I remember being in such a hurry in the very early stages of my working life in the Health Club industry, firstly as a Lifestyle Consultant (yes really 😊) then as Deputy Club and finally Club Manager, a hurry to be promoted to the next level, to do the exams, to take on responsibility. I remember a sage and wise senior manager at the time (he must have been all of 30) saying – “Richard why are you in such a hurry?”
I look back and I have no clear idea – I wouldn’t say I was ever the dramatically ambitious sort, but the next rung, the next step was always important, to feel as if I was making progress, in short I was impatient!
Fast forward a few years, well quite a few, and that level of impatience still exists, but I am learning and getting better. My latest ‘big dream’ is starting to take shape in the form of Lana the Landcruiser, my latest distraction, learning opportunity and dare I say it, money pit. I have a vision to drive back down to Kenya (where I was born) – a sort of ‘Long Way Home’ to coin a phrase. To do this you need an appropriate vehicle, so Lara the Landrover was sold to make way for a 1993 Landcruiser 80 series of dubious looks but solid foundations. Now I bought Lana in March of this year, taking her away on the back of a lorry; last week I finally managed to drive her home after she has spent the best part of 6 months with Dave the mechanic as a little side project to drop onto as and when he had the time. She had been stood in a barn for 10 years – so needed substantial work doing, all of it beyond me I hasten to add. At first I accepted the journey we were on, but as time dragged on and false dawns came and went I have found it increasingly difficult to manage my patience. “By the time you come back from holiday Rich you will see a massive difference!” (July) “Should be by the end of August!” “I reckon we can get it sorted with a bit of luck by the end of September!” Finally she arrived towards the back end of October. Dave has done an absolutely brilliant job and as I look back he has delivered exactly what he set out to, a renovation done in his time that hasn’t cost me a fortune, I now seem to remember him saying something about October way back when, I just didn’t listen.
This has tested my patience beyond!! I have found it increasingly difficult to contain my frustration and disappointment, impatience creates such negative and unhelpful emotions. I would go up to the garage with hope and excitement and come back devastated and disconsolate. This negativity clearly then has a knock on effect with other aspects of your life, relationships with family, energy and focus on work and general mood and mental health. It may not be a big deal in the grand scheme of things, just a car and a dream, but the reality of the impact of impatience can be significant. In today’s ‘always on’ world, the demand for instant access to information and services means we don’t stretch our ‘patience muscle’ as much as perhaps we used to. If I finish a book on a Friday evening, I don’t have to wait until Monday for the library to open to get the next in the series, I just download onto my kindle. If my daughter Maisy wants to see her school friends and ask a question about the homework on a Thursday evening, she doesn’t have to wait until school the following day, she just Facetimes them. Wherever we go and whatever we buy ‘instant access’ is a source of competitive advantage, each provider working hard to make things accessible quicker and quicker.
Whilst I was born more impatient than most, I think we are also being conditioned by society to be less patient. So if you are like me and impatience affects your mood, decisions and ability to get on with things, how can you try and be more patient. Soren Kierkegaard said “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown” This is invariably true, but how do we maintain patience while we wait?
My experience with Lana has led me to reflect on 3 things that I tried to help me manage my impatience.
- Reconnect with the bigger picture – I learned that if I brought myself back to the ultimate ambition, a vehicle capable of taking me home to Africa and imagined that journey and adventure, I was able to recreate energy and excitement and an appreciation of the longer term.
- Appreciate small steps – I had to really dig deep with the progress not perfection mantra and steal myself deliberately to look for and then genuinely appreciate and be grateful for the fact that things were moving forward, albeit slowly.
- Redefine and set realistic expectations – using both of the tactics above I would try hard, as I sat with my beer contemplating the woe that was this doomed adventure, to revisit what was realistic and what was appropriate. The balance all the way though the refurb was time versus money, I could have had it much quicker but at much greater expense, I needed the money I was saving for other kit. In the grand scheme of things a couple of months was nothing, I wasn’t jumping on the ferry anytime soon. Dave has lots of other customers, he had originally said don’t plan anything for this year, you just chose not to hear Richard.
In conclusion, the really important things in life like dealing with a debilitating illness, growing a business, building a great leadership team, or indeed planning adventures, all take time, and if it takes time then it requires patience. We may have instant access to the next episode in a series we are watching, but that isn’t important. So if success/happiness/contentment is about the big things in life, patience is a necessity not just a virtue. I don’t know who Barbara Johnson is/was, but I loved this rather apposite quote.
“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.”