Tolerations are enemies of progress. We are aware of them subconsciously and they steal energy from us. What are they? In coaching terms they are unfinished tasks, incomplete projects, unspoken words, and uninitiated conversations.
Tolerations irritate us, annoy us, and allow us to feel bad about ourselves for not taking action. We put up with them rather than exert the energy to clean them up. Tolerations may take us out of our comfort zone or they may be unpleasant. But most importantly, tolerations are things we avoid completing.
Cleaning them up often takes far less time than the time we spend berating ourselves for not taking care of them. Ironically, we feel so much better when the toleration is taken care of we may ask ourselves “Why didn’t I do that sooner?”
Here is a personal example. Shortly after my sister, Barbara, passed away a very dear friend of hers asked me if I would send to her a picture of Barbara. I had every intention of honoring her request but I never got around to it. Over the years I thought many times “I should really get that picture off to Debbie” but I didn’t. I would feel bad about not doing it, but not enough to take action. Finally, 15 years later (yes, 15 years), I took the 30 minutes to find, package, and mail the picture to her friend.
After I completed the task, I felt as though a huge burden had been lifted. “Why did I wait so long to do that?” I asked myself. I could come up with a hundred reasons and justifications. The most honest explanation was I just wasn’t ready to do it. My sister’s friends’ response was so gratifying. She posted the photo on Facebook and told me she would treasure it for the rest of her days.
Over those 15 years I can guarantee I spent a lot more than 30 minutes agonizing, berating myself, and feeling bad for not mailing the picture. Completing that toleration has inspired me to clean up other tolerations.
Here are examples of common tolerations:
Cleaning out the “junk” drawer
Not cleaning out the car, closet, garage, etc.
Not having a will or advanced directives
A messy desk
A drawer full of makeup you don’t use
Dog poop in the yard
Scheduling doctor/dentist appointments
An unbalanced checkbook
Friends who only focus on themselves
Not repairing clothes, shoes, handbags
Unreturned items on loan
Interestingly, tolerations can be particularly troublesome when we stop working. After all, there is time to deal with those incomplete tasks, right? Yes and no. When given the opportunity to focus on fun things that could not be done while working, tolerations may actually increase in retirement as traveling, playing golf and having fun take precedence.
Sometimes cleaning up tolerations is as simple as identifying which tolerations need to be addressed and setting a deadline for handling them. But some tolerations may require identifying what factors inhibit their completion.
Often, tolerations persist because we are missing information to complete the task. We may not know where or how to dispose of an item. We may not have thought through what we want to say in a conversation or the outcome we want.
The key is to figure out what is needed to complete the task and set up a deadline for completion. Find an accountability partner, let them know what you are doing and contact them when the toleration has been eliminated.
“I don’t have enough time” is a common excuse can be remedied by scheduling the clean-up of tolerations. If the toleration is large or complex, break it down into manageable chunks and schedule the time to work on completing the identified chunks.
If tolerations include having a difficult conversation, bookending is a great way to get through the situation. Bookending consists of having a conversation with someone you trust before the difficult interaction and again immediately afterwards. By doing this, you will receive support and encouragement both before and after the interaction.
While cleaning up tolerations may not seem like a big deal, I can guarantee you will feel differently, and better, after you get started.