I’ve mentioned before that you cannot change what you tolerate. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to share a reflection exercise that will help you identify the tolerations you have, and give you options for how to deal with them.

This exercise is not about listing all the things or people that influence you in a negative way. It’s about taking personal responsibility by resolving the obstacles that are keeping you from creating the life that you want.

A “toleration” is a situation or influence of any kind that is allowed to exist, is put up with, or is less than ideal. It’s often a hindering influence that you deal with every day that distracts you from focusing on other important goals in your life. By sorting out the things you are inadvertently tolerating, you are freeing up time and energy to focus on a better quality of life.

It’s like putting a wooden stake in energy vampires!

Identifying Tolerations

In order to start eliminating tolerations, you first need to know what they are. Ask yourself:

“What am I putting up with right now?”
“What is bugging me that I wish wasn’t?”
“What would it mean to have no tolerations in my life?”

List the tolerations that frustrate you the most (even if you don’t know how to resolve them yet). I suggest that you split your list into 3 different areas – Home, Family and Community, and Work – and list a maximum of 10 tolerations for each area. To help you get started, I have included some examples below.


  • Carpet that needs cleaning
  • A lack of closet space
  • Too much television
  • Cooking dinner every night when I don’t want to
  • Excessive clutter

Family and Community

  • A partner who snores
  • Needy relatives
  • Having someone in my life who always tells me what to do
  • Not visiting family as often as I would like
  • Not having a strong community


  • Not enough storage space for my filing
  • Out of date business plan
  • A web page that needs updating
  • Working through my lunch break
  • Negative attitudes of people I work with

When I first did this exercise, I wasn’t able to think of many tolerations. It wasn’t until I started looking at my life in a different way that I was able to fully identify my tolerations. When I did the exercise again a week later, my list reached 50!

The 7 Ds of Eliminating Tolerations

Now that you have identified your tolerations, we can look at ways to effectively eliminate them by considering the seven Ds:

  1. Do it – For a toleration that can be eliminated by immediate action (for example, sort through the clothes in your closet and get rid of those that you no longer wear to make more closet space), take care of it immediately.
  2. Dump – When you look at the toleration written down, you might find it’s not as important as you first thought, so get rid of it!
  3. Delegate – For a toleration that someone else can fix (for example, have a graphic designer update your web page).
  4. Discuss – When a toleration involves a person who is frustrating you (for example, your partner’s snoring is causing you to lose sleep), create ideas together to decrease or eliminate that behavior.
  5. Deal with it/accept it – There are some tolerations that cannot be eliminated. This may require a change of mindset for you (for example, you cannot change another person, so expecting your relatives to change their needy ways will simply cause you further annoyance). Can you accept the frustration and focus instead on their better qualities?
  6. Divide – Split a seemingly impossible toleration into smaller tolerations that are capable of being eliminated (for example, if you no longer like the house you live in, consider breaking that toleration down into smaller parts: peeling wallpaper, mildew in the shower tiles, broken hinges on kitchen door). By applying the seven Ds to each of the smaller tolerations, you may rediscover the reasons you originally liked your home AND resolve small issues that are combining to create a larger one.
  7. Due date – Some tolerations can not be eliminated immediately. I had braces as an adult, and tolerated having them as I knew there was an end date when they would come off. Another example would be tolerating a tough boss while you look for another job. Knowing that the frustration has a definite end makes it more tolerable.

If you aren’t sure where to begin with your elimination plan, ask yourself, “Is there a toleration on my list which, when eliminated, will resolve other tolerations automatically?”

This is called a pivotal toleration. An example of this could be earning a higher salary, which could be used to clean the carpet, buy a new closet, and have someone take away all the excessive clutter.

Take a look at your list and see if you have any pivotal tolerations. This type of toleration can be a good place to start. If you do not have any pivotal tolerations, then pick the toleration that drains your energy the most.

Make a note in your diary or calendar to repeat this exercise. Tolerations have a habit of creeping back into your life, so you need to keep an eye on them!