Do you think of yourself as a patient person? Do others give you feedback about your patience, or lack thereof?
This might look like a friend making a casual comment like, "As if you'd wait in line!" Or, your family might laugh when you tell them that you're patient.
Family is good like that, sort of a built-in polishing of the stone. There's no flaw that doesn't go unnoticed.
My family has been telling me for years that I'm not very patient. I wore it around my neck as an odd badge of honor. You see, my father is not very patient and I just figured that was how it was supposed to be as a "St. Pierre man". Add in the cultural myth that leaders are classically impatient and there I was- impatient as all get out.
Something inside me told me that this might not be a good thing after all. What if patience was actually better than impatience? What kinds of opportunities might open up if I could become more patient?
I chose Lent as the time of year to begin to study this further. During a chat with a local priest, he asked me which one thing I could do to show God that I was more grateful. It immediately came to me- I had to work on my patience.
Since then, just before Easter, I've done just that. It's been work to flex my patience muscle and pause my impatience enough to grow and learn. I've realized that I was pretty much a zero in the patience department.
It didn't feel good. Something needed to change.
After a few months, here's what I've found about learning to be more patient:
- Listening is part of patience. To the degree that you can look someone in the eye and not just be waiting to say something is an act of patience.
- In between-spaces are part of patience. Think of line waiting, etc.
- Silence is part of patience. How hard is silence for you? For many people, it's terrifying. Just closing your eyes, listening and doing nothing... this is an aspect of patience. You're just "there". For me, as a person of faith, this is integrated into my daily time of prayer.
- Daydreaming is part of patience. When was the last time you looked out a window and let your mind daydream? Patient people, I've learned, enjoy a good daydream from time to time. They're not in a rush to get to the next thing.
- Humility is part of patience. To put someone else above yourself is an act of humility. Thomas Merton, the Catholic Trappist monk, once said that the simple act of reading is a gesture of humility. Just as it takes patience to read, it takes humility to be patient.
- Focus is part of patience. A patient person can focus on thing at a time, whether it's a work task or a conversation.
- Contentment is part of patience. If you can be happy doing one thing at a time, you're flexing your patience muscle.
Patience is a rare virtue. Our workplaces expect a lot out of us and bosses are typically impatient. As high performers, we demand a lot out of ourselves, always pushing towards excellence.
Through it all, we would do well to practice patience, with ourselves, with one another and with our work.