Striking a Balance

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about tolerations – those behaviors, people, situations that we routinely suffer through and grumble about. Tolerations sap our energy and make us stressed and grumpy, yet for whatever reason, we continue to put up with them.

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In one of my favorite books on coaching, there’s a chapter meant to help us achieve a balanced, and therefore low-stress, life. At the heart of it is eliminating tolerations, or as they’re termed by the authors “energy drains.” The first step is to identify what in ours lives robs us of energy (drains), and conversely what activities feed our energy (resources).

The authors reprinted material from Cheryl Richardson’s Take Time for Your Life, which does a great job helping us zero in on the positive and negative energy sources in our day-to-day lives. A version of it follows.

As you read through the list or drains, you’ll probably find some tolerations that are screaming your name. What can you do to curb these energy sappers?



  • There are people in my life who continuously drain my energy.
  • I have unreturned phone calls, emails, or letters that need to be handled.
  • I lack quality friendships in my life.
  • I feel a void in my life created by the lack of a romantic partner.
  • There is a relationship I need to end.
  • There is a phone call(s) I dread making, and it causes me stress.
  • I miss being part of a loving and supportive community.


  • My car is in need of cleaning and/or repair.
  • I’d like to live in a different geographic location.
  • I have appliances that need repair or upgrading.
  • My home is not decorated in a way that nurtures me.
  • My home is cluttered and disorganized.

Body, Mind, and Spirit

  • I eat food that is not good for me.
  • It’s been too long since I’ve been to the dentist or had a medical check-up.
  • I do not get the sleep that I need to feel fully rested.
  • I’d like to exercise regularly but never seem to find the time.
  • I have a health concern for which I’ve avoided getting help.
  • There are books that I’d love to read but never seem to find the time for.
  • I lack a spiritual side to my life.


  • My work is stressful and leaves me exhausted at the end of the day.
  • My office is disorganized and I have trouble finding what I need.
  • I’m avoiding a confrontation or conflict at work.
  • I tolerate bad behavior from a boss or coworker.
  • I am not computer literate and it gets in the way of my productivity.
  • I know I need to delegate specific tasks but am unable to let go of control.
  • With email, voicemail, and snail mail, I’m overloaded.


  • I pay my bills late.
  • I spend more than I earn.
  • I don’t have a plan for my financial future.
  • My credit rating is not what I’d like it to be.
  • I do not have a regular savings plan.
  • I do not have adequate insurance coverage.
  • I have debt that needs to be paid off.

Some — let’s hope many — on the energy resources listed will have you nodding your head because you feel good about those areas of your life. Keep those up, and feed off of the good feelings they bring you.



  • I enjoy the company of special friends.
  • I share my life with a partner who loves me for who I am.
  • I have a family (blood or chosen) that loves and supports me.
  • I spend time having fun with people who make me laugh.
  • I am part of a loving and supportive community.


  • I have a special soul-nurturing place in my home just for me.
  • I live in a place whose climate and vibe agree with me.
  • I listen to my favorite music regularly.
  • I’ve let go of all the stuff I no longer need.
  • My home is neat, clean, and organized.

ID-10014658Body, Mind, and Spirit

  • I exercise regularly.
  • I have a way to relax that eliminates stress and keeps me feeling centered.
  • I eat healthy and nutritious foods.
  • Each day I do something to keep my attitude positive.
  • I set aside regular time for solitude and silence.


  • My commute is reasonable and relatively stress free.
  • I have a mentor who guides and encourages me.
  • I always take a lunch break.
  • I have colleagues who inspire and respect me.
  • I enjoy my work.


  • I am fully insured and protected.
  • I save money consistently.
  • My taxes are paid and up-to-date.
  • I make good investments.
  • I enjoy being generous and easily share what I have.
  • I pay my credit cards in full each month.


Williams, Patrick, and Lloyd J. Thomas. (2005). Total Life Coaching. New York, W.W. Norton and Co, Inc.

Richardson, Cheryl. (1998). Take Time for Your Life, New York, Broadway Books.

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What Do You Tolerate?

It takes a lot of energy to stay on top of things. It takes even more energy to grow, be productive, effective and positive. So it’s always a good idea to take a close look at anything that saps our precious energy.

In the world of personal coaching, we call certain energy-zappers “tolerations.” They can include people, situations, behaviors, pressures, etc. Somewhere along the line you’ve decided to put up with a few things. Maybe you’re a little numb to them by now.


In his book The Portable Coach, Thomas Leonard theorized that our tolerations reveal an awful lot about what’s going on inside of us. They can tell us what we think we deserve and how we choose to live.

When I work with clients, especially in the area of stress-reduction, I ask  five questions designed to help them identify, understand, and eliminate their tolerations:

1) What are you tolerating? It can be large or small. Maybe it’s the burned out light bulb in your closet that results in your choosing an outfit in semi-darkness for the past week? Or it could be the way your spouse criticizes you in public.

2) Why are you tolerating it? Common answers are “I’m lazy,” “I don’t care,” “I’m too busy,” “It’s not that important.”

3) Okay, dig a little deeper. What’s the REAL reason you’re tolerating this? “I don’t want to rock the boat.” “It’s easier to tolerate than to change.” Giving honest answers here is an important step! It shows you where you’ve lost sight of what’s truly important to you, where your boundaries have been breached.

lactose4) What is the cost of the toleration to you and those around you? This is another big one. Is this just an occasional annoyance, or is this toleration affecting your happiness, the quality of your relationships, your stress level and your health?

5) What action can you take to eliminate the toleration? Maybe it’s a list of household chores you can knock off on a Saturday morning (Change the light bulb, already!). Other times changes require more introspection and maybe some outside support from a friend or coach. Either way, addressing your tolerations clears the path of friction that builds up there.

We may not acknowledge the stress we put ourselves under by tolerating niggling inconveniences, a messy house, annoying people, work that isn’t challenging, or people who mistreat us. Remember, whether minute or huge, your tolerations can be recognized and eliminated. And it’s not about fixing everyone and everything around you, it’s about being mindful of your own choices and behaviors.