Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Are you surfing your wave of tolerations, or drowning in it?

On any day, at any given time, we are tolerating something. It might be a person, a location, a job, a broken household item, an old car, etc. At times, our tolerations propel us forward on a fast current. Other times they hold us in place like a buoy in the middle of the ocean.

What is a toleration?

Tolerations are little tasks, thoughts, people and actions for which we make excuses. “My office is messy because I don’t have time to clean it...because my boss keeps me late…because my kids have practice…because I have too much other stuff to do.” This can quickly become a verbal flood of excuses that eventually drown out the positive aspects of your life.

Understanding the Flood

Beginning with the mind, your list of tolerations expands to overwhelm the items you want to do on your priority list. By not filing your mail or keeping up with routine maintenance, a pile begins. Before long that small pile becomes a mountain that seems too big or time consuming to conquer. Similarly, when you cannot say “no,” your schedule is at risk of becoming a toleration. If you stop allowing time for some of things you want to do, your tolerations sneak in and take over.

Next, your friends become weary of hearing the continuous rushing of excuses for why you haven’t just taken care of what obviously plagues you so much. How much of your conversations seem to be rattling off an excuse list, or a “to-do” list? If your answer is “a lot of the time,” then your toleration list is a long one.

Most severe is when your environment becomes contaminated; your mind, your conversations and your actions are all directed by the swirling list of tolerations that have helped you to forget all the free time you once had. Friendships dissolve as they tire of hearing about all the emergencies. You feel exhausted all the time because you are trying to catch up instead of keeping up and your mental and physical energy suffers, which can affect your mood and self-esteem.

At any point during the flood, you must choose whether you:
1. Put off and continue to perpetuate the flood of overwhelming “to-do’s”
2. Give in and begin checking off tolerations
3. Give up and remove the toleration by making a life shift

Put off

Your first choice is to ignore the flow of frustration and continue putting things off. For every day you choose to push aside your tolerations, the flood coming toward you gains speed. Take yourself back before the wall of tolerations began to take over. Would you have stood in that place and said, “In a year, I hope to be drowning in paperwork, treading water in my relationships and hanging out in a sea of unhappiness?” If you choose to put off your tolerations, you stand here, today, and say that for your future self.

Give in
Sit down and put all of the swirling tolerations down on paper in the form of a checklist. Prioritize which items are high-level tolerations and which are low. Begin to wade through the list one day at a time, conquering an achievable mix of large and small items first. Sometimes it’s just a matter of starting. Many of my clients have noticed that soon, some of the “consistent every-day items” can be taken off the list because they become habitual. Like brushing your teeth in the morning, filing your mail each day can be done without thinking about it.

Give up
Ever felt like you were living in a parallel universe? Sometimes you have to give up to make forward progress. Tolerating an environment, a job or a relationship can be overwhelming. When you begin to notice that most of your energy is wrapped up in one area, it’s typically time for a life shift. Life shifts create the nourishment for new growth. They are also the hardest to make. Ask yourself: are you getting anywhere doing what you are doing? Are your conversations focused on one area of your life? Are you tolerating more than you need to? If so, it’s time for an emotional revolution. Dive in, move past the fear of change and check the biggest toleration off your list.

Building the dam
Tolerations can devour your time and energy, or just nibble at you little by little. Think of each toleration on your list as a small crack in a dam. Each crack that you plug secures all that you’ve worked for from the danger of flooding. As you neglect the dam, cracks re-form and water will flow through. Neglect it long enough and you will be frantic to make large repairs. Neglect it for too long and it will break, washing you away with it.

If you need to, call in help. Sometimes you need an assistant, a bookkeeper, a maid, a therapist, a mechanic, etc. Whoever it is that can help you take care of your list, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. There is no weakness in asking for help - even if it’s only in the form of support from friends and family as you tackle this list.

Enjoy the view
Each time you take care of a toleration, reward yourself. It’s hard work! Experience the beautiful calm as you get things done and enjoy the free time you gain. Managing your tolerations allows for a quiet mind, a life with little to no unwanted surprises and a more relaxed lifestyle. If you’re tired of the storm over the ocean, maybe it’s time to buy the house on the lake. Enjoy the view.

No comments: