What are you tolerating?

I saw this tweet a few days ago:

“‘What do you want for Mother’s Day?’ my 10 year old asks as he steps over the lacrosse stick he left in the middle of the dining room floor for the past 3 days” by @DomesticGoddss

First, it made me smile and then it reminded me of a conversation that I’d had with a client recently.

Let’s call him John. John described himself as distracted and running low on energy.

‘What do you feel is sapping your energy?’

‘I seem to permanently be in a meeting. In those meetings, we create more work, more action points and then fill up all the time we could be using to do that work. Meetings seem to have become a habit – ‘got a query? call a meeting’ – and we don’t seem to consider whether it’s a good use of time. Impromptu meetings are called at the drop of a hat and it’s just taking all my time.’

‘Have you tried to change the situation?’

‘No … I guess I just try to work round it, take work home, come in early, stuff like that. I haven’t got the energy to tackle it with people so I put up with it.

In coaching, we call these kind of situations ‘tolerations’: issues which bug us but which we’ve learnt to live with. They are irritants which distract us or sap our energy but somehow don’t seem worth dealing with. However, in John’s case, it felt like the ‘stone in his shoe’ of excessive meetings had become a boulder which he really needed to deal with.

‘What’s one thing which you can do to change the situation, John?’

‘I guess the main thing is to find out why we’re having the meetings – to challenge the automatic assumption that we need to have a meeting.’ 

‘So what are you actually going to say?’

‘I think I’ll go with: what’s the purpose of the meeting?’

‘Is there anything else you can do?’

‘I’m going to start blocking time out in my diary for project work to prevent people assuming I must be free for a meeting as there’s nothing in my diary.’

With these two steps, John is taking action to deal with his toleration.

What are you tolerating at work? An unruly filing system? A colleague who never lives up to their promises? People leaving the kitchen in a mess? Or outside work? That wobbly table leg you keep propping up? That niggling noise your car makes on long journeys? Lack of storage in your garden? That lacrosse stick lying on the dining room floor?

Over the next couple of days, notice those instances when you sigh with resignation that the same old thing is happening again. Once you’ve noticed it, see if you can identify one thing you can do to change the situation. For some tolerations, that one step will be sufficient to deal with the issue: other tolerations will take further action.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: what are you tolerating?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’re ready to transform your work or your life, why not email me to see how we can work together?






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2 Responses to What are you tolerating?

  1. Barbara Rogers says:

    Thanks for ‘toleration’ challenge! It’s a big box of either unsorted or unfiled paperwork for bulging filing cabinet. Diversional activity wins. Action: to set aside same half an hour two or three mornings a week to sort just one file section a time with coffee instead of staring into space! Thanks Michelle!

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