There’s a spot on the rug. I hate my hair. The dog keeps jumping on the bed. I don’t like the way the phone rings. According to life coach Kristin Taliaferro, owner of KristinCoach.com, women zap their energy by putting up with the multitude of little things that bother them every day–what life coaches call “tolerations.”
Tolerations do more than drain your energy–they also clutter your life to such an extent that you have no time for anything else. “Psychically, you have to create space for new things to show up,” says Taliaferro. “Women’s lives today are so jam-packed that they can’t attract new opportunities. Getting rid of tolerations opens up space so good things can flow in.”
Are you ready to give the boot to the host of little annoyances that plague you each day? I was, so I spoke with Taliaferro and two other toleration-free women to find out how they did it–and how you can, too.
Make a List, Check It Twice
“Grab a pen and jot down the things in your life that bug you to no end,” says Taliaferro. “Aim for 100–and don’t be surprised at how quickly you reach this mark.” When Taliaferro instructed me to compile a lengthy list of my tolerations, I was skeptical–but to my surprise I came up with 65 in under half an hour, and brought the count up to 100 the next day. To think that there are so many little things that cause my blood to boil!
According to Taliaferro, there are several places where tolerations can hide out, so examine each of these areas as you write your list:
Your health: “The most-often ignored area of tolerations is around self-care,” says Taliaferro. “It’s the best place to begin. Once you begin taking great care of yourself, you’ll have the energy to get rid of other tolerations.”
“Every night I’d go to bed and say, ‘I hate this pillow,’” recalls Dawne Knudsen, 41, a mother of two in Moline, Ill., who arranges book signings and other promotional events as an author’s assistant. “Then I’d get up in the morning, go on with my day, and at night I’d say again, ‘I hate this pillow.’” I personally discovered annoyances from bad hair to toenails with chipped polish, plus untreated allergies and a dentist appointment I’d been putting off for well over a year.
Your home: Go through each room in your home seeking out tolerations. “In the kitchen, do you just hate that melted spatula?” says Taliaferro. “How about the pitcher that dribbles when you pour? In the bathroom, does your razor always fall out of the shower caddy?” For me, a collection of empty frames on the sofa table was a longstanding irritation. These frames still contained the original photos from the store, and had been that way for so long that I was starting to think of the strangers in the pictures as family. Taliaferro advised me to hop to it and get my own family photos in those frames.
Your career: “Examine your feelings towards your job, your coworkers, your boss,” says Taliaferro. The cubicle mate who snaps her gum, the coworker who steals your ideas, long hours that cause you to miss your daughter’s soccer games–these are all sapping you of energy every day. “I was having a tough time at my previous job [as a college professor] because it had a lot of interruptions,” says Tami Seitz, 37, a photographer and mother of two in Bettendorf, Iowa.
Your equipment or appliances: “If the equipment you use on a daily basis–like your refrigerator, car, or phone–isn’t in good condition, it can be a big drain on your time and energy,” says Taliaferro. At the top of my list was my cute but temperamental iMac, which wouldn’t shut down all the way unless I actually unplugged it. Next on the list was a car with a gas cap that wouldn’t close properly and iced tea stains on the driver’s seat. For Knudsen, it was a phone that was on the fritz. “I had a telephone that I had to reprogram every day for six months,” she grumbles. “That was a huge toleration.”
Your environment: Can’t tame the paper tiger in your office? Mailbox filled with junk mail? “Informational clutter in our environment steals a lot of our mental energy,” says Taliaferro. My top clutter tolerations were an e-mail inbox overflowing with spam and a magazine subscription I had been forgetting to cancel–for two years.
Your time: Then there are the time-sapping tolerations like traffic jams, train delays, and long lines at the supermarket. Nixing these tolerations is often a simple matter of adjusting your timing–going to the supermarket on Tuesday instead of on Friday after work (when it’s the most crowded), or leaving for your destination ten minutes earlier.
Your relationships: As much as we love them, friends and relatives often have habits that grate on our nerves. “As tough as it is, handling your relationship tolerations can provide tremendous personal relief,” says Taliaferro. Seitz, for example, was tired of people who would call during traditional dinner hours. She would invariably end up talking on the phone while eating–instead of spending quality time with her two daughters. “It bugged me to receive these calls during dinnertime,” Seitz says. “It also bugged me that I was unable to say no or just not pick up the phone.”
Your finances: Debt, confusing bills from the phone company, and the always-irritating lack of money belong in this category. I always have a few pricey projects, like retiling the kitchen floor or reseeding the lawn, that I’d love to take on but for lack of money. And I wanted to eliminate lower-paying writing assignments in favor of more lucrative ones.
Now comes the hard part–crossing your tolerations off the list one by one. Scheduling time to abolish tolerations can be a challenge, but there are many ways to handle it. Some women vow to tackle the tolerations in one room per week. Others eliminate theirs by category–self-care-related tolerations one week, appliance-related the next. “There’s a huge satisfaction when one area of your life is almost perfect,” says Taliaferro.
