Photo Credit: Eunice De Guzman, Unsplash.com

Written by Nina Cashman
February 12, 2020

Are you impatient? Chances are, if you’ve got the slightest twitch of ambition, you are–at least just a little–impatient. When we strive for success in any sort of endeavor, most of us wish our results would come sooner, rather than later. So, it seems like impatience is a perfectly normal, or perhaps even expected mode of operation. Right? 

When, if ever, have most of us stopped to wonder what impatience is really costing us? And, by “cost,” I don’t just mean the endless dollars we’ve thrown at “systems” that promise to “get us there faster.” I’m also referring to the amount of effort we put into trying to skip our own natural growth procession, in order to get to the top of a proverbial mountain with as little effort as possible. This only causes us to miss out on the most important experience of all: the climb.

One of the most common frustrations I witness in professionals who take on a new challenge– like starting a new coaching practice–is the propensity towards impatience. I’ve also noticed that people experiencing success have an uncanny ability to patiently enjoy life’s ride without imposing premature outcomes or expecting more before appreciating where they actually are.

One of my favorite quotes is this one by Teddy Roosevelt:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

In other words, acceptance is foundational to patience. And when it comes to starting a new business, position–or any new endeavor for that matter–patience isn’t only a virtue; it ironically, is the very thing that is going to get us where we want to go, faster.

When we try to take our first few steps too far ahead of where we’re actually standing, it only causes us to give up prematurely. This leads to frustrated endings that cause us to miss out on foundational experiences that are essential for growth and advancement. And, to come full circle, without foundational knowledge, it’s so much easier to get overwhelmed and give up. 

Far too many of us allow our impatience to trick us into thinking that we don’t have the time to begin where we actually are. We convince ourselves that we’ll need to forcefully start somewhere beyond our current capabilities, or where some other “expert” told us to begin. (And who can be more of an expert about where you’re supposed to start, other than you, hmm? Don’t even expect me to tell you where to start!)

Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, founder of the Happiness Studies Academy talks about a concept called “Detached Idealism.” This happens when our ideals aren’t realistic or when we aren’t really sensible about what it actually takes to attain a goal or vision. We think, “if I will it, it will come.” Yet, we can’t expect ourselves to take solid actions in areas where we aren’t yet equipped. If we do, we’ll just induce unnecessary stress and self-doubt.

Of course, if I want to become a doctor, I’ll want to accept that acquiring medical training will help me build the foundational knowledge and experience to earn a Ph.D. I’ll also want to be realistic about my current experience and build from there. This all seems pretty straightforward, right? Yet, so many of us find ourselves in a directionless drift because we are unwilling to patiently accept where we actually are.

We expect ourselves to hit the gym five days a week and start a rigid diet, after years of not exercising and stress eating. We expect ourselves to get promoted into higher positions before delving into the details of what’s expected, and looking for ways to groom ourselves. Here’s another familiar one: we expect our businesses to do gangbusters, before making any effort to get in front of prospective clients, or spending time mastering our crafts! The list goes on and on.

Resisting reality only makes the road to success feel like a fight. It’s really always far easier to work with what we have and build from there; and, yes, this sometimes requires that we’re willing to start from the beginning. “Work” doesn’t have to be a four-letter curse word. Instead, think of work as what provides us with some of the richest experiences possible, and what keeps us connected to the flow of the world and our purpose.

So, what’s the remedy for impatience? 

It begins with recognizing that the greatest opportunities we have are the ones directly in front of us, right where we are, and wherever we are. And there’s no need to judge ourselves about where we are in our individual progression towards achievement. Stop comparing yourself to people who are further along and trust that you too will get there, when you’re ready, and by staying focused on where you are right now.

When it comes to flow and progression, it’s really much easier to simply accept reality–and patiently work with it–as opposed to resisting it or wishing for something more. Here’s a fun tongue-twister: more will inevitably come to you, based on how you respond to what you currently have, than how you react to what you don’t have.

As author Robert M. Pirsig says in his book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values,

“The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘go away I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling.”

Accepting where we are enables us to meet our next opportunity. Resisting where we are, only pushes opportunities away.

Perhaps a large component of our impatience comes from the idea that achieving a goal will help us attain happiness, or that by earning a certain credential or material object, we’ll finally feel fulfilled. Remember, attainment itself really only leads to a short-term high. So the pursuit of goals–not the attainment of them–is what really provides us with a true, sustainable sense of purpose and fulfillment. As Henry David Thoreau said, “life is too short to be in a hurry.”

So, what would change in your life if you adopted more patience? What would be different if your pursuits were the objective, and your goals were simply a means for you to stay engaged and interested? What would you do differently if you realized that this very moment is the success you’re striving to obtain? How might you view your current opportunities differently?

Instead of cursing where we are, we can appreciate it. Instead of pretending to be somewhere further, we can take the time to notice the nuances of where we’re standing, right now–get present, and create time and space to explore the landscape. We can admire our opportunities, accept our current capabilities, and get excited about developing our skills to create the most possibilities. Most importantly, we can stay curious and interested to enjoy life’s adventurous ride!

Photo Credit: Eunice De Guzman, Unsplash.com