May I have a drumroll, please? I am about to impart to you some hard-earned knowledge about patience. Are you ready?
Patience is a choice.
Now, I know that some of you are disappointed. You probably expected me to point out that patience is a virtue. While I agree with that observation, I thought it might be more exciting for you (as it is for me) to call attention to the fact that it is we who choose to be patient, or not.
Yes, it is our decision to be patient and kind to others (and ourselves). Similarly, we can choose to fly off the handle, dive deep into self-ridicule, point-fingers and resort to a whole range of other bad behaviors intended to help us feel less anxious about things not happening at the pace and in the ways in which we wished they would.
Let me also point out that the opposite of patience is not impatience. Rather, the opposite of patience is anxiousness. We begin to feel anxious when things seem slow or to be heading in the wrong direction. We become anxious at the thought of losing time, wasting cycles on waiting and seeing, and, not optimizing the way we are leading others and ourselves.
However, the reality is we do not control the universe. In fact, the only thing that we can hope to ever control is ourselves.
Take any situation; be it good or bad, we always have the opportunity to control our thoughts and actions. Of course, sometimes we do a lousy job of controlling our reactions. Regardless, our reactions inform our behavior. Our reactions determine how we use patience as a tool for self-regulation or allow anxiety to rule our entire being.
If you’re a leader that is prone to becoming anxious when things seem bogged down and are not going your way, it is highly likely that your team feels your pain. To be more precise, it is highly likely that the manifestation of your anxiousness is causing your team pain.
Don’t you want to be revered by those in your world for being an exceptionally decent person and leader? If so, it is time for you to work at becoming more patient.
How To Become More Patient?
Here are five steps that I advise my clients to consider taking when they begin working at developing greater patience:
Stop and Ask The “Patience Question:” What’s the patience question? It is quite simple and, with practice, it is something you can do whenever you’re beginning to feel anxious about a situation that is transpiring.
The Patience Question is this:
Is it worth it?
This act of asking yourself this question will immediately help you to gain perspective. It puts the big picture into better focus and it leads to you determining the relative importance of the situation that you’re about to react to. Remember, you can choose to be patient.
Name That Feeling: The best way to regulate your behavior is to slow down long enough and give what you’re feeling a name. This requires that you stay in the moment and not over-amplify the consequences of whatever it is that making you feel a lack of patience. By naming the feeling, you give yourself the time to gain insight into what’s really going on inside. Indeed, you give yourself the time to choose not to overreact, just because you’re feeling stress.
Make Your Team Better: The more prepared your team is to succeed, the less likely you will need to exercise patience with them. Why? Because a better prepared team accomplishes more good things, faster than a team that lacks fundamental ability. Commit to developing your team and you will almost automatically become more patient.
Find the Humanity in the Situation: Before blowing your top, try this: remind yourself that most people are decent and are trying their best. Even the people that are out to screw you up are likely unable to see another way to succeed or feel good about themselves. You can choose a better way to react when you put this additional point-of-view into your patience-building arsenal. Try it. It works!
Be Kind to Yourself: Sometimes you just need a break – take one! Clear your head. Regain your composure. It helps you replenish your mind and it makes you more resilient. Giving yourself permission to take a break is always better than losing your cool.
As I’ve written here in the past, the key to practicing patience is recognizing what you can control and accepting what you can’t control. Place energy and focus on what you control and you will begin reinvigorate your ability to choose patience over stress. After all, even if things don’t work out the way that you wish, at least whatever happens along the way won’t be quite as frustrating and anxiety-provoking to you. Additionally, your newfound patience will be a strength that enables you to become a more decent person and leader.
Written by James M. Kerr.