Personal Growth


If something feels ‘not quite right’ then it probably isn’t.

I like the engineering definition of tolerance; it being the range of how far a true measurement can differ from what’s intended.

Simply put, what level of variation can occur for a system to continue to operate effectively?

The idea of specified tolerance, the notion that tolerance has limits, is a useful benchmark for our personal and professional lives. It suggests that our acceptance of situations or behaviours, our ability to ‘put up with something’, can or should have an expiry date. It implies that there will be a boundary to our endurance and stoicism.

Understanding this limit, knowing when to call it a day on situations or behaviour by saying enough is enough, is where we can become unstuck. Despite engineering showing the way, too often we ignore the limit tolerance has set for us and condone or shapeshift into something we’re not. We think that tolerating a situation is strength, that we’re the more noble person or organisation by being forgiving and accepting.

No, that’s not how it works.

In fact, the opposite occurs. We get weaker. Science tells us that if the tolerance limit is exceeded the system will cease to operate effectively and may collapse all together. Too much leniency at a personal level will result in disempowerment and an inability to realise potential. Too much accommodation in a role or business will result in a loss of success and competitive edge.

However, if we reach our limit and stop the tolerating, one of two things can happen. The situation improves, through honest conversation, constructive adaptation and compromise from all parties, or the situation dissolves and we move on.

The challenge is to know when to call it. Here are 3 takeouts to help you.

3 Tips to Help You Know When Enough is Enough

1. Pay Attention to the Agitation

Prolonged discomfort means something. If you’ve tried compromise and adaptation, without anything in return, it is a sure signal that you may be reaching a tolerance limit. If something feels ‘not quite right’ then it probably isn’t.

2. Assert Your Needs

You’re entitled to have needs. Individuals and organisations require certain standards and results. Know when to push for these needs and requirements by using assertive language; state your priorities and enforce consequences when they’re not met.

3. Watch for Creeping Normalcy

Creeping normalcy refers to the process of adjusting to small incremental change that becomes detrimental in the long term. We tolerate in the moment what appears to be a minor change or unfavourable situation, but as these small tolerances accumulate, they stack up to destabilise and threaten our wellbeing. Take a stock take of where you are now and where you used to be or what you said you’d never do. The bigger the gap the more of a problem you have.

Copyright 2022 Robin Elliott

Personal Boundaries