How to Ease Impatience

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Wherever deadlines, deliverables, and metrics exist, we will experience impatience from time to time. Sometimes clients, supervisors, or board members will be impatient with us or our work, and sometimes we will simply feel impatient with them, with ourselves, or with some part of the process we do not have total control over.

Business systems and projects are marked and measured by time, starting with the hours we work every day and extending into longer chunks, quarters and years, project timelines and launch dates. Organizing by the clock and the calendar are useful tools, but this way of measuring can often generate pressure to work faster, or make us anxious to reach the next milestone, especially when it’s something important to us.

But does impatience help us? More often than not, it brings our mood down and compromises our work and our communication with others. Like other forms of anxiety, it pulls us out of the present moment, and when we are speculating about the future or believing we’re behind schedule or simply not fast enough, we think less clearly and make unnecessary mistakes. We may even freeze. We’re less creative in general, and less able to focus.

Whether you work for a large or small company, as a consultant, or for yourself, learning to be patient with yourself and with others is a process of accepting and getting comfortable with the unknown, and with a certain lack of control. There are many things we can control, prevent, predict, and solve for, but the conditions of our work are increasingly unpredictable, and there seem to be more and more new challenges, variables, and people throwing monkey wrenches into our best laid plans. The reality is that we have less control than we think we do, and that fact can be unsettling.

To support the illusion of control, we want to believe we can make things happen in a certain time frame, which is usually faster than what we observe or faster than what would actually be realistic. Sometimes pressure comes from clients, supervisors, or boards, but we can also pressure ourselves from within. We have the ability to imagine the future, and so we feel the gap between our vision and our achievement very keenly. Patience asks us to stand in that gap, and to withhold judgement of how much time it takes to get something done well. Here are some suggestions to let go of impatience and stay present with where things are today:

1. Reality Check – How urgent is the request, task, or event that is triggering your feelings of impatience? Can it safely wait another day or another week? What truly needs your attention now? What part of the project is under your control? What can you act on now? Whatever you choose, give it your full attention.

2. Accept the Unknown – There are times you will simply not know how long something will take. You may be waiting for your boss to get back to you with an approval, or you may be troubleshooting code or cold-calling potential customers. Impatience often creeps in with thoughts such as, “I should know how long this will take, I should be able to do this in the time I have decided, but I don’t, or I can’t! But I should! But I can’t, but I should, etc.” There remains an element of unknown in the timing of our work, as much as we try to divide it into neat little boxes. Shut down the looping shoulds and you have conquered impatience. Here’s your internal shut-down script: “I don’t know. It’s ok that I don’t know. I’ll keep doing the best I can.”

3. Trust the Process – Another way of thinking about the quality of patience is trusting the process. When you actively choose to trust the process and the people involved in it, you are relinquishing the desire for individual, personal control. Trusting the process is you seeing yourself not as an individual, but as part of a collective of people working together for the same goal. The larger our collective, the less individual control we have. Collective time may appear to be slower than individual time, but it may also be necessary in ways that are difficult to see from your individual perspective. Trust also means believing that you or your company will be ok, even if something takes longer than you would like it to.  

What are your insights around the feeling of impatience? When does it strike, and how do you change the internal conversation? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

How to make stress a catalyst for change

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Change can be scary, I know, but when you’re looking forward in your life and thinking, “This can’t go on,” or “I don’t want to live like this anymore,” change can magically become the more attractive option, even if that means stepping into unknown territory. I’ve been at that fork in the road many times myself, and what drew me toward coaching as a profession was the toolkit for navigating those moments with more grace and power.

I sometimes think of the coach’s work as “change midwifery,” meeting others at the proverbial crossroads with a backpack of strategies to make the journey easier. As we head into the sometimes stressful holiday season, I’d like to offer a few tips on how to see those stressful feelings differently, and in so doing, begin the process of change.

This week's post offers some practical tips to turn around anxiety, anger, and fear and see them through a new lens, as messengers of important information. Too often we blame the messenger and squash stressful feelings, but if we can learn to tolerate them long enough to listen, we can find the hidden gems that empower big positive life changes. Here they are:

1. Anxiety & Boundaries

Anxiety comes in many flavors, and sometimes, it will point you toward the need for a personal boundary of some kind. If you’re worried about seeing Uncle Bob to the point where you’re losing sleep over it, well, maybe it’s time to use your voice to gently let him know that his pejorative jokes about women are not ok for you. If you are dreading an office party you agreed to host, maybe it’s time to let your boss know exactly what you can and cannot do this week. Feeling overwhelmed with holiday preparations? How would it feel to set aside 30 minutes a day just for you?

If you’re experiencing anxiety around a certain person, place, or event, try asking yourself what would need to happen for you to feel ease and calm about that same situation. Often the boundary line has been crossed so often we forget where it is. Or maybe we’ve never had that boundary in place at all. New lines around our well-being can always be drawn, and I find it’s helpful to remember that healthy boundaries are what help us be more generous to others, not less. If we don’t feel good, we can’t give meaningfully to others. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

Above all, ask, “What do I need?”

