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Tolerations can be intolerable

In his book “The Portable Coach,” author Thomas Leonard defines tolerations as annoyances in our lives that bug us, sap our energy … and ultimately could be eliminated if we simply took action.

These annoyances weigh us down, clutter our minds and cause stress. Tolerations usually pile up over time and many of us simply decide to live with them. Rather than addressing these irritations, we step around them, often not even realizing their negative impact on our well-being or how our tolerations actually work to undermine us.

Tolerations show up in all areas of our work and home lives. Examples include:

  • At home: clutter, items needing repair or painting, credit card debt and the unmet needs of our pets such as overdue trips to the vet.

  • With people we know: energy drainers, relationships that aren’t working and those who keep poor personal boundaries.

  • At work: unclear expectations, poor communication and a lack of systems.

  • With our own workloads: piles on the desk, group emails that aren’t relevant and overdue deadlines.

  • In our personal lives: failing to exercise, overspending, a poor diet, insufficient sleep, negative self-talk and saying “yes” when we want to say “no.”

When we stop putting up with even small annoyances in our lives, we create space for more important aspects of living. Eliminating tolerations gives us more zest, more freedom and elevated confidence.

So what can all of us do to eliminate tolerations? Here are some tips:

  • Look around and make a list of at least 25 aspects of your life or specific annoyances that are draining you. What’s stopping you from reaching your personal and professional goals? What’s sapping your energy or preventing you from being your best self? These are your tolerations. An important first step in addressing them is identifying them.

  • Rank your tolerations in order of their complexity. Which ones can you change or eliminate right away? Which tolerations will take more effort?

  • Start eliminating the easy tolerations now. This will give you energy and momentum to tackle the more complex ones later.

  • Set a timeline to finish your list, including both the easy and more difficult tolerations. Be reasonable about how much time and what efforts you will need to take to get this job done. But challenge yourself, too, and certainly commit to finishing the job.

  • As you work through eliminating your tolerations, recognize the benefits of doing so. Make a point to notice and enjoy your newfound energy and peace of mind.

  • Repeat this process as needed, as it likely will be needed again. New annoyances pop up all the time. Committing to addressing them instead of simply tolerating them is part of ensuring that you don’t fall back into the tolerations trap.

We all experience tolerations in our lives. None of us is likely to eradicate them forever. But if we can identify tolerations when they arise, we can work to eliminate them, making ourselves more productive and happier.

Pam Solberg-Tapper

Pam Solberg-Tapper, president of Coach for Success Inc., is a Duluth-based executive coach, professional speaker and adventure marathoner. For questions or to submit questions or ideas for future columns, please contact her at or (218) 729-0772.