We have all heard that patience is a virtue. And, it seems to be in short supply these days…at work, at home, and in the world. Underlying threats—real and imagined, and everyday work/life challenges confront us. Alone, or a few at a time, and many of us can cope pretty well. We see it all over the media—if not in our own living rooms—where we argue over whether to mask-up or not, where we blame others and defend our own beliefs.
Lately, my clients too have been mentioning the irritability, fatigue, and decreasing civility and creativity that seem to be signals we have had it “up to here”. At work, my clients tell me that some of their employees are crabby and irritable—complaining or feeling overwhelmed. These are symptoms that one is lacking patience.
The pace and amount of change over the last few months—even years—is wearing on them. Heavy workloads and fewer resources don’t help. And neither do the increased expectations to serve and delight customers/clients, bosses, co-workers, and other internal/external partners. Especially when the new initiatives, processes, and infrastructures are created, learned, and implemented, yet there is no corresponding decrease in workload to have time to make this happen. These are things that are causing a lack of patience in us.
Complications and miscommunication, which always occur, is creating anger, blame, and defensiveness, instead of compassion, curiosity, and forgiveness of human error. And these are unfortunate side effects of unhappy –or unhealthy–human beings.
Have you been feeling impatient? Have you been snapping or feeling like it–at others? (e.g., co-workers, direct reports, the boss, your spouse, kids? Or even the dog?) Has your temper felt like it is on a hair trigger? What you used to take in stride, now feels like monumental self-control to not chew someone out? Chances are if your impatience shows to others, or is directed to others, underneath it all, you are likely impatient with yourself.
Here is a definition of patience that I love: Patience is an exercise of self- control that shows how you can handle life when times get tough and have an ability to have an outside look at yourself and can also withstand judgment when you need to.
What I love about this is it is realistic. And, it gives us three things to focus on if we want to build our capacity for patience:
- You won’t FEEL patient at first, and you don’t have a choice in that. ACTING with patience is what is required. Brain physiology is such that we FEEL things first, before we can understand, name, make sense of, or deal with our feelings. So, if life is triggering impatience in you right now, accept it as a sign you are normal! Take a deep breath, you are okay. Feeling impatient is hard enough without beating yourself up for feeling it, too!
- Patience needs to extend to YOURSELF first, if you have any hope of extending it to others. You may be experiencing frustration, anger, disillusionment, or bafflement with others. That is, it may FEEL that what others are doing are actually causing your reactions. But, psychological health is understanding that others are a trigger, perhaps. But our feelings arise from inside US—from our beliefs, judgments, and experiences. We CAN re-frame and “re-wire” our reactions over time so that our current triggers lead to other, more pleasant feelings. This is not easy. Don’t fool yourself but a good coach can help.
- Learn to understand the beliefs that are underneath your judgments about what is good, bad, right or wrong. Some of these beliefs are quite irrational, though perhaps they may have functioned to keep you safe. If you name the belief you can take a look at it to see if it still works for you. This can lead you to question the legitimacy and unconscious bias that is often underneath a lack of patience.
What are your triggers for your lack of patience? I have a ton of them which I manage better on some days than others. I’d be glad to talk through some strategies for getting more patience—RIGHT NOW! Just send me an email.