 

2. Anger & Desire

When someone or something makes you angry, that anger can sometimes act as a bright neon sign for what you don’t want in your life. It can help you understand what’s most important to you. Very often, the anger is not the fault of the external person or thing in question, but rather an indication that you yourself have not been true to you own desire, or have not expressed that desire strongly enough. Maybe your spouse attempts to insist on something you don’t agree with, or a colleague ignores or diminishes the value of your work. Either way, anger has a tendency to cast other people or situations in the role of the villain, while you yourself play the role of the innocent victim.

Anger is sometimes like a magic mirror – it tells us really clearly what’s wrong for us so that we can get even more clear about what’s right for us. It can help us identify what we DO want, believe in, or want to make important in our lives.

If you often feel angry, ask yourself, what is it that I really want right now? What is most important to me? By stepping out of the victim role, you may need to ask for what you want, or seek it out on your own. You may find yourself navigating an uncomfortable conversation. These options can feel uncomfortable, but the discomfort itself is often a sign of learning, and of change.

Above all, ask, “What do I want?”

3. Fear & Decisions

We often name fear as an obstacle at the cusp of big decisions, and the most helpful perspective shift I’ve encountered in this area is to accept that the fear is actually okay, even normal. It makes sense to feel some version of fear (nervous, apprehensive, skeptical, etc.) on the cusp of change. If we didn’t, we might take higher risks and make less informed decisions. In fact, those who feel less fear often do just that. What if rather than tamping down our fear or reproaching ourselves for having it, we chose to acknowledge it instead?

I realize this is not the most fun choice. Fear can be extremely unpleasant. But once we understand that it’s okay to feel it, we can often glean valuable information from its presence, and it will then consume us far less. One great service that fear often offers is to slow us down, so that when we do make a big decision, we do so with a deeper understanding, having considered a wider range of options, having consulted more experts, and having written a Plan B. These are all important preparations for making the major life decisions that commonly trigger a fear response, such as changing jobs, getting married, or buying a house.

If you’re feeling fear around an upcoming decision or possible turn in your life, make some time to ask yourself, is there anything else I need to consider here? Is there any research I can do to give me a clear understanding of my options? Do I need to save money for another couple of months? Are there topics I’d like to discuss openly with my partner?

Above all, ask, “What do I know?”

 

If you or someone close to you is struggling with anxiety, anger, or fear, or is navigating a difficult decision or situation, please reach out to schedule a complimentary coach consultation. On this relaxed, confidential phone call, I’ll ask a few questions about your personal goals, and suggest a few techniques to try immediately. If I think I can help, I’ll also give you a recommendation on the frequency and duration of a coaching program.

How to Speak Up at Work

One big reason I believe many of us have difficulty setting healthy boundaries at work is that we fear losing our job, being passed up for promotion, damaging a professional relationship, or some other negative consequence. While these fears might sometimes be legitimate, they are often exaggerated. How can we evaluate our hesitation with more objectivity and speak up when it’s important, even though we may still feel nervous?

Strong Followers are Essential: Interview with Joe LaSala

Joe LaSala is Vice President of Marketing at Analytic Partners. He speaks in very practical terms about how crucial good following is to business, both for himself and for those he supervises. He also helped me to see how an emphasis on competent work, the realm of followers, helps to define success in terms of long-term, sustainable productivity for both clients and employees, rather than in terms of short-term gain or a race to an IPO.

How to Prevent an Argument

Arguments are never fun, but more importantly, they are usually a colossal waste of time and energy. Different from productive disagreement, which can actually be a creative process in itself, an argument occurs when we stop listening to one another and simply defend opposing positions. What keeps us stuck in an argument with another person is usually the same thing that keeps us stuck in our own minds: black and white thinking.

How to Make Decisions

There are many useful models for decision making, but what I’d like to highlight in this post are the patterns of thinking that often lead to decision paralysis in the first place. Do you tend to climb on that hamster wheel of information gathering, advice seeking, and pro vs con lists? Are you extremely concerned about which path is the most efficient, advantageous, economical, realistic, or otherwise the RIGHT decision? This post is for you.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

As I explore the concept of followership in the workplace, one skill has popped up again and again as simultaneously the most critical and also the most difficult: setting boundaries. Setting boundaries, of course, is not only for work - we all need to set healthy boundaries for ourselves in many aspects of our lives, regardless of whether we’re playing the roles of leader or follower. Professionally speaking, though, I see boundary setting as a followership skill because it primarily addresses the execution of individual or collective labor, whereas leadership qualities tend to address the organization of that labor.

How to Make Work Meaningful

All work is creative, no matter what your job description. No matter what you are producing or generating, whether it be digital, material, or ephemeral, you are a creator. Once we begin to look at our jobs this way, a new line of inquiry sometimes appears: What are we creating? Is it something we consciously chose? Is it something we enjoy or feel satisfaction from? Are we making a contribution that we consider valuable?