There’s a bank clerk that hovers by the entrance to my local bank.
I tend to pause and have a conversation with him each time I enter to make a deposit.
I’m always baffled by his response to my question of “How are things?” which is always met with the same sigh of hopelessness and surrender.
Every so often he adds a twist, but it’s generally a concoction of answers based on a central theme centred around “All the same, you know, I’m still alive and breathing I guess, but nothing has changed.”
This guy is not incapacitated in any way; in fact, he couldn’t be older than thirty-five years old in my estimation.
It’s the passivity of his statement that gets to me.
Resigned, impotent and surrendered.
Having heard the same answer repeatedly for the past few years, I recently couldn’t resist the urge to finally ask him “Surely you want more than just to be breathing?”
He adds a dose of extra swagger towards his response by answering “Perhaps I’ll win the lottery, who knows” he says, eyes looking up as if waiting for the bank vaults to open and the money to pour through the ceiling.
“Have you bought a lottery ticket?” I asked.
“Not yet” He answered.
I rest my case.
Yet he’s charming, gracious, interactive, efficient, friendly, smart and endeavours to serve me as if I was Victoria Beckham; and my account balance bears no resemblance to hers. He has a natural charm that can’t be bought or learnt, it’s innate.
But his sense of hopelessness frustrates me as in my conversations with him throughout the years, he’s shared how deeply unhappy he is at work and how much he wants to make a change.
Imagine if he were to apply for a promotion, register on a number of extra courses or even create a small business on the side in the evenings. He would knock us all for six. The potential he has is oozing out of him.
But without the desire, the intention or vision to execute, his potential dies a slow painful death.
It’s even more painful for me to watch as an outsider.
I specifically mention this bank clerk as he is the live embodiment of how easy it can be to remain in a situation where we tolerate what we have, but don’t create what we want.
Yet most of us have stayed in situations we haven’t wanted for far too long. I know I have. We stick with the devil we know, however nasty this looks.
Let me explain the difference between tolerating a situation or becoming proactive in creating something different.
Toleration is a passive state.
When we’re in this mode, it’s as if we’re waiting for something or someone to present us with the solution we’ve been waiting for. There are certain behaviours and language which accompanies this state often emerging out of hopelessness and resignation. You might recognise the phrases “I can’t move on because….” “Maybe next year I’ll try to go for that promotion” “I’m waiting for he/she to change and then my relationship will be different.”
You get the gist.
It’s all half-hearted and lacking any solid commitment or leadership.
We might not even know we’re tolerating, it might all be happening unconsciously, but there’s this constant misery, frustration and irritation with life and wondering why someone else’s life doesn’t resemble yours.
What do they have that you don’t?
You can’t pinpoint what’s wrong, just that there’s this constant unhappiness simmering within ever so subtly. And yet to even delve into this unhappiness isn’t something that can be contemplated as it might lead to (dare I say it) realising that the life you crafted isn’t exactly what you want.
And if you don’t like what you want, you might have to make a change.
The antidote to this is to become proactively creative.
And this doesn’t mean you have to become an artist, writer, musician or photographer. No one’s looking for the next Van Gogh. You’re an artist by the simple fact that you’re a human being, alive and breathing.
You’ve created the life you have, whether you like it or not. Therefore, by this mere fact, you’re already a born creative. You were the artist that painted the reality you’re staring at in this moment.
You might have never seen yourself as an artist, but you are, make no mistake about it.
Creativity is an active state.
We are born creative, although some of us have it more intensely switched on than others. When we’re in this mode, we become expansive and allow ourselves to take even the smallest of risks whilst actively moving towards a direction, even whilst still tolerating our old life.
We are experimental, explorative and actively transitioning into what we want, movement is happening, ideas are occurring and building momentum. Regardless of where this ends up, and despite the outcome, it still means taking ownership of your future.
You recognise there will be sacrifices to be made at times, but you’re willing to go for it. There’s self-doubt occasionally (like I had when I published my first book) vast amounts of vulnerability and insecurity, but you acknowledge it and continue forth, Your language is more self-assured, less reliant on others approval.
