Eileen Kern

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Tolerations and Mental Clarity

I’ve been impressed with the Making Good folks ever since they launched the beautiful site 50 Ways to Get a Job that Makes Good. Recently, Inc published one of those fifty tips as a stand-alone article, “A Simple Trick to Find Mental Clarity.”

In short, Dev Aujla’s article in Inc provides the following challenge:

Today you are going to commit to removing all of your tolerations. The annoying broken zipper on your bag, the blind that doesn’t quite close, the fact you always run out of pens or that you never have a spare key when you need it: It’s time to get rid of them all and in the process find mental clarity.

This time, the challenge stuck. My book light’s batteries died? It’s not time to switch on the bright overhead light–it’s time to get new batteries. Too many episodes of My Cat from Hell made me realize that my cat’s microchip reflects the wrong address? It’s not time to assume the cat won’t run away–it’s time to find the cat’s paperwork, call the lost cat service, and update his address.

I recently devoted a single lunch break last week to removing three items from my to-do list:

  • Deposit a check at the bank
  • Drop two library books off at the library
  • Drop a package off at the UPS store

And I still had time afterward for Starbucks with a friend!

Aujla suggests devoting $150 and a Sunday afternoon to fixing all of these tolerations. While I have spent more time and less money (and still have a number of things left to do–little things, like buying a new Brita filter I just ordered the replacement Brita filter and the light bulbs rather than type out that I hadn’t done it yet. So the big things left on my to-do list include scheduling And I just booked my oil change for next Saturday.)


While not very visually appealing, the paragraph above illustrates one simple truth: it often takes just about as much energy to worry about a problem as it does to solve the problem.

According to my mother, my maternal grandfather held a life philosophy that amounted, in brief, to: There’s no sense worrying about things you can’t change. This exercise suggests a companion philosophy: There’s no sense worrying about things you can change easily.