Stop Tolerating And Start Living

by Ramona Creel

Why Didn't I Think Of That Sooner?

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 whining 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. 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 — and 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.

Sometimes It's Easier To Stay Stuck

You see, most of us put up with a lot of annoyances in life — things that drain our energy, make us angry, or frustrate us. But the real irony is that, 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 (although 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 put in the quarters, we're in charge of 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 this is the way things are and we have no choice. But I've got news for you. You can change absolutely anything about your life if you don't like it. This transition might 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, change is scary — and most people just want to be comfortable (even if it means being not very happy most of the time). It's often easier to put up with a “known evil” it is than to break out and do something new and challenging to change your life for the better. You can spot “tolerators” from a mile away. 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. The film looks at how hard it can be to step outside of the life you were programmed to live, in search of something more fulfilling (as well as the fact that blood relatives are determined to embarrass you from the day you're born!) Initially, you may have to fight with your family, buck the cultural expectations you've grown up with, and force people to see you with a different set of eyes. Growing pains are never easy. But in the end, everyone benefits when you are happier, more satisfied, and a hell of a lot more pleasant to be around!

Take A Look At Your Own Life

What do you need to do differently in your life?  What would you like to stop tolerating? Whatever it is, you can have it — you just have to be willing to make a change. My clients' most common complaints are usually work-related. Don't like your job anymore? You can go back to school, get a different degree, and switch to a brand new career. Or start your own company and go into business for yourself. It's never too late — but you'll need to work hard, you may have to go into debt for a period of time, and you aren't guaranteed success. Just 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.

I also hear a lot of grumbling about unsatisfying relationships. Maybe you're fed up with a friend, spouse, or family member. You've tried everything 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 your interactions. Telling someone that you won't allow them to treat you badly anymore is not easy. There will be hurt feelings. You'll 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.

Your Homework

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've done!) 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.

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.