About 25 years ago was when I began to consciously try to learn about and develop myself. I had been on a journey or sorts since I was in college, but this was when I took a deep dive. I was starting my consulting business and I had just had my first child. I began to actively search out ways to know myself better. The internet was only 9 years old—relatively young. But it provided some great places to learn. I began to “discover” a whole new world of wonderful resources. You can’t see me, but I just put bunny ears around the word discover because in truth, these resources found me.
My favorite tried and true way to learn from others is from books. Still is. And I have an rather interesting, unwritten rule regarding books. When a book falls near me (or on me), or is mis-shelved when I’m looking for something else or keeps coming up in conversation then I consider it a sign I must read it. End of story.
At no surprise to me, books have been flinging themselves off the shelf at me my whole adult life. Two very important books did just this. One book that hurled itself at me which led me to 20 plus year of inspiration was by Jennifer Louden. It was the “The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life: Create All That You Need with Just What You’ve Got.” The second was a significant mis-shelving of a book by Cheryl Richardson entitled, Take Time for Your Life—one of the first coaching books out there. Both of these landed for me and were so incredibly timely.
Today’s podcast is going to focus on Cheryl’s book but I’m sure I’ll be referring to Jennifer’s many books in podcast to come.
Take Time for Your Life is packed with great ideas . . . some now rather commonplace but at the time were new and exciting. One of her exercises changed everything for me. She asked me, her reader, to take a look at what I was tolerating and/or avoiding. To make a list. When I answered this question . . . wowie, was I shocked.
In today’s podcast we’re going to talk about this. I’m going to be asking you the same question Cheryl asked me all those years ago.
Drains on Your Energy
The whole premise of my work, and the work of most life and wellness coaches, is to teach or at least remind clients, listeners and readers that we all must make deliberate choices in our thinking and in our actions to create a life that is satisfying and healthy. We’re allowed to do this. We can do this. We must do this.
Life by Design’s vision statement is as follows “Everyone designs and lives their most beautiful life.” The reason I hold such a lofty vision is because this is the only way our world can be healthy. A healthy world is made up of healthy individuals. And the way to be healthy, is to love the life you have. And to have a life you love, most of us must make deliberate choices and take deliberate actions. We must live intentional, deliberate lives.
Going deeper means assessing what we’re doing in the present moment and either deciding to keep doing those things or to stop and make some adjustments or tweaks.
This brings to me to Cheryl Richardson’s wonderful book.
In one chapter she wrote about tolerations. She asked, “What are you tolerating right now that is draining your energy.” She proposed we all likely have energy leaks. Like I said, this may be old news now but at the time, it felt revolutionary to me anyway.
These leaks we have are expending energy, wasting energy, in ways and in places that aren’t serving us. We waste energy by tolerating things which annoy us or take us down.
I have a little disclaimer now. I haven’t read her section on toleration in many years so I may be paraphrasing her badly or adding in things from others (or myself). But who cares? It’s all good! All of this may be an amalgamation of Cheryl, me and every other author I’ve ever read. As things get synergized, they get muddled. But this is how I’m remembering her book.
So, going on . . . everything takes energy or gives us energy. It might not be fair to say we all have a finite amount of energy, but I will speak for me personally, I feel I do. I have a certain amount of energy for life and when life requires more of me than I have, I begin to be depleted. This means I want to be careful about where I use my precious energy. I want to be discerning and clued in so I can recognize if I have energy leaks or I’m giving away my energy to things that ultimately don’t serve me.
I think about energy a lot like I think about money. I have a finite amount of money at any given time. I can always get more because it too is just energy. But in the moment, I have a fixed amount. With this money, I’ve agreed to do certain things with it. Pay lenders and expenses. I need it to buy food and clothes. Then it’s important for me to have enough left over to do extra, life enhancing things like vacations or making donations. I don’t want to fritter away my money. I don’t want to waste it on things that take my life in a downward direction such as junk food or gambling or excessive spending. I don’t want to spend it on things I really don’t love.
I strive to do the exact same thing with my energy.
Cheryl proposed that energy leaks show up as things we’re tolerating. Things that use our energy by causing us to be annoyed, frustrated, or angry. These can be people, experiences, things—we can be tolerating a lot of unpleasantness and this is taking our precious energy.
Instead of just dealing with them, we’re allowing them to be a constant drain. Things, that if we turned our full attention to them, could be handled once and for all. Or put another way, we could eliminate the leak entirely and be done with it.
Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean:
Your favorite pants are missing a button which means every time you want to wear them you can’t. Darn it all!
You keep losing your keys because you lay them down somewhere different every time you come into your house. Arggg
You’re having life-draining, argumentative conversations with people with whom you differ politically. Step away Cheri!
You value being punctual but are always arriving to things late when you go with your partner. Biting your lip and holding resentments takes a lot of energy.
You hate your job. That wastes energy practically 24/7!
Your windows are dirty and you wish you could have a clear view out of your kitchen window. Okay, that one is personal. But every morning I look through those dirty windows and feel sad and irritated.
Get the picture?
Cheryl asked her reader to make a list of 10 things she or he was tolerating. As per usual, I went a bit further. I sat down to write my 10 things and ended up with a 4-page list of 89 things. 89 THINGS! I still have the list.
My mind was blown! I felt both overwhelmed and freed. I felt frustrated and released. I felt embarrassed and like I had found the key to the kingdom. It was like I had found a hidden treasure map but I also feared I wasn’t up to the challenge.
But it was a map, plain and simple. It was a map of all my leaks—or at least the ones I could identify. Sure, I grieved that I had so many. I did a bit of self-flagellation about tolerating so many things. But when the dust settled, I realized I had a real map for getting out of the hole I was in. A hole I didn’t even realize existed.
Now It’s Your Turn
I invite you to do the same thing. I don’t necessarily want you to write a list of 89 things . . . but what about 20? Ten felt too few for me but stop at 10 if that feels good to you. I suggest you aim for 20. But really, I want you to write until you feel complete. You’ll know when to stop.
Be sure to examine various areas of your life, from the minor things to the larger issues. Go down and look at your life from the ground level, like and ant. (for example, missing buttons on your pants). Then fly up like a bird and look at it from 50,000 feet. (I hate my job or relationship issues.) See what you can see. What are the things you are tolerating? If you get stuck, try a slight tweak on the question. Try asking yourself, “What am I avoiding?
Once you have this list, you have a place to begin. But how do you get started. My list of 89 things required a stack of colored markers and a few hours of sorting. But from that experience I came up with two suggestions for you. I encourage you to sort your list in one of two ways.
You could find all of the things that require the least amount of time, energy or money to fix. Tackle those first. Get those done and plug up a bunch of little leaks This way you can mark those things off for good. Maybe even today!
Or a second option would be to determine the thing or the few things which are causing you the most pain or using up the most of your valuable energy. Think . . . the biggest hole! Then choose this as a place to start.
Either of these options is a good place to begin. There’s no right way. But rather, just begin.
So, what are you tolerating?
What are you tolerating? Where are you using your valuable life-force energy and getting no return? What are you avoiding?
There’s a quote from John Cleese, the Monty Python comedian and actor. He said, “I have several times made a poor choice by avoiding a necessary confrontation.” My guess, he was talking about confrontation with others, but I think it works here. What I’m asking you to do is to confront yourself.
To create the life you always wanted you have to look at what you’ve created so far—where you are right now. To avoid doing this kind of face-to-face with yourself will only keep you losing energy. And nobody wants that!