Dealing with Small Things that Drain Your Energy: Ask Madeleine

Propeller with barnaclesLast week, I responded to a question about putting up with way too much. I introduced the idea of tolerations, those small, seemingly inconsequential things that drain your energy. They have a way of accumulating like barnacles on a ship—a few aren’t a problem, but layers and layers over the years take a toll on a vessel’s speed and performance. Even well-adjusted, extremely successful people have tolerations, often quite a few. Why? We accrue tolerations for the following reasons:

We want to keep up a good attitude. We don’t recognize that we have them or how much they are bothering us. To admit we are tolerating a lot may feel like whining or complaining. Dwelling on tolerations and complaining about them without taking action would be negative. To tell the truth about what’s bugging you is not complaining, it is exposing your legitimate gripes to harsh light, and creating an environment in which you can eliminate them.

It’s too hard to get rid of them. We feel it’s going to take too much time, be too inconvenient, or cost too much money to eliminate our tolerations. Because the need to take care of tolerations is a constant, like maintaining your fitness level or caring for another, we are afraid that once we start down that road, it will never end. In fact, that’s true. Like fitness, maintaining a toleration-free life is a lifestyle, a series of active, committed choices. The result of these consistent choices is a lot more energy to put toward what is important to you. Instead of focusing on how much it costs you to rid yourself of tolerations, you need to consider the cost of not taking care of them over the long run.

We don’t know how to get rid of them. Sometimes a toleration is so big, or so overwhelming, that we can’t imagine how to get rid of it. So we reconcile ourselves to powering through and living with it instead. The hold-your-breath-and-clench-your-jaw approach can get you through in the short term, but it’s a tough act to keep up indefinitely.

We feel that we don’t deserve to address what we are tolerating or that we are not worth spending the necessary time and/or money on. We feel that we should be selfless, more charitable, less demanding. This is connected to how you see yourself; the story you tell yourself about what you do and do not deserve.

Give Yourself Permission

Every time I work with a client or a group on tolerations I see the faces light up with the possibility of sloughing off a bunch of little annoyances. The vast improvement in quality of life is worth taking the time, spending the money, getting help with a problem, or simply giving yourself permission to make that list and start crossing things off it. Start right now. Grab a piece of paper and just start writing down everything that you are tolerating—and don’t forget the dripping faucet in the kitchen!

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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