Just a small point to remember.
You might be creatively engaged in one aspect of life and tolerating other aspects. For example, you might feel creatively engaged with your career, but be stuck in a romantic relationship you’re tolerating.
The truth is that each person is a distinct world of idiosyncrasies, contradictions and complexities.
It’s a global phenomenon we all share, and there’s something striking that emerges when you’ve spoken to enough people when you travel. No matter which country you go to.
Taxi drivers, airport staff, hairdressers, waiters, hotel receptionists to mention a few, have spared no time in expressing the ‘What could have been’ in their life.
Basically, the ins and outs of what they’ve tolerated.
This is when you hear the outpouring of their biggest regrets, desires, dreams and ambitions. All the opportunities missed and the resistance in letting go of the known and venturing into the unknown.
Regardless of culture or religion, we have a hard time facing uncertainty and change.
So we avoid it like the plague.
Yet I’ve met blind, terminally ill, disabled, poor and disadvantaged people rise up and create what they wanted. Built from nothing with tremendous adversity crossing their every path and their determination has been strong and unwavering.
There’s no longer any excuse not to create what you want, and in fact, we have never been bombarded with more information and opportunities than we have now, we can’t face any direction without being hit in the face with more content teaching us the ‘how to’s’ of anything we want to embark on.
Simply switch on your laptop and search on Youtube, Google or Amazon, for a multitude of resources, books or register onto any selection of online programmes professing to teach you what you want to learn.
But I don’t believe the lack of information is the problem.
This is the biggest feeder of toleration.
It’s normal to feel apprehensive, nervous and anxious as we move away from what’s familiar, as something new is coming and we’re unsure of how to prepare ourselves. We mistakenly believe nervous feelings are a message from above that this isn’t good, it’s a bad omen and a sign we should stop.
So instead of facing uncertainty, we consume more, excessively shop until our credit cards are overloaded to the brim instead of facing the emptiness as we wake up each morning.
So what are you tolerating?
Is it a job, a relationship, a financial situation, or something else?
Take a long, hard look at your life as it stands, right this moment.
The only other time there’s an intimate look at ourselves is when a redundancy arises, a divorce is ever-looming, a bankruptcy is imminent or a life crisis shocks us to the core.
At this point, we respond out of urgency. Locked in a situation that has no other route other than to change direction, grow and expand into a new, more expansive consciousness.
But why not venture forth when you first realised you were tolerating a situation?
Feeling comfortable (and yes, toleration can become very cosy) is never an instigator for change.
Our basic instinct is to run towards two opposite directions — Either running towards pleasure or running away from pain.
So when the pain of tolerating what you have is greater than the pain of changing, then you move mountains whilst the universe conspiratorily takes your hand and plots the rest of the journey with you.
Tolerating what you’re unhappy with day after day due to a fear of uncertainty or failure uses up a tremendous amount of energy, as we’re constantly fighting to stay afloat and engaged in life.
Heston Blumenthal, British Chef, Restauranteur and pioneer of multi-sensory cooking stated;
The problem with living in a world that is just about perfection is that we are scared to put our hands up and have a go because we don’t want to feel rejected or stupid or judged by others. We need to replace the word perfection with discovery, and change the environment where we don’t have a fear of failure.
We need to question everything because the opposite would be to question nothing and that wouldn’t be human.
Going from toleration to creation isn’t like jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute. Begin by questioning who you are and what you want and become receptive and willing to listen to what life is trying to communicate to you.
Slowly easing out of a situation you don’t want by making small, incremental changes in the direction you want to go. Experimenting, exploring and putting one toe in the water rather than diving straight in.
And yes, creation can be messy and uncomfortable at times; but there is a dynamic aliveness that accompanies it that can’t be matched by anything else. It certainly beats the humdrum monotony of passively walking through life. More importantly, you deserve so much more.
If you liked this article, you can read more chapters like these in my latest book ‘Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Living’ available now on Amazon.
If you want to connect with me to share insights from this article, I would like to hear from you; send an e-mail to [email protected]