We’ve all had the axiom “patience is a virtue” drilled into us in our younger years, used almost as a gentle correction to the complaining of young ones that tend to desire things in the immediate. The statement is self evident and generally accepted, yet not so easily put into practice.

“Therefore, patience for the things we want is generally not an automatic attribute; it must be acquired over time.”

Babies start out in life simply by crying to get what they want, and as they begin to develop cognition we parents begin to gradually introduce constraints on their desires. As they grow to full cognition we begin giving them responsibilities – demonstrating the need to earn the things they want in some form or another, either through good behavior, chores or good communication of their wants and needs. Eventually they learn that for some things it takes more than just asking to receive; that they must work for certain things, and as any parent of a teenager can attest to, they don’t enjoy learning this.

Therefore, patience for the things we want is generally not an automatic attribute; it must be acquired over time.

For the majority of my life I have generally considered myself to be an impatient person; driving and pushing for things quickly and being impatient with the pace of those I deemed to be slow moving.  It has only been very recently that I can feel myself becoming and being truly patient. The interesting thing is, that as I’ve been developing patience I’ve learned that many of the big mistakes of my life were related to impatience, in particular related to financial and career related decisions.

So the question is, if we know that patience is a good thing, why do we not practice learning it and really taking it seriously? In my own case, I don’t think I knew of a way to change this defect of character; I thought it would just always be a part of my make up. The good news is, that we can develop and acquire genuine patience – the tools are available to all of us; we have only to apply them.

For me, the process was to take up a very intricate craft, the making of Native American instruments. So while I’ve always been very confident in the business world, in intellectual conversations, command of language and my talents in general, this craft intimidated the heck out of me. I had been intending to take up this craft for six years before I seriously got moving with it. I can’t clearly define the motivation to fully engage with it, rather that it was an overwhelming sense that it was very important to do so, and not just for the ability to utilize these instruments in my chosen religion, that of the North American Natives, but would also be tied to my work and the ability to better help my clients.

“I’m now approaching my work with a whole new vision, greater calmness, and a powerful bonus tool I did not anticipate receiving from this endeavor – a greater capacity for creative thought.”

As it turns out, my intuition couldn’t have been more spot on. For several months I toiled over intricate thread work, gluing, sanding, carving and beading, until I held a finished instrument in my hands, and throughout this process I battled with impatience. Yes, there were moments of calm enjoyment, but most of the time I was impatient with the slowness with which the project was moving along, wanting at times only to finish and be on to the next stage. Each time I made a mistake, I looked at what was going on in my head at the time and it was always related to my impatience. Each mistake meant that I needed to go back, undo things, unravel things, start again, and with each re-start I was forced to breath more deeply, clear my mind of distractions and silly thoughts about other things I should be doing at the moment or how rapidly I should finish.

It was not easy, yet throughout this process I learned what the old sages have been telling us for centuries, that through carefulness, precision, thoughtfulness, steadfastness, earnestness and perseverance we shall prevail.

We all know this, right? Yet do we really apply these characteristics to our businesses? Are we applying these principles when we keep ourselves buried in email for hours on end, multi-tasking on our i-Phones while in meetings, cutting corners, finishing people’s sentences as though we really know what they’re going to say next or rushing meetings along so we can get to the next one?

Patience, as I have learned, is not automatic – it comes with practice.  Neither is it as simple as going to a seminar about it or reading a book or even reading this blog, in order to have the idea reinforced in our minds and then say, ‘okay I’m going to be more patient now.’ It takes practice, finding something that we really want to see done to a level of artistry or even beauty, breaking it down into all its component pieces and then with great care and slowness build it like you’ve never built a thing in your life.

It could be resurfacing your kitchen cabinets, re-writing or writing your business plan, assembling a 5,000 piece puzzle, taking up a craft, or meeting individually with everyone on your team and having deep conversations with them asking how they feel about their jobs, about the company, about where they want to see themselves in five years, or in doing whatever that special thing that you find yourself being impatient with – that’s the thing you should do and do it really well. It will not be easy, but it will be hugely worthwhile, for the building of character it will bring.

For me, I’m now approaching my work with a whole new vision, greater calmness, and a powerful bonus tool I did not anticipate receiving from this endeavor – a greater capacity for creative thought.

Tedious planning can be viewed as, well tedious, or taken as an opportunity to practice a more relaxed, less frenzied, more thoughtful approach to our work.  Tasks or projects that used to make us feel uncomfortable, we can now find pleasure in, we can stimulate our creative juices and experience an enhanced passion and fulfillment for our work – simply by engaging in a practice of facing into the impatience, allowing the feeling in us to be fully embraced. As we embrace our impatience and breath through it with careful attention and slowness to the task at hand, the feeling of impatience will gradually dissipate and we will develop into truly patient human beings and creative leaders.

For your consideration, below are just a few questions to consider that require patient care and thought, and that can lead to solid business planning, growth development and long-term stability.

  • How much time do we put into refining and rethinking our business model?
  • What aspects of our business have been humming along without re-evaluation for years, that maybe aren’t doing as well these days?
  • Do we invite constructive criticism from our team and really take the time to examine what they’re saying?
  • Have we thought carefully about our team in relation to how well suited people are to their specific jobs?
  • Have we asked ourselves if we’re fulfilled by our work? And if not, why? What changes would we want to initiate to bring about greater fulfillment?
  • How much time do we take to evaluate new hires?
  • When is the last time we’ve thought about our brand image? Is it accurately conveying who and what we are?
  • Is our sales strategy still relevant or as effective?

I’m sure there are many more questions like these that you can think of which would be applicable to your business career. Give it a try. I invite you to commit to practicing greater patience, one day at a time, learning, growing and evolving. It works if you work it.

Ah ho.