This afternoon I chose to leave work a little early and go down to the pool for some exercise and some mind clearing. After 30 minutes and with 64 lengths done and dusted (that’s a mile exactly if you’re wondering about the random number) I headed to the showering area.
As I was washing my hair a woman with a young son and daughter pushed the buttons of the showers opposite. Whilst the mum and son quietly got on with their shampooing, the daughter felt the water on her back and said ‘burning, burning, burning …’. Strangely though, she didn’t step out from underneath the heat of the shower. She stayed in there chanting ‘burning, burning, burning …’ over and over again as her mum encouraged her to ‘get on with it, get your hair washed’ and re-pressed the water button for more.
Clearly the child wasn’t genuinely burning or anywhere near it, but it got me thinking …
How many of us tolerate ongoing discomfort on a daily basis without taking action to change things? How many people speak to friends and family about how demoralising is their job, or how disrespectful is their relationship, then get up the next day and tolerate it all over again. How many adults suffer weeks, months and years of repetitive, joy-less ‘burning, burning, burning …’ in their life expecting someone else to show up and rescue them? Far too many is the answer.
The dictionary defines tolerating as ‘allowing the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one dislikes or disagrees with without interference’. So why do we do that? Where do we learn that that’s ok?
In my experience there are 2 main reasons: the first is that we’ve seen tolerating modelled to us from a young age (parents in an unhappy marriage for example) or society tells us there’s one right way (‘divorce would be failing’) and we haven’t thought to challenge those models; and the second is that tolerating creeps up on us so slowly and over such an extended amount of time that we’ve forgotten that the contrasting experience really exists.
Whatever the reason, if you’re reading this and you’re an adult tolerating stressful, depressing, disrespectful days on end, then it’s time to stop it. And the first step’s already occurred – you’ve noticed. Sometimes that’s all that needs to happen because then you’ll begin to spot that choices are available to you.
Choosing not to tolerate means making a choice for change.
And change doesn’t have to be sudden, severe or painful – I’m not advocating job quitting or relationship ditching (although they could be valid choices – only you’ll know). I’m saying this:
- Start to pay attention to your discomfort
- Use it to create a contrasting thought (eg. if I DON’T want to be given the routine tasks at work every day, it means I DO want to get involved with some special projects. Do you feel the empowerment of shifting a don’t to a do?)
- Write down the outcome you want to achieve (it’s good to be reminded should you have some weaker moments)
- Take action (talk to someone, research your choices, skill yourself up to get the result you want, be patient (your partner might take a while to get up to speed) and be persistent (don’t go back to how things were)
- Review every day whether your thought changes, new conversations and action taking are getting you closer to the vision
You’re a valuable, smart, worthy human being. Choose every moment to believe that. When you stand up for happiness, you’ll be surprised who’ll show up to stand with you.