Slow down. Breathe. Be patient. Take it easy. Relax! If you’ve heard those words often, you’ve also probably heard the encouragement to avoid burnout. You’ve also likely found yourself getting stressed out at the very mention of such words that imply slowing down is better than being a speed demon. Well yes, if you’re driving through a school zone, but what about when you’re motivated toward achievement? What if you’re driven to achieve that which is bigger than yourself, or you see potential in someone else, or your motivation is so on fire that you can’t imagine slowing yourself down? These points and more, in today’s Monday Moment, will seek to prove how, in specific areas, patience is a real hindrance and performance problem.
Those motivated to get something done often get a bad rap. Those same people often give negative labels to those with a lesser sense of obvious urgency, so at least the playing field is even, but there’s more to this story. We all have natural, gifts, skills, talents and preferences and the value of each is tied to perspective. Those who enjoy a more conservative approach share caution about moving to fast, and encourage patience. Those who are driven to do more share motivated encouragement for others to move faster, but for those driven to accomplish, patience can actually be draining. Waiting for actions, needed to achieve results, is taxing, particularly when nothing else is able to be done to make progress in the interim. Being patient for those who crave action, creates stress and stress induced reactions. Asking them to be patient is like sedating a race horse and then asking him to run. He’ll try, but he’ll trip and stumble and may even break something. If you’re asking a thoroughbred, whom you hired for their accomplishments, to patiently wait for the time clock to start and all bets to be placed, you’d better give him something else to do in the meantime or he’ll expend needed running energy on suppression and feeble attempts at patience.
It is a well-researched body of knowledge that humans prefer to stay comfortable. With varying reasons for why that is, one school of thought is we have in our DNA the drive to stay safe and this is equated with comfortable, or void of risk. Yet, when you’re motivating someone else to do something you know they have the potential to improve or do, and will benefit them positively, and it is within your jurisdiction to be motivating them to do anything to begin with, they are going to prefer to stay comfortable. In this instance, letting them rest easy and being patient with how quickly they take action, is a problem. One other school of thought rests on science. A body in motion stays in motion, we’ve all heard. Once that body stops moving, it takes more energy to get it moving than if it had just kept going. Patience lets it stop. Impatience with getting to the next phase of development, keeps it going. Being patient in appropriately motivating someone else is like telling them it’s okay to eat ice cream when they’ve paid you to help them reduce their sugar intake. Being patient with their progress, actually does them a disservice.
Who dares stand in the way of a person on a mission? A multitude of well-meaning individuals. If those same people had told Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, to be patient, there may have been a polio epidemic. If those people with good intentions had told Alexander Graham Bell, the actual second inventor of telephone technology, to be patient, we’d have simply yelled to our neighbor much longer. Patience works well for those who have yet to find the zone in which their stride, their purpose, and their passion, have come together. Everyone operates at a different pace and some even give up, but those who have lead themselves to find the zone in which they operate best, will forego potentially huge contributions if they heed the advice to be patient. Leaders are often among those well-meaning individuals telling employees to be patient, when in fact, it is the leader who might be lacking courage, resources, or confidence to manage the performance or outcome of the employed individual. Telling an in the zone person to be patient is not usually good wisdom.
Let’s face it, we’ve grown up hearing patience is a virtue, not a problem. We’ve grown up being told to wait for the appropriate timing, to hold back for fear of making others look bad, and to wait until the situation is near perfect before taking action. Half of our population would not exist if we all waited for the right time to get pregnant. The same is true of most big ideas. There’s an inherent investment of risk; an inherent lack of patience. Slowing down and waiting is a problem and often what people mean when they say be patient. Of course, there are circumstances when being thoughtful and considerate before taking action that is potentially harmful, are entirely appropriate. Perhaps it is best to say that being impatient is not the issue, as much as being patient is not the solution. In both cases, it’s about leading one’s own reaction to any resistance to any desired goal, result, or objective.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.