About 12 years ago, shortly after I purchased my first business, I decided to enlist the help of a personal coach. She had a calm but impatient zero-BS way about her that I liked immediately. At one point, she introduced an exercise that changed my thinking about focus and energy forever.


You might laugh because many people are already very good at this. I was not.


What are Your Tolerations?

Tolerations are the small (and not-so-small) stressors you put up with daily. Things you try to ignore, or deal with later, and in so doing, they add to your daily burden. Not unlike feeling you must “get your ducks in a row” before you can start anything, tolerations hold you back because they drain your sense of agency– putting up with them makes it feel like the world is doing things to you, even on purpose.


First, Hunt Them Down

List 50 tolerations and try really hard not to stop until you do. My list included:

  • a leaky faucet
  • uneven floor under my chair
  • a refrigerator that clunks
  • a drafty window in my office
  • a broken wiper on my car
  • huge pile of papers on my desk


These are things that bothered me daily. They were salient and aggravating. Once I got going, the list grew quickly, until I ran out of steam around 35. Trying to get all the way to 50 started feeling ridiculous.


By putting them to paper, I acknowledged them, and started to get clear on what actually bothered me and what didn’t. Some things, really, aren’t even worth a thought, it turns out. Who knew?


Second, Choose One and Kill It

I walked outside, in the rain and opened the hood of my car to see if I could determine why my wiper stopped working. If I had to take it to the mechanic, so be it. I didn’t. Loose bolt + socket wrench = fixed.


One toleration down. Agency restored.


The best part is what happened next. I started feeling like my reaction to the things I tolerate was the problem, not the other way around. I didn’t look back at that list more than a few times before throwing it away. I got pretty good at eliminating tolerations as I saw fit. I didn’t let them drain me.


What’s on your list? Write them down. Then pick one and do something about it.