Since January I have been intentionally practising the art of patience. I didn’t know this test would come my way and it’s proving an interesting lesson. One I am trying hard to master. It began when someone I respect asked me to be patient. Technically they asked ‘if’ I could be patient and it’s the ironic truth that my initial response was ‘How long for?’
You see patience has never really been my strong point. My approach is to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in, including situations I’d rather avoid because the sooner it’s begun, the sooner it’s done.
Talking with my friends and colleagues it seems I am not alone in my struggle with practising patience. The fact that everyone and their dog is on holiday, going on holiday or just back from holiday is impacting on the speed at which decisions are made. A friend has to wait four weeks for a second interview for her dream job and a business associate has been waiting for six weeks for confirmation of a sponsorship deal which has the potential to put his career into orbit. Like me, the waiting dominates their thoughts. It’s tempting to phone, to email, to nudge but the reality is that time just needs to pass and the only option is to sit tight.
At work a big part of my role is to look, listen, question why, search for alternatives, delve deeper with my questioning and encourage people outside their comfort zone. This involves a large element of trust at the beginning as no-one has all the pieces of the puzzle. Like Daniel waxing cars in the Karate Kid, patience is required as we wait for the experience to unfold. Usually it’s worth it in the end.
It is a tougher challenge to look in the mirror and address your own personal development in life, business or relationships because you can never think like an outsider. You can’t switch off your emotions and be completely analytical if a project, business goal or relationship really matters to you.
There are times when I have failed the patience test miserably and paid the price, an example being when I was having a clearance in preparation for moving house. This involved heaving a large bed frame down three flights of stairs. A patient and sensible approach would have been to wait until I wasn’t home alone and share the workload but no, I was on a mission and wrestled that bad boy down the stairs tout seul. Am I particularly strong? No. Can I be gung ho when I get an idea in my head? Hell, yeah! Old habits crept in and the backache I suffered for the following week was my punishment and another valuable lesson.
What I’ve learnt in the process of trying to master patience (I have a long way to go) is that you need to keep busy. You need to have hope, and you need to believe it will all come together at the right time. In the meantime practise gratitude, it’s a great distraction.
Got any tips? Comments welcome.