In good time

I love the adage ‘good things take time’.

But then how is it that in today’s society of interconnectedness, being on rather than off, we have a bad case of impatience. 

How do you know you have a waiting problem? 

Photo © Jenn Shallvey

In the virtual world, you know you have an impatience problem when you:

  • think your computer takes too long to turn on and load,
  • call a person and you think an answer after three rings or voicemail is unacceptable,
  • send an email and don’t get an immediate response, so you send another.

Or what about in the physical world, where impatience means you can't stand it when you:

  • have to ‘take a number’ to be served,
  • wait behind a line of other people to get something you want now,
  • get stuck in traffic and miss the light, 
  • arrive late to work because the bus schedule wasn't accurate (it's always someone else's fault).    

These may seem like silly examples and on a blog post nothing more than everyday problems. Yet in reality take one of these situations, add a few more, a little dose of stress or pressure and you have the formula for a personal disaster.

By personal disaster I mean letting it get to you and doing the opposite of what you need to do. 

In response to such situations the best remedy is patience, calmness and centeredness. Easier said than done.  Yet if our senses are heightened we can be triggered into the impatience and ensuing emotional responses.

Why does this happen

Here are two reasons among many.

1.    Habits
2.    Base state

Lets first look at habits.

Habits are behaviors that we and / or others reinforce in repetition so that the behaviors eventually become subconscious responses. The true hallmark of a habit is in our defence where we usually say things like “I don’t know why I do it, I just do and always have”.  We often can not identify the first time nor when we were different.

Now good habits are helpful and lead to routines that support us. So what I am concerned about are the ‘bad habits’, the ones that detract and damage our wellbeing.  In the case of being impatient we can have habitual responses to triggers that lead us to the impatient response rather than the patient and calm one.

For example, you might be involved in a project at work that is not progressing at the pace you like.  You attend status meeting after status meeting only to go around in circular discussion. You can see the direction needed but the rest of the group doesn’t.  If you have an impatience habit you are likely to build up a bit of steam and frustration and voice your concerns in a less than constructive way.  This only fuels the division between you and your colleagues creating more impatience.  Now the group needs to deal with the wayward direction and your wayward behaviour.

What to do?  I will tell you in a second.

Then lets look at the base state.

I refer to the base state as your base level of total well-being. So in whole person sense I refer to the combination of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual states.  How are you in each area? The level of each will be a factor in your overall state.  For example, if you are not physically feeling well, or just had a fight with your partner the night before but still feel passionate and clear about your direction you might be ok.  But what if your thoughts about your feelings from the night before are really negative and you are disheartened about the work you are doing?  Add these together and you get a lower state that may create a weaker position from which you can be and engage with others.

So in the work project meeting example above, depending on your state you will either respond even more impatiently or less. This is like adding spices to the cooking.  Put too much chilli in and you can’t handle the chilli and you and others suffer the consequences.

What to do?  Ok I will tell you now.

The answer is DO NOTHING!!!!!!!

Oh, that sounds so simple but given the above scenario and explanation it is so not easy for many (including myself I might add).  To slow your energy down,  to turn the stove down to a simmer or even off, requires conscious action.  This conscious action repeated over time will then become the new habit that breaks the impatience cycle. 

So you can do this in a few ways.

  1. Stop judging your impatience. Accept your behaviour as simply how you are right now but not how you have to be. Know that you have a choice and be gentle with yourself.  It is what is happening to you now for a variety of reasons and may be a signal to you that something is not working in your situation.
  2. Observe your self.  Start to be aware of what triggers your impatience. Notice these triggers and notice your response. This is simply an exercise in raising your own self awareness.
  3. Get help.  Perhaps ask a trusted person to observe your triggers and impatient vs patient responses.  Let them tap you on the shoulder; give you a bit of feedback in the moment when it happens. (Of course given their willingness to help please practice your patience with them.)
  4. Check in regularly.  Once aware of your triggers and what it is like to be in your impatient response check in with your state. Notice your thoughts, physical state, emotions and spiritual connection however you define it. Notice what is out of whack and what is working.
  5. Play consciously with change.  Now the fun part. Start to play with and tweak your response. Yes, play with what it is like to consciously shift your behaviour in the moment. 
  6. Go whole person.  We are at risk of over intellectualising such situations by over thinking.  As noted already there are three other aspects to our self beyond our thoughts.  Staying in your head limits your chances of creating sustainable change.
  7. Select methods that work for you.  Enlist other whole person methods to help you that feel right for you. Develop these into practices and 'good habits' that support your patience.  For example deep breathing and relaxation, taking time out to experience the emotions in private, reflecting on your own inner purpose and connection to why you do what you do.  Each of these approaches lean more towards being rather than doing so you might take some time to get used to one rather than all at once or get someone to help you.

Now is never too late

You may have to start small and work to big later. But the key here is to start now.  The kind of behaviour response likely to work in these situations is to stop, pause, reflect and notice. Only after being aware of all the factors and from what place you are operating should you then do something. 

It is in this delayed action that you take advantage of the calm space, the regathering of self, the alignment of you back to center. It is then from centre that you can redirect your attention in a calm, considered and likely more receptive manner. 

Of course, there are times when conscious impatience (more constructively channelled as urgency) may be the answer. But I tend to think these are more for emergencies rather than day to day living and working. It’s your life and your experience so you make the call.

Ultimately you will know if this is working by seeing the response of others, noticing then how impatient or patient you are with triggers and how balanced your state is in multiple situations.

As with any growth path you consciously embark on you need commitment. Find what helps you stay on path and keep you moving towards positive change.  The rewards are there for those who really want to slow down and make what and when they act really matter.