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Blog: Your Weekly Reality Check -- Letting Go Of Stupid Habits And Ideas That Keep You Stuck
Stop Tolerating And Start Living

A friend of mine had a major epiphany this weekend while I was talking with her on the phone. She was complaining about a client she works with (she's an accountant) who drives her up the wall. This guy is always late getting her his financial records, his books are a mess, and he blames her for mistakes he makes. He's apparently a generally unpleasant person to be around -- never a good word, always complaining about something, and he makes her life a living hell. She dreads going to see him because she knows he's going to put her into a foul mood and send her whole day into a tailspin.

As we were talking, she said, "God, I wish I just didn't have to work with him anymore." I said, "Well, that's the nice thing about being self-employed isn't it -- you can choose who to work with. No one's requiring you to stick with this guy -- fire him if he makes you that unhappy." She said, "Oh, I couldn't do that?" I asked why not. She said, "Well, I live off of referrals -- and if I dump him, he wouldn't refer any of his friends to me." I asked if he had referred any clients to her before -- she said no. I suggested that anyone who could tolerate this guy was probably just like him -- negative, annoying, and hard to deal with -- did she really want a whole gaggle of clients like that? She said no. I asked if she had any other CPA friends she could refer him off to -- just tell him she was trimming down her client load and give him a few names of other people he could work with. She said yes. Then she just sat there for a few minutes, letting the idea sink in -- she didn't HAVE to work with this client any more.

You see, most of us have a lot of things that we put up with in life -- things that drain our energy, make us angry, or frustrate us -- when in many instances, we actually have the power to choose whether or not we continue to tolerate that situation. We have more control than we imagine. Life isn't just some cosmic pinball game (God sure plays a mean pinball), where we get bounced around with no say over where we go. To continue with a really dorky metaphor, we're actually the one pumping the quarters in and hitting the flipper buttons -- and if we get tired of playing the same old game with someone, we can just let the damned ball go in the hole and walk away.

The reason we get caught in the trap of tolerations is that we never stop to question our situation and what can be done about it -- we just assume that life is the way it is and you have to deal with it. But I've got news for you. You can change absolutely ANYTHING about your life if you don't like it. This transition may not be pleasant, and you may have to go through a lot of pain to get to the other side -- but it is so worth it in the long run.

Unfortunately, though, most people just want to be comfortable (even if it means being not very happy most of the time) rather than breaking out and doing something really challenging to change their lives for the better. You can spot "tolerators" at 50 yards. They may be listless, angry, bitter, whiny, sick all the time, or seemingly rude and insensitive to others -- but it's just a manifestation of how unhappy they are with their own lives.

If you haven't seen the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", go rent it. This is exactly what the whole film is about (along with the idea that blood relatives are programmed to embarrass you from the day you're born). Tula had to fight with her family, buck the cultural expectations she had grown up with, and risk causing herself and the people she loved a lot of grief. But in the end, everyone benefited from her determination to have the life she wanted (and the subsequent fact that she was happier and a hell of a lot more pleasant to be around).

What do you need to change? Don't like your job anymore? You can go back to school, get a different degree, and start an entirely brand new career. Or you can decide to go into business for yourself and start your own company. It's never too late, but it won't be easy. You'll have to work hard. You may have to go into debt for a period of time. And you aren't guaranteed success. But you have to ask yourself how unhappy you are in your current situation and whether years of continuing down that path would be any worse than jumping the track.

Maybe you're just fed up with a friend, spouse, family member, etc. You've tried everything you can think of to fix the problem, but it's clear that this is a toxic relationship. So leave. You're not bound to anyone in perpetuity -- especially if you don't get anything positive from interacting with them. It won't be fun -- ending a marriage, closing the door on a friendship, or telling a family member that you won't allow them to treat you badly anymore never is. There will be hurt feelings. You will have to find new people with whom to spend your time. But isn't it worth it in the end to remove that thorn from your side?

I'm not suggesting that you run away whenever you have a problem in life -- but you should know when to call it quits if something isn't working for you. Only an idiot complains about how unhappy he is, keeps doing the same things over and over again, and then wonders why his life isn't getting any better. You have to take action. You have to draw the line. You have to say, "No, I'm just not going to put up with this anymore." No one else is going to do that for you.

So back to my friend and her client. Needless to say, she rushed off Monday AM and called the client to end their business relationship. The good news is that she is free of him -- the better news is that it ended quite amicably. Because she followed her heart and did what she had to do to be happy --  while treating him with respect and giving him another option to get his needs met -- he was very receptive. He told her he had enjoyed working with her, and even said he would refer others to her in the future (a mixed blessing, at best!) I know my friend will be a lot more inclined to draw a healthy boundary sooner in the future (especially when this guy's friends start calling to hire her!)

What are you tolerating in your life? For each annoyance, think about what you could do differently to make that frustration go away (or at least keep it from bothering you so badly). It could be as small a change as leaving the house 30 minutes earlier for work so you miss rush hour -- to moving across the country because you hate the weather where you live -- to selling everything you own and hitting the road in an Airstream (like we're doing!) Just remember, you may not have control over the world around you, but you do have control over how you react to it. And you have control over the kinds of situations you allow yourself to be put in. You just have to figure out where your line is and start drawing it.

posted on: 11/5/2007 3:00:00 PM by Ramona Creel
category: General organizing tips

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(Coming February 2008)


Your Weekly Reality Check -- Letting Go Of Stupid Habits And Ideas That Keep You Stuck

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I am a former Social Worker, a Professional Organizer, and the founder of www.OnlineOrganizing.com -- all of which are very fulfilling. But at the age of 35, I and my husband Matt have decided to radically simplifying our lives -- we're packing our cats and the business into a 29-foot Airstream Excella and hitting the road to become full-time nomads. In doing so, we are learning to live with less, focus on today, and spend more time doing what we really love (which in my case is travel, photography, and writing). My goal in life is to share my experiences with others to allow them to find their own paths to freedom. You can find out more about my adventures when my new website launches in January.

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