Good day, team.
It’s a new year, which is a great time to think about what changes we might like to make in our behavior. The first word that comes to my mind is “patience.”
I’m not very patient. When I begin a project, whether it’s something as simple as folding sweaters in my closet or something more complex like helping a team improve their interactions with one another, I jump in with a gleeful enthusiasm and quickly find myself wanting to be done. I am results-oriented, and the desire to get something done compels me like an impatient horse at the starting gate, snorting and straining against the bit to get down the track as quickly as possible so I can get over the finish line. It’s not about winning; it’s about getting the thing done.
This impatient approach works extremely well when on a hot deadline. Need to put out a fire? I’m your girl. But when it comes to being highly deliberative, focused on quality, analytical and well-paced, I struggle.
So here’s my challenge. I’m in the business of listening and talking with people all day, and nothing makes me happier than to be present with another person. At the same time, my impatience nags at me. In the back of my mind, I’m often thinking, “Come on, come on ― let’s get to the bottom of this so we can solve the problem and move on.” This nagging impatience threatens to barge into my peaceful, thoughtful, open-hearted presence, and take over.
So how can I temper my enthusiasm for completion so that my energy can serve me appropriately? I love to get started, but sometimes I have a hard time going the distance. This doesn’t mean I’m not loyal ― I’ve had many of the same clients for years and have gone many distances with them. But on a case-by-case basis, I find that extending a bit of patience could mean the difference between staying in the moment with someone versus moving on to the next idea, opportunity or line of thinking. We all know how irritating it is to be talking with someone only to realize that they’ve stopped listening. Sometimes they interrupt you, and other times it’s obvious that they’ve started thinking about something else. Sometimes they move onto their next thought and leave you behind. It’s pretty disrespectful to stop paying attention in the middle of a conversation. And I admit, I’m guilty of this some of the time.
Moreover, I realize that at the heart of it, life has it’s own timing, and I’m not in control. But I’m impatient to take over and push, to drive circumstances to a successful end.
I experience this most acutely as I watch my 93-year-old mother-in-law dying. She has been in hospice now for a number of months. On many occasions, we didn’t think she’d make it to the end of the week, and other times we’ve been surprised by her sound mental and physical abilities. As I sat with her the other day, holding her hand and watching her move in and out of a disturbed sleep, I realized that we don’t control death. It comes when it comes and that’s it. I know at times she has been impatient for all of the pain and suffering to end. But she’s had just as many days when she thought she might get better and was anxious to be able to get out of bed to do the simplest of things. No matter what her thoughts and no matter how impatient she may be to let go or hang on, it doesn’t really make any difference. She has to take each moment as it comes and accept, surrender and just be where she is.
What if down the road my own impatience decides it’s time to go, but death has not yet arrived? Or what if I become impatient with death and decide to fight it off? I believe we can be just as impatient to live as we can be to die. Ultimately, I’d prefer to peacefully accept my own death when it comes and not experience impatience with my circumstances and mortality.
So my challenge is to be more patient, to allow things to be what they are and try not to force them.
I’m going to start practicing today.
What is your challenge for 2014? What area of your life, your psychology, your behavior, your methodology do you want to improve on, change or just make better?
Have a good week,
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