I was standing in a Boston coffee shop this morning waiting for my drink to be made when this conversation unfolded in front of me:
Man: "Hey, how's it going? Happy New Year!"
Woman: "Hey...and back to you...just getting my coffee before heading back to work."
Man: "Where do you work?"
Woman: "In the building behind the State house. I hate my job! But it's all about job security for me. Gosh, I hate it there! [roll of eyes and scowl] Whatever..."
Man: "That's cool. See Ya!"
Woman: "Yeah, see ya later."
Wow. The whole way back to my home office I was thinking about what it means to tolerate something, to accept having no choice in the matter. Tolerating a bad job. Tolerating a bad relationship. Tolerating a destructive culture of an organization. Tolerating waste. Tolerating mean people. Tolerating gossip. Tolerating bad customer service. Tolerating broken promises. It costs us a lot to tolerate things.
I make this up about my fellow-coffee shop patron this morning--she has chosen to tolerate a bad job as a way of coping with an uncertain economic climate. I get it, and having job security will likely cost her peace of mind, her joyful spirit, her ability to make an impact, her ability to savor her cup of coffee. And I wonder, what if she didn't tolerate this situation at all...what if she accepted nothing less than having a satisfying job and stable employment at the same time? What would it be like to have both?
It's one thing to find something intolerable. It's entirely a different thing to do something about it. Imagine, what is possible if we name what we cannot tolerate and actually risk to make a different choice?
Think about it.