I’m surrounded by crazy people. My wife. My kids. My partners. All completely crazy, I tell you! But lately, I’ve been asking myself an awkward question. What makes the people in my life so crazy? What’s the one thing they all have in common? Ah … that would be me. So now the question is: what is it about me that drives people crazy? And I think if you asked them, they would answer with one voice: ‘He has no patience!’. Guilty as charged.
Patience is challenging
Things have perhaps come to a head as a result of the pandemic. You’ve probably seen the meme on social media: “Your parents or grandparents were asked to risk their lives in a war to save civilization from tyranny. You’re just being asked to sit on your couch watching Netflix. Think you can do that?”. The meme’s wisdom is beyond question. What we’re going through pales in comparison to what our forebears experienced. But for some of us, enforced patience is just exhausting. And these days, our whole culture encourages impatience. It even fosters it. We are used to being mobile, connected, multi-tasking, and stimulated on demand. And we’ve come to take our everyday freedoms for granted. Knowing we have things much easier than previous generations might be true but doesn’t help at all.
Back to the roots
You know what does help? Remembering that I was not always as impatient as I am today. When I was a kid, I used to spend long hours on handicrafts. And as a teenager, I somehow found the patience to devote countless hours every day – for months and years – to practicing tennis, driven by an unwavering desire to win Wimbledon one day. As Aristotle said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”. I never did get to taste that particular fruit on the center court, but the desire for it certainly taught me patience. So where did it all go wrong?
The Eureka moment!
The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to understand that I have not lost my patience altogether. The one time I can sit still for hours on end, without distraction – and without driving anyone else crazy – is when I’m reading. So my Eureka moment came when I realized what I get from reading now is not so different from what I got from crafting and sports all those years ago. It’s a sense of progressing, growing, and learning. I’m eternally curious and I love learning. That’s why I think of books the same way others think of shoes or cars: I can’t have enough of them.
A new perspective
So once I realized that lockdown was an opportunity to spend more time reading and learning, lo and behold, I had a completely new perspective. I didn’t plan to spend so much time reading this spring, but as productivity guru David Allen put it, “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in your mind.” I just have to remember that I love reading (and learning) more than I hate having to change my plans!
Identify your patience trigger
Even if you’re normally as impatient as I am, if you really think about it, you’ll probably realize there’s at least one thing that can command your patience. So why not join me on a journey of discovery? Ask yourself: what makes you impatient? And what is it that’s missing in this very moment that makes you want to move on so badly? If you can answer that, you can find a way to bring that missing element into the moment, stay in that moment without rushing to the next one, and most importantly, enjoy it. You will not only become more patient but more likeable because you won’t be driving everyone around you crazy!
There. I’ve given myself a lot to live up to now. And I’m not sure I want my wife to read this and hold me to it! But I’m going to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and hit ‘publish’. Wish me luck! 🙂