Coaching work, among other things, is often about asking powerful questions and spending time looking hard at the answers. Questions that make someone think about their life from a different perspective or in a deeper way. I use powerful questions a lot in my practice and in my life. I find the more questions I ask myself, the less I feel stuck and the more I have the clarity to move forward. Here’s one of my very favorites:
What am I tolerating in my life right now?
Truthfully we all tolerate a lot of things in this life because nothing is perfect. You might tolerate your house not always being picked up because you work full time and you don’t want to spend your last bit of energy every day cleaning. You tolerate a friend’s lateness because you know she is chronically over-booked and doesn’t mean anything by it. And you might even tolerate a three hour traffic jam out of a stadium parking lot because it is, after all, the playoffs.
Now to be sure, this isn’t an easy or comfortable question to ask yourself. Particularly because it leads to another hard question:
Can I continue to tolerate this?
If the answer to this one is yes, then usually, I can move forward without hesitation or making an immediate changes. If the answer to this one is no, then I have some work to do around the situation.
There are a lot of reasons for tolerating things. Sometimes you tolerate a situation because truly, it’s no big deal and not really worth the effort to make a change. Sometimes you feel as if a situation can’t really be changed at all anyway. And sometimes you tolerate something because changing the situation feels too immense, too scary, or too hard to do anything about.
But every so often you get to a point in your life where you can no longer tolerate something. Maybe it’s a toxic relationship with someone. Maybe it’s a job where you aren’t challenged or fulfilled anymore. Or maybe you find you can’t go one more day without taking real, concrete steps towards your dreams. And that’s when the work begins whether you can change the situation in one easy step, or whether it takes weeks or months to untangle yourself from it.
You can also decide you can’t tolerate smaller situations in your life and dealing with those little things can make a surprisingly large difference in your quality of life. For example, maybe you can’t tolerate papers being dumped on the kitchen counter any longer. So you set up a series of baskets where you put the papers and suddenly, everything feels more organized and more in control. Maybe you can’t tolerate the discomfort of sitting on your couch typing so you buy yourself a small desk and then you find you spend considerably more time writing your novel. Maybe you are tired of your art supplies sitting on the shelf gathering dust so you take them out and just create for a half hour each day without a specific project in mind.
In terms of powerful questions, this one’s a doozy. Asking it can radically change your life for the better.
What are you tolerating in your life right now?