Photo via Pikist
Replace the drama with resilience, patience and persistence.
We’ve rebranded the term ‘impatience’ in the last twenty years — in our professional lives at least. It used to carry a negative connotation, as it still does in most realms of life. But in business and government, it has become a badge of pride.
We can’t even use it to humblebrag when asked to name a weakness in a job interview — it’s too obvious. We’ve lazily equated impatience with drive, with high standards.
When facing problems, our archetypal manager flashes the badge of impatience through unhelpful behaviour. He blames, threatens or embarrasses others. Chest out, head shaking in disbelief, he broadcasts his refusal to accept the current situation.
Lacking imagination and attention, he can’t think of what needs doing, or he doesn’t have the energy to persevere in the consistent hard work required to meet tough challenges. So he throws a tantrum, tells his colleagues that ‘this is unacceptable’ and attributes his childish behaviour to impatience with poor performance. This, he hopes, comes across as a show of strength, a passionate demonstration of commitment. He might even fool himself.
But of course he’s acting from a position of fear and weakness. This is an unexamined reaction to the physical discomfort of having his sand castle of What Should Be washed over by the waves of What Is. By definition, he behaves immaturely when he replays childhood strategies, generating drama to distract him from feeling the discomfort directly.
He can replace that impatience with a pair of much more powerful tools — patience and persistence. He needs patience with himself, his colleagues and the world. Yearning for reality to be different, right now, is understandable. It’s a common component of the human experience. Still, reality has a poor track record of compliance. Might something about the world outweigh his personal preferences?
Fortunately, the world often responds to energetically applied intention. He needs persistence in concerted effort, alongside his colleagues, to accomplish tough things. Best not use his precious energy to throw himself about like a two-year-old demanding an ice-cream cone. He might channel it instead into creative problem-solving and doing what needs doing.
Patience does not imply satisfaction with current results. It just shows he is mature enough to accept present reality as the basis for action. We applaud his drive. Long live high standards. But these are within, not acting upon, the larger flow of life.
‘He’ might be you or me. Let’s discard the badge of impatience.
Our immediate step, before and during the next stressful situation, is to build resilience for working with the discomfort such events create. We can prove to ourselves the fist in our chest or knot in our gut is not a threat — our emotion is bearable. Over time, we’ll face the discomfort more often than stewing in or acting out our impatient drama.