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You’ve probably heard the phrase “examine what you tolerate” before — I’ve even seen Pinteresty type images that spell it out in pretty, loopy lettering.
But how often do any of us actually follow that advice? I know I’ve tolerated a lot of “meh” jobs and relationships that came with persistent low-grade anxiety. Not fun. And while I was in the middle of them, I didn’t want to examine those things too closely, because I knew that if I did, I’d have to make some big, scary changes.
As a coach for women in their 20s and 30s, I hear this same sort of thing all the time.
“I really don’t love my work, but the pay is pretty good. And I don’t HATE it, so…”
Or, “I don’t know if this relationship is going anywhere. He’s really cool and I like hanging out with him, but I can’t tell if he wants anything serious. I’m 30 now and I do want to start a family, but I guess I’ll just wait it out and see how it goes.”
Personally, I think toleration is like a silent disease. When things are “okay” or “fine,” it’s harder to get motivated to change them.
Think about it: If you love spending time with friends, making art, cooking, or having a solo dance party in your apartment, you’re going to do more of those things because they simply make you feel good.
Similarly, if you hate everything about your job and dread walking into the office every morning, you’re going to feel compelled to take action and make a change.
And then there’s toleration. Maybe your job is “fine” or your relationship is “pretty good.” When things are “okay,” there’s not much incentive for change because your life is good enough, so why risk shaking things up? But in the space of toleration, there’s no passion, no inspiration, no excitement. Toleration breeds mediocrity and a sense of settling.
I’ll say this: When I finally decided to examine what I was tolerating, it was hard. And I ended up making some pretty scary changes — I left a relationship that didn’t make me feel great about myself, and I started pursuing a career that I love, even though it was risky. And I can tell you wholeheartedly, life is way more energizing and exciting on the flip side of toleration.
Kristen Walker is a professionally trained life coach for women in their 20s and 30s who are tired of wasting their most defining years on dead-end relationships and mind-numbing jobs. She co-founded Clarity on Fire, a coaching company that helps women define and achieve their life, career, and relationship goals.