So did any of you instantly start thinking of the Guns N Roses song when you saw this title? I must say I find it difficult to take advice from Axl Rose, and his dancing in that video is just plain awful.
Anyway, I was reading a post over at Len Penzo last week, and I started thinking about myself and my own patience level. I am one of those Type A individuals. I can’t stand walking behind slow people, and people being late used to make my blood boil. However, I have found that I have mellowed over the years, and I am not sure why.
When I think about patience, my brain takes me back to a lunch I had with one of my bosses when I was a summer intern at GM. My boss was explaining to me how he didn’t worry about being late to meetings and such anymore. Basically, he felt he would get there when he got there and that would be good enough. I found such a concept shocking. I would never even consider being late to a meeting. To me, being late shows disrespect and it is just something you do not do, no matter what.
Twenty years later, I think I get it… He was showing patience with himself, and accepting that unexpected circumstances come up sometimes, so no reason to worry about it if you cannot change it.
I used to get so angry waiting at the doctor’s office to be seen. Being put on hold with the cable company would drive me insane. Now, I realize I cannot control some situations whatsoever, and I will be called when it is my turn. Getting frustrated is a waste of energy. I know I will not die waiting, so I just occupy myself with other things while I wait. When I am on hold, I will do the dishes. If sitting at the doctor’s, I will read a magazine. Don’t get me wrong, I am still not perfect by any means. I also have no idea why I am more patient than I used to be. As a matter of fact, I have less spare time in my life now than ever before, so I don’t know how I became more laid-back. Maybe I grew up and recognized that I do not and cannot control the world?
However, one thing that I think has definitely helped my patience and stress level is planning ahead. Quite often, I used to find myself rushing around at the last minute and trying to get everything organized at the last minute. Now, I always look ahead at my calendar to try to optimize the time I have, especially when the schedule is tight. When things are taken care of ahead of time, you can thing more clearly, and react more appropriately when there is a hiccup in the plans.
Besides planning ahead, here are a few other tips for increasing your patience level:
- Do NOT overschedule yourself. I know it can be hard to say no, but you cannot sacrifice yourself for the sake of others all the time. Less commitments means more free time, and allows for delays to be handled easily. There is nothing worse than scheduling things on top of each other. All it takes is for one task to be delayed by 15 minutes, and then your whole day is ruined.
- Be more accepting of mistakes. We all make mistakes, and they are part of life. Learn to laugh at a situation instead of resorting to anger. If you are waiting for your meal in a restaurant and the waitress is new and can’t get your order straight, don’t get impatient and frustrated. Try to empathize and accept he/she is probably doing the best they can. If you cut yourself and others some slack, your overall stress level will probably drop dramatically. I am not saying that if your waiter decides to plop down and talk to the group in the booth next to you that you should just say ‘oh well, I hope he is having a great time over there’. That deserves frustration! But, if someone is really trying their hardest, just try and look past the inconvenience it may be causing you and give them a break.
- Try to think “will expressing frustration make the situation any better”? If it won’t, then relax about it. If you are ever being taken advantage of though, always speak up. But if pacing and swearing won’t solve the problem, then don’t do it. (Not sure if this is a lesson in patience or anger management, but they can go hand-in-hand.)
- Be realistic about your goals. Sure you might want that money for a down payment on a house right this minute. However, you need to really know how long it will really take to save that money. You need to plan for contingencies, as life is always ready to throw a curveball. If you get thrown off track for a valid reason, then move on and don’t dwell on it. Most things in life take time, and being impatient won’t make you have a lot of money any sooner. If you put a buffer amount of money, time, whatever the measurement is into your plan, you will enjoy the path to your goal much more than if you allow zero room for error.
- Think about what triggers your ‘impatience’. Is it a friend that is always late to lunch? If so, ask them to please be on time as you have something to do right after lunch. Is it bad traffic? Then make sure you leave in plenty of time to get wherever you need to go and bring along a book on tape or something to make the ride more pleasant. Just identify your ‘sore spots’, and try and think of things you could do to mitigate your feelings of impatience and frustration in those situations.
I know I am a much happier person since I became a little more laid back. I wish I could bottle exactly what did it for me, but I think it is probably a very individual process. I wonder though, is this just my own perception that I am more relaxed, and those that know me well think “What is she talking about, she is the most high-strung person I know?”. Regardless, I feel more inner peace, which counts for something.