing social media content that eats up time

  • An extremely messy teenage bedroom

  • A couple of extra kilograms

  • Constant negative media exposure

  • A tendency I have towards procrastination

  • Uncertainty about being able to travel (I have family in Australia so that concerns me)

  • Lack of any kind of social life as we previously knew it due to restrictions

And it went on and on...

According to Merriam-Webster when we tolerate something “we allow it to be, or to be done, without prohibition, hindrance or contraction”. “Allow”, “let” and “permit'' are considered synonyms of “tolerate". When we are tolerating something we are effectively choosing to put up with it.

This definition made me wonder - is tolerating the same as accepting? My understanding is that accepting is generally a step beyond tolerating. When you accept something you come to recognise the reality of the situation without attempting to change it or protest. So if I picked the first simple example from my list - clutter - I’d say I’m tolerating it as I’ve taken the position “I will live with some clutter” even though I prefer a less cluttered environment. If I was of the mindset that “clutter is OK and inevitable in my situation” then I think that would be acceptance.

This would mean you can tolerate something without accepting it, but not the other way around.

Anyway, back to tolerating: I’ve come to realise that most of us have learned to tolerate a LOT. We put up with, take on, and are dragged down by behaviours (our own and others), situations, unmet needs, crossed boundaries, unfinished business, frustrations and problems. All of this sucks energy - even the little things are draining.

Almost certainly you are tolerating more than you think.

So here's an interesting exercise: Take a few minutes to list out on a piece of paper the things you sense you are tolerating. You could list points under sub-headings like:

  • Work: Condition, culture, reward, co-workers etc

  • Others: Spouse, family, friends etc

  • Yourself: Behaviours, attitudes, habits, self-talk etc

Assuming you've done this an important point to close on:

You don’t necessarily need to do anything “actively” about the things you tolerate.

Definitely take a look at them and think through their consequences. Any major areas that are having a significant impact on your well-being will almost certainly benefit from a plan to address - a focus on what is wanted rather than what is not wanted.

But there’s also solid evidence that the act of simply articulating what you are tolerating brings these things to the front of your mind and as you become more aware of them you “naturally” begin to handle or resolve many of them, particularly the smaller things.

So go ahead and give it a try. What are you tolerating?

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