While dining in a local restaurant, I could not help but notice the scene created by the couple at the next table. The man was clearly intrigued with the digital menu the waiter presented him. After the couple ordered, he very patiently looked for the off button. The female diner, apparently well versed in the operation of this piece of technology, began rapidly issuing instructions and nearly leapt over the table to snatch it away and power it down. Our hero just smiled passively, ignored her and eventually found the off switch in his own sweet time. Two facts became evident. The first, he wanted to teach himself how to operate this new way of ordering dinner. Number two, his female companion had zero patience for his learning curve.
We’ve all been there… guilty of losing our patience over trivial matters, asserting our commands and vying for control. Patience is a skill. Conversely, impatience is an uncontrolled reaction that leads to frustration causing undue stress. The female companion in my story was visibly irritated. She might have saved herself some aggravation if she just sat back, enjoyed her drink and the ambiance of the establishment letting the gentleman complete the task on his own.
Stress is a reaction to events that upset your balance in life. We cannot escape stress. Sometimes it attacks us from all angles. It’s that out-of-control feeling experienced as you rush your child to the emergency room with a broken arm from falling off the jungle gym, or the boss announces the company is downsizing and your job is impacted, or your sister is diagnosed with breast cancer. These situations occur every day in real life. None of us exit this planet without experiencing our share of unplanned, unwanted stress related incidents.
What about the other type of stress, the self-imposed kind. The woman in the restaurant generated a stressful scene. I was nervous just watching her. She allowed her “Type A” personality to create an out-of-control reaction hell bent to overpower her dinner companion.
In her book, The Power of Patience, best-selling author MJ Ryan advises that our lady diner has company. Many individuals believe they “corner the market on the right way to be, and the rest of the world is wrong for not marching to the tune.” Ryan goes on to say there is a time to wait, and a time to act. I could not agree with her more.
There is an instant remedy to self-imposed stress. It’s called patience. Most of us are a work-in-progress when it comes to cultivating a calm and patient demeanor. What happens when someone hits our hot button? Just ask me, I know. I’m insanely punctual.
I once almost walked out on an appointment with my hair stylist because he was running late. Instead of using the down time to do some pleasure reading, I sat with smoke figuratively billowing out my ears. Giving into stress of our own making causes our muscles to tighten. Obsessing over the situation negates the ability to relax. Often we get caught up in negative head chatter. All this unconstructive activity can be avoided if we just learn the art of practiced patience.
You can achieve a state of serenity by ceasing to demand perfection from the world. In the example of my stylist, I should have considered his tardiness unavoidable. Surely he did not purposely plan to foil my schedule, something happened in his world to detain him.
One definition of patience is: the power to accept or tolerate delay. Ever find yourself jumping lines in the grocery store trying to determine how to place your cart in the fast lane? Yep. Consider me guilty of that crime too. Conversely, long lines are a great place to practice patience.
Gaining expertise at cultivating patience paves the way for dealing with the more important waits in your life. For example, in my career coaching practice, I advise clients unless the wolf is at the door; it is wise to wait for the RIGHT job offer. Compromising, by accepting a position unaligned with your goals, is futile. Dissatisfaction results and eventually the rigors of a second job search begins. Adopting the philosophy “it’s going to take as long as it takes” and practicing patience eliminates many hours spent dreading a job you dislike.
The same line of thinking applies to the hunt for a soul mate, or saving to purchase your dream home. Understand some life events don’t happen at warp speed just because we will it.
Today, tomorrow and forever, try practicing patience and take more time to savor the journey. Calculate the appropriate moments for action and identify those times when you should just chill and power up your patience button. By doing so, you will experience more joy and so will the world around you.