One of every business leader’s biggest challenges is waiting patiently for an outcome or the results of a decision. Painful, agonizing, slow movement of the second hand on a clock is usually how we experience this.
If you know me, you know I feel this one deeply. I am not a patient person. But I have some suggestions of how we can all be a little more patient based on things that work for me. After all, do you want advice from someone who has never had a problem with patience, or someone who struggles with it every day?
Effort vs. Outcome
Repeat after me: I do not control outcomes. Period. We control our effort. All day, every day. The most important thing we can do to increase patience is to focus on what is within our control. This is not a distraction technique. When we focus on what we control, we can channel nervous energy into positive work. And positive work usually leads to positive outcomes. Control your effort, and let the outcome take care of itself.
Effort vs. Worry
How effective of a worrier are you? Think you’re a master worrier? I have a post-doc in worry! I’ve done nearly 40 years in residency in worry! And do you know what “worry” is not? It’s not action! Do you know what “planning” is not? It’s not action! Do you know what is action? Action! If our strategy to deal with impatience with outcomes is to worry or plan for every possible contingency, we will not be very effective. If, instead, we put focused energy and resources into quality work toward our desired goal, we’re much more likely to positively influence the outcome. And, by the way, if we’ve done all we can toward an effort and we still must wait patiently, channel that nervous energy into work on another desired outcome. And if you don’t have one…find one! Create multiple opportunities. Give yourself escape routes. Implement lessons learned from past failures. Whatever it is, just keep moving.
Do you talk to yourself? (I love the people who just said, “No, I don’t talk to myself, what’s he talking about?!”) What is your self-talk like? Positive, supportive, fired-up, “I got this”, or “you suck” and “you’ll never get the success you deserve”? Neuroscientists estimate that we have upwards of 50,000 thoughts per day! How many of those are positive, “you got this” vs. “you’re a failure” thoughts? How do you overcome negative self-talk? Hard data. Create a running list of all the successes, wins, and accomplishments you have each day. Keep the small, medium, and large wins. Catch all the lights green with no train on your way to work: record it. Score a big client contract: record it. And everything in between. When your self-talk gets into a negative spiral, pull out your hard data. We remember negative thoughts ten times more than positive experiences, but hard data can change the way we think about and talk to ourselves.
I don’t share my internal dialogue much. I wouldn’t wish living in my head on my worst enemy. But I tend to bottle up stressful, worrisome emotions until they explode. Not healthy! As awkward as it may feel, let others into your story. Help them see how you’re thinking about a situation and why you feel that way. No doubt they have much more objective hard data from your past to counteract your spiraling worry and guide you through the patient and properly channeled approach to awaiting the outcome. Oh, and if you’re helping someone else get past their worries, try to avoid saying, “Don’t worry, you got this!” Empty platitudes like that do nothing for impatient worriers. Instead, focus on facts and past data. Show patterns of predictable success, and help the worrier confront the reality that things may not work out as they would like, but that it will still be OK.
Many other paths to overcoming impatience and worry exist: meditation, yoga, workouts, etc. These are a few that work for me. They’re not perfect, and I certainly haven’t conquered impatience. If you’re in the same lifelong battle as me, though, perhaps one or two of these can help you get the upper hand. Just remember, above all, focus on what you can control.
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