Posts Tagged ‘tolerations’

Hate it Get Rid of It

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I love cleaning out closets. I get a real rush, too, from going though stacks of papers, folders and magazines and discarding the discardable. There’s nothing like a good clean sweep to make me feel organized, powerful, ready to take on the world. Too bad I make so little time for this kind of activity. Taking on the world will just have to wait.
That’s why I was thrilled when the leader of a coach training class I’m taking gave us an assignment: Tackle your space. Do one room at a time.

But the assignment didn’t stop there. She also told us to make a list of all the things we were tolerating. Anything that creates a little mental “ouch” when we confront it. The fax machine that crunches the first page of each incoming fax. The coat with the hole in the pocket. The dental checkup we’ve postponed nine months. The non-self-defrosting refrigerator that presents us with a lake on the bottom shelf every few months. The acquaintance who surprises us with prying questions — “How old are you?” and “Are you taking estrogen pills?”

“Dramatically simplify your life,” said the class leader, the whole idea being that if you eliminate what you tolerate — be it mental clutter or the clutter under your bed — you will be clearing out space for what is truly important in your life. You are strengthening what coaches call your personal foundation. And it is from this foundation that you springboard onward to bigger, better, more meaningful things.

And sure, sure — it’s great to do a big cleanup once or twice a year like I do. But as we can see from my lack of mention in “Who’s Who,” that has no lasting, dramatic effects. The key is to alter your standards when it comes to what you will or will not tolerate. That means you will have a system for zapping tolerations when they come up, or better still, eliminating their return completely. “Raise your standards and you raise the quality of your life,” says Chrissy Carew, a personal and business coach in Nashua, N.H.

Some of the irritants she’s seen people tackle: plants that need to be repotted, the neighbors’ barking dog, telemarketers who call at dinner time.

I thought I had the telemarketers down pat. As their spiel starts, I just say, “I don’t accept telemarketing calls.” Carew’s advice: Make the extra effort to get yourself taken off the telemarketing phone lists altogether.

And, come to find out, coaches are human too. For Carew herself, one of her own tolerations was cleaning the kitty litter box. A longtime dog owner, she had married into a cat family. “I had a secret anger, but I kept doing it,” she says, until she finally turned the scoop over to her husband and stepson.

Not surprisingly, many women struggle with turning over even the small irritants to others and saying no to activities they may find unpleasant. The way Carew approaches someone who’s stuck in this “yes, OK, fine” mode? She’ll begin by asking, “Would you first be willing to notice every time you say yes when you mean no?” If that goes well, she’ll ask, “Would you be willing to start pausing and counting to 10 silently before you answer?” And then she’ll hit the nail on the head by asking, “If it doesn’t sound compelling or exciting, would you be willing to say no?”

When Carew first asked her Boston client Laura Hyer, 43, to list 40 tolerations, Hyer says she felt quite sure she couldn’t even think of four, since she didn’t think she was tolerating much in her life. “The first three were very hard to discover,” she says.

“The next 57 flowed quite freely. I found that when I really thought about it, I was tolerating everything from a friend who was consistently late to a winter coat with no buttons to an inadequate system of paying my bills.”

How she handled the always-late friend? She learned how to confront the issue — in a neutral, non-accusatory tone. When the friend arrived late once again for their dinner date, in her head Hyer thought “The sky is blue,” and immediately said out loud, “Do you realize you’re late?” That way her spoken words sounded more matter-of-fact, and less like finger-wagging. And the friend started shaping up.