We wait constantly. We wait in traffic, at red lights, and we wait in lines at the supermarket. What about the doctor’s office? We wait there, too– in a waiting room, no less. When driving, we rush our way to the next stoplight which is clearly red. We rush to the store only to wait in the line at the checkout. We rush to get to work to find ourselves waiting in traffic. In life, we have a “hurry up and wait” mentality.
As humans are we happiest when we are waiting? Are we bouncing about our daily lives, unconsciously trying to move from place to place and into the next state of waiting? Unless you are a masochist, then probably not. Nobody likes to wait. I have never heard anybody say that they can’t wait to get to Disney World so that they can wait in all the lines. Yet we still rush around only to find ourselves waiting.
What’s So Special About Waiting?
Waiting is something we all have in common. There is no amount of money you can have in the bank or power you can hold that will keep you from it. Even the President has to wait at times. You’d think that if waiting is such a big part of our lives we, as a collective, would be better at it. We’re not. We never really get better at it because most of us never practice the art of waiting. Practicing the art of waiting is called patience.
Patience is one thing we all need more of. So how do we get it? That seems to be the question of the year, especially around the end of December when our kids become a little bit antsy. And when we can’t stand their impatience any longer we say, “Christmas is almost here. Be patient.”
We tell our kids to be patient, but do not model it for them, which is the best way of teaching patience. With kids, more is caught than taught. Around town, we rush from one red light to the next, we show frustration when the line is long at Walmart, we yell at other drivers for going too slow.
As bosses, we tell our people to take their time on projects, but then we tell them to work on the weekends in order to get the job done on time. There are plenty of opportunities to model patience throughout our day, but we impatiently pass them by.
Zen and the Art of Patient Waiting
Patience is a skill. And like any other skill, the more you practice the better you become at it. When we express impatience, the muscles in our bodies get tense, our breathing rate increases and the endorphins rage in our brain and throughout our system. If this happens enough, it becomes a habit. A bad habit. It becomes the norm.
The next time you catch yourself beginning to get frustrated because of lack of patience, take a step back from the moment. Ask yourself if the situation is truly a worthy reason for your anger. When you are growing impatient, you have to learn how to give up. You have to surrender yourself to the moment. You have to realize that the situation is out of your control. And if it is out of your control, then why emote to it? When thought of this way, a lot of things we get angry at seem outright silly.
This way of thinking isn’t original. It is actually from a philosopher that lived two-thousand years ago named Epictetus. He said (and of course, I am paraphrasing) that there are things you can control in your life and there are things you cannot. If you think about it really hard, there aren’t many things in your life that you do have control of, right?
Put some thought into what you have control of as you go about your day. Can you control the speed of the lady behind the counter at the deli? Nope. So take a deep breath and enjoy the fact that you are there and have the ability to even buy that pound of thinly sliced smoked turkey. Can you control the speed of the driver in the fast lane with his blinker on? Not there, either. If you have no control over your situation, then you don’t have the right to get frustrated.
When you catch yourself rushing, take a step back and ask yourself what you are rushing towards. Chances are, you are rushing to wait. Avoid the wait by patiently slowing down. The destination is not always the grand prize in life. Slow down, enjoy the journey and trust that you will eventually get to your destination. And if you have to, just leave a little bit earlier.
Genius is patience ~ Isaac Newton
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This post was created with the help of:
Dave Matthews and a glass of La Croix with frozen berries (stupid paleo diet)