Some women, like Seitz, concentrate on getting the most irritating tolerations out of the way first. “Another idea is to trade toleration-free days with friends,” Taliaferro says. “One day per week, your group of friends can concentrate on giving the boot to one person’s tolerations.” I decided to keep it simple by ridding myself of ten tolerations in one week, mixing difficult tolerations with easy ones, ones that cost money with ones that were free.
Taliaferro suggests brainstorming three ways of doing away with each toleration For example, I could sew up my torn comforter cover myself, hire someone else to fix it, or buy a new one. I could fix my own messy nails, get a professional manicure, or learn to be happy with ragged cuticles.
One secret to getting a jump on your tolerations is to create a big dent in your list right away. “This launch gives you an energy surge that inspires you to keep going,” says Taliaferro. Or treat yourself to a reward whenever you get rid of a toleration. Not only did I make appointments with the doctor, the dentist, and the hairdresser right away, but I promised myself a dinner in a nice restaurant if I managed to zap ten tolerations in one week. The fact that I took a big chunk out of my list of tolerations in about ten minutes felt great–and the promise of chicken piccata and a luscious dessert didn’t hurt.
“Another motivational trick is to think about how you’ll feel once your tolerations have bitten the dust,” advises Taliaferro. How relaxed will you feel when you don’t have to worry about people calling during dinner? How relieved will you feel when you finally have a new toothbrush and don’t have to look at your old, frayed one twice a day? I imagined how calming it would feel to snuggle under my comforter at night without having to look at that gaping tear.
And keep in mind that getting rid of tolerations is often a small effort that pays off big. Knudsen merely took her faulty phone back to the store and got a new one; for less than an hour of effort, she no longer had to endure feelings of anger whenever she picked up the receiver. Broken window cranks were another toleration Knudsen endured for years until she finally had had enough. “I drove to the hardware store, bought the cranks, drove home, and installed them,” she says. “It took me thirty minutes total, and less than $30.” Talk about a big payoff for a small output!
Cry for Help
Asking your hubby or kids for their support or making a toleration-free pact with a friend can be a big help. “My husband has a place where he likes to put his stuff, and it drives me crazy,” says Knudsen. “I asked him to at least put it in piles instead of in a lump, and he did. When I learned to ask for help, my family was more than willing to cooperate.” And I enlisted my husband’s help in everything from replacing the dead pansies in our window boxes to coming up with a plan to earn more money.
If you can’t get anyone to help–or if you don’t have time to do an at-home manicure or organize your office–it may be time to break open your wallet and delegate to the professionals, advises Taliaferro. “The yard was a big challenge for me,” says Seitz, who had trouble relaxing in her hot tub when her yard was unkempt. “So I called and hired someone to do yard maintenance.” Seitz shelled out for the big jobs–like having the lawn treated for weeds and bugs–and did other yard work on her own.
The Money Question
Sometimes all that stands between us and a toleration-free life is money. After all, not everyone can afford to hire an organizer or buy the magical doodad that will fix all their problems.
Fortunately, many fixes are free; removing that spot from the carpet, training the dog not to jump on the bed, and asking your husband to stop leaving his socks on the floor don’t cost a dime. I sewed up the rip in the comforter cover for nothing. My home manicure cost zilch. And to stop forgetting my friends’ and relatives’ birthdays, I signed up for a free online reminder service. Tami Seitz can use the answering machine to pick up calls and ask people to stop calling her between, say, six and seven p.m.–and eliminate a major toleration at a cost of zero.
For those occasions where tackling tolerations would require an outlay of cash, Taliaferro suggests asking yourself: Will it cost you more to buy a new pitcher or to deal with the daily hassle of a pitcher that drips for the rest of your life? I determined that splurging on a hip new haircut outweighed feeling frumpy every time I looked in the mirror. But when I found out that fixing my recalcitrant computer would cost in the range of $700, I decided that I could live with that toleration after all.
Oh, What a Feeling
Once you start putting the kibosh on your tolerations, it might seem like for every one you eliminate, another one pops up. But soon, you’ll learn how to snag them as soon as they rear their ugly heads, nixing them before they become a drain on your energy. “It’s come to the point where I recognize problems before they become tolerations,” says Knudsen.
When you get into the groove, you’ll start to feel lighter without even going on a diet. “Getting rid of tolerations has helped me more than anything,” says Seitz. “If you don’t have tolerations, you have more energy, and when you have energy, you feel like doing things.”
It’s true–exterminating the tolerations that were demanding so much of my mental energy has made me feel calmer and more together. Now you’ll have to excuse me–once I fix this loose button on my shirt, I can cross another toleration off my list.
By Linda Formichelli. This article originally appeared in Family Circle.