Gunk of Low-Energy Living: tolerations

If your spouse, children, parents, boss, coworkers, neighbors, and friends would just do what you want, you’d be a whole lot happier.


Imagine you could wave a magic wand and get everyone in line with your wants, needs, and preferences.

It would immediately and automatically eliminate a significant amount of friction, frustration, and energy drain in your life, wouldn’t it?

  • Your boss’ last minute requests that drive you nuts. Presto. No more.
  • Your spouse watching endless hours of sports and yelling at the TV. A thing of the past. Gone.

If only everyone would get in line…

But not so fast. There is no magic wand.

And you don’t control others.

Others tolerations

There are 8 types of tolerations—things you’re reluctantly putting up with that create friction and drain energy. The seventh type of toleration—Others—is about the actions and attitudes of other people.

This category of tolerations might include:

  • A spouse who overspends
  • Clients who cancel last minute
  • Friends who gossip
  • A co-worker who talks over you
  • Moody teenage children
  • A hair stylist who doesn’t listen to what you want

After Environment tolerations, Others is the most common type.

It makes sense

You live in a world where you constantly interact with others. Some you’ll be in agreement with. Others not so much.

In fact, some people will push all your buttons. They’ll do the opposite of what you want. Go left when you say right. Say no when you say yes.

But the only person you have control over is you.

  • Not your mother-in-law
  • Not your teenage son
  • Not the Comcast guy

Wisdom to know

And because you don’t control others, the wisdom of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is right on point.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Others—every last person you’ll encounter in your life—fall decidedly and undeniably into the “accept the things I cannot change” category.

Yes, you might have influence at times. Be able to offer guidance. You can state your preference. Model behavior. Make your wishes known. You can share your opinion. Even offer advice.

But you don’t get to decide for others. And you’ll waste an enormous amount of energy if you try.

And it’s not just those in our immediate lives we want to fix and control.

We have opinions about how others—even total strangers—behave and what they should be doing. We pass judgment on what she’s wearing and how he’s driving. And think we know best.

Who’s business is it?

All this getting in other people’s business creates friction and leaks energy—in our own lives.

Byron Katie has a great saying: “There are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s.”

Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business. When I think, “You need to get a job, I want you to be happy, you should be on time, you need to take better care of yourself,” I am in your business. When I’m worried about earthquakes, floods, war, or when I will die, I am in God’s business. When you understand the three kinds of business enough to stay in your own business, it frees you to see your own path with much more clarity.

I love that.

Talk about clarifying: When I get anywhere outside my own business, I’m in trouble. I’m venturing outside where I need to be—inviting tolerations into my life.

Stop trying to control others.

Addressing tolerations is not about “fixing” or controlling other people. It’s about accepting—even embracing—that your business ends at the end of your own nose.

Who do you need to stop trying to fix or control?