Both of my son’s are highly intelligent, as well as strong minded. One of my sons is extremely strong minded. So when he was two and three years old, I found myself challenged in new and demanding ways. We decided to shift the standards slightly for him. Before he came along the standards were severe — you must sit at the table through the entire meal, you must eat everything on your plate, you must wear clothes at all times, you can not use your loud voice in the house. I think you get the idea. At some point, the standards were reduced to: you can never put scissors in the electrical outlet, you can never run out in the road, you must eat something, anything. Basically, the standards were reduced to keeping this kid alive. Even that shift was not enough to keep my energy levels up and my mental acuity high.
One day I found myself on the couch hollering. Let me pause here and mention: hollering seldom ever helps anyone (your child, your co-worker, your neighbor) develop into anything positive. I knew this, but my exhausted body had settle for sitting on the couch and hollering reprimands to this precious, strong-minded child. As I was yelling out really good uplifting stuff, I thought to myself, “Why is he regressing? It seems like he’s lost ground in this battle of self-discipline.” Then it dawned on me. It wasn’t about him, it was about what I was tolerating. I was tolerating more of his poor behavior, like throwing fits and disregarding others. I wasn’t following through with the things that helped his development. I learned a valuable lesson that day — what I tolerate will cost me more than I really wanted to pay.
That lesson has been repeated my entire adult life. Perhaps I’m a slower learner than I realized. Let me say it again, what we tolerate will cost us more than we ever meant to pay. I was paying for it in big ways that day. It was costing me my sanity, my peace, my joy. All because I had unknowingly arrived at the decision to tolerate.
As you reflect on 2015, what did you tolerate in yourself and in others? Chronic stress, overwhelming fear, excessive anger, negative attitude, inaction, disorganization, guilt for not doing it all, unfinished projects, self-deprecating thoughts, poor communication? What you tolerate drains you. As I stopped tolerating the poor behavior of my young son, things began to improve. I could think more creatively, enjoy the days better, and regain some energy.
Whatever happened in your life in 2015, we can be sure of one commonality: You. You were the common thread in all of those situations, circumstances, moments. That might sound like bad news but it’s really good news. Because you are capable of making different choices, either in your actions or your thoughts or both. Consider making a list of the things you’ve been tolerating for the past year. Write out why you are tolerating that mess, that attitude, that thought process. Devote a day a month to unfinished projects, or an hour a day to focus on learning new skills, or set aside time/money for a weekly session with someone who can help you overcome a specific obstacle. Take the challenge to make a plan that will reduce the list by the end of 2016.
What is the biggest thing you are tolerating right now? What are some actions steps you can take today, each week, and each month to reduce the cost? Cheers to more creativity, better days and more energy in 2016.