It’s not a very good idea to pull up a flower by its roots to see how it’s doing, and as it takes three years to grow asparagus it’s clear that patience is an important requirement to be a successful asparagus grower. The fact is that patience is an important ingredient of success in every facet of our everyday lives.
There is really no such thing as a perfectly patient person; there are only people who are perfectly good at hiding their impatience. Even if that’s the case, for ease of discussion, this article will refer to the ability to hide impatience as patience.
If you weren’t born with patience, or the innate ability to hide your impatience, as the case might be, you’re going to have to develop it because patience succeeds more often than impulsiveness; we get the chicken by waiting for the egg to hatch, not by breaking it.
It’s not overstating the case to say that a moment of patience can avert a disaster and a moment of impatience may ruin a life. Consider the driver who runs a red light in order to save a couple of minutes and kills a child as a result of that moment of impatience. He’s going to spend the rest of his life regretting that impulsive act. Now that the point has been made, let’s look at the less extreme, but still important, aspects of patience and impatience.
Patience is a subtle blend of wisdom and self-control. It usually consists of simply doing something else in the meantime, such as reading in the doctor’s waiting room, listening to a favourite CD when stuck in traffic, or gathering facts and carefully considering the pros and cons of a decision rather than rushing into an impulsive act.
Impatience can be a greater liability than inexperience. An inexperienced person who takes the time to properly analyze a situation and carefully consider the likely results of possible courses of action will make fewer mistakes than an experienced person who makes rash, ill-thought-out decisions.
Probably the most critical time to exercise patience is when angry. Patience in a moment of anger may avoid days of regret. Exercising a degree of patience rather than losing self-control might allow you to retain the services of a valued employee, the goodwill of an important customer or the respect of your colleagues. It’s particularly important to exercise patience with those who are less intelligent or less experienced than you are.
You will always encounter situations in which there’s nothing to do but wait, such as being mired in traffic without your favourite CD, stuck in a long line somewhere, cooling your heels in a reception area without anything to read, or perhaps just waiting for an elevator. A great way to ease your frustration in these circumstances is to play what I call “what if.” Ask yourself what you would do if you found yourself in particular situations that could realistically arise at work, at home or at play. You can also ask yourself what you would say if you were asked particular questions, or if you had to make a particular speech or presentation.
There are three great benefits to playing “what if.” First, you will avoid frustration while waiting. Second, if some day you actually find yourself in any of the imagined “what if” situations, you will have somewhat prepared yourself. Third, you’ll gain the reputation of being a patient person.