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How to Really Stand Up for Yourself

Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait to go swimming? The hint of summer was barely in the air, but you knew it was time to go to the pool. When I was a kid, I would jump into the water no matter how cold it was, splashing around and having a blast. But, as adults, we don’t dive in—we take a few baby steps and we say, “Oooh! That doesn’t feel so good!” That fun time in the pool starts with miniature icicles clinging to the edge of your bathing suit!

It takes time to adjust. Takes time build up a tolerance. Then once we’re used to the cold water (which really isn’t all that cold; it’s just different from the air temperature), the icicles disappear, and we forget that we were once shivering. Until we get out of the water! Then we realize—hey, why am I cold again? The funny this is: the temperature of the water doesn’t change. It’s our tolerance for the water that does.

There’s a name for putting up with stuff that doesn’t serve us. It’s called progressive tolerance.

Characteristics of Progressive Tolerance

  • Tolerating experiences that are out of alignment with our values.

  • Saying, “It’s not that bad.”

  • Saying, “Maybe it will go away,” or “This situation will fix itself.”

  • A mindset that says, “I have no choices. I have limits. I am trapped.” Or perhaps, “It’s not mine to fix,” or “You can’t fight city hall.” Look for signs of resignation.

  • Looking the other way.

  • A pattern of repeated fear. Shame. Regrets. A lost opportunity that you just can’t seem to embrace, even when it shows up more than once.

Examples of progressive tolerance: Knowing that this is not where you want to be or how you want to feel, your friends / co-workers are telling you that something is amiss, but you keep ignoring it, you see suffering and say / do nothing (especially if you are the one feeling the pain), you experience pain with no gain (others benefit from your sacrifice). You become numb, unaware of choices and options.

We need to move from progress tolerance to progressive consciousness.

Progressive consciousness is what makes us aware of our surroundings and our situations. Progressive consciousness allows us to see that we are making a choice (to get into that swimming pool or take that scuba lesson, for example). Through progressive consciousness, we also see what we are tolerating. We see what needs to change. Progressive consciousness is what allows us to respond in a new way.

Characteristics of Progressive Consciousness

  • At its deepest level, consciousness contains truth, beauty, creativity, and love. It is the place of awareness, where we recognize the good inside all of us. Our humanity resides there. Our human consciousness is what separates us from the animals, allowing us to be aware of ourselves and others, so that we can work and live humanely.

  • Progressive consciousness bravely asks, “What’s not working? Why?”

  • Progressive consciousness leads us to speak up, speak out, and show up. For ourselves, and for those we see suffering in the loop of progressive tolerance.

  • Progressive consciousness prompts the question, “Could there be a better way?”

  • Progressive consciousness reminds us of self-care: bringing new awareness around the fact that you are worthy, deserving, and abundant. Progress is always possible—and sometimes letting go is the greatest progress you can make.

  • Looking squarely at the problem, no matter how big, bad, or systemic it may be, and seeing things in a new (and brave) way. Progressive consciousness points towards the courage inside of all of us.

Game Changer Activity

There’s something you’re tolerating right now, and it’s not just a cold swimming pool or a scary scuba lesson. Let’s dive in on some new ideas—are you ready?

Write down the things that you re tolerating, and why. Bring progressive consciousness into play. Not everything that’s tolerated is negative, but progressive tolerance can lead to negative consequences if left unchecked. Consider where your tolerance is leading you. What’s the price of change? And what’s the price you’re paying, right now, for ignoring the little things that are dragging you down?

  • What is it that you might like to change about your circumstances, your company culture, your surroundings?

  • Stay open as you create this list. Don’t talk yourself out of something. Don’t say, “Oh, that’s impossible,” or “Oh, I could never change that,” or “They (whoever they are) will never listen to me,” and then leave it off the list.

  • This experiment is for you to explore possibilities – not cut them off before you write them down!

  • Finally, what needs to be done to turn progressive consciousness into action?

Writing is a creative exercise—and you are creating your future! Don’t worry about your grammar or formatting or any of that stuff.

Make room for possibilities, not impossibilities. Don’t let your progressive tolerance cut you off from what could be! Make a list for yourself. Build one for your organization. Have your team complete the exercise.

What is it that your organization is tolerating? What’s the obstacle to change that’s based on misplaced expectations, past experience, or present misunderstandings? Get those ideas out of your and onto the page—and you are creating your own Success From Anywhere blueprint.

What I'm Tolerating and Why

Hopes, Expectations, and Misunderstandings

What Needs to Be Done—"Why Not?"


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