They say that patience is a virtue, but why does it have to so painful?
If you are like me, an Achiever who has a bias towards action, you want to see things get done in a timely fashion (aka fast!). Making progress on important projects and initiatives creates satisifaction in one’s work. It creates momentum in one’s life. But not everyone moves at the same speed. Rushing people and pushing too hard can create negative side effects, like longer delays, more errors and problems, and it can even put a dent in an otherwise solid relationships.
I have recently experienced the need for greater patience on a personal project. My husband and I are building a new house. It’s been a dream that we’ve been talking about for many years. Three years ago we purchased the lot next to our current home. We began to clear the land and prepare the site, and then COVID-19 hit. With things being so uncertain, we put this particular project on hold. But in heart it was still alive and vibrant. Each day I would look out over the empty lot and I could SEE our new house in place. But alas it was but a vision. We were in the suspended state of “wanting and waiting.”
Over the summer we had the good fortune of reconnecting with a long time friend who had just retired from a long and successful career in architecture. He generously offered to work with us on customizing our house plans. It was an exciting process. Within a few weeks, we had things nailed down and were ready to submit the plans to our town for review and approval.
Then the town informed us that because there was a creek behind our property that we had to get special clearance from the Army Corp of Engineers to ensure environmental sustainability and protection of the waterways and habitat. Having never worked before with this organization before, we made the necessary calls and sent the emails. We read up on all sorts of documents online which introduced new terms and considerations that we had no clue about.
It took 3 weeks to schedule the engineer to come to our property. On that date, she informed that we were good to go. There were no issues that she could find that would prevent us from building a home on this site. (Note: a spontaneous happy dance erupted at that moment.) But before we could submit our plans to the town for approval, she needed to write up and issue the full report. She couldn’t give us an estimated turnaround time, but did promise to have it done before she left on maternity leave (Yes, she was pregnant). We laughed awkwardly, but we didn’t feel comfortable probing for more specific information on her due date. So we waited. We checked in every week or so. And we waited some more. In fact, we waited for 50 days after her visit.
From a project management point of view, waiting for that report felt kind of like THIS to me:
Things were moving so slowly, at a snail’s pace. I almost felt like it would never happen. My husband and I got into a few uncomfortable discussions about how to interact with the Army Corps of Engineers. My more direct and assertive style and “Go and Get” personality, was 180 degrees different from my husband’s casual, kind and patient style and his “Wait and See” personality. He felt that pushing hard would be a bad thing to do in this case, while I viewed as reasonable and appropriate. People need to be held accountable, right?
Not wanting to blow up things on the home front, I took a step back. I tried several strategies to become more patient with this process, including:
- Detaching myself from the outcome
- Practicing mindful meditation
- Love and let go
- Surrendering to a higher power (e.g., the Army Corps of Engineers)
- Repeating The Serenity Prayer
- Chilling out with a glass of wine
- Visualizing the final outcome
- Saying the daily manta – “This too shall pass”
- Letting go of the dream (sad face)
- Focusing on other things
Dealing with Prolonged Periods of Waiting
While I was going through this unavoidable and awkward dance with patience, I had conversation with a few clients whose patience meters are, by necessity, much higher than mine. In fact, I have one client who is a Mexican national. She is living here in the USA with her husband who is employed by a large company on a special work VISA. My client has been told by the USA immigration folks that she “cannot work.” Even the appearance of working or earning money from her services could jeopardize her green card application. And yet she longs to contribute. She is so incredibly talented, creative, energetic, and has SO MUCH value to offer the USA and all the people fortunate enough to collaborate her. I felt her pain. And then referred her to an immigration attorney to get clarity what she could do and couldn’t do while she was in this prolonged waiting period.
Balancing Urgency and Patience
Thinking about who I could turn to for advice and counsel on this matter, I thought immediately of Brandon Smith, who is known as The Workplace Therapist.
I had the pleasure of meeting Brandon a few years ago while attending the Indie Books Family and Friends Forum – 3-day conference for authors and speakers in beautiful San Diego, California. Brandon impressed me immediately. I find him to be a genuine, compassionate, well-spoken, and approachable professional. His is a very likeable and knowledgeable expert in his field.
We have stayed in touched since that first meet up. In fact, he invited me to appear as a featured guest on his podcast, The Workplace Therapist Show. I’ve been following his work with interest ever since.
Brandon recently released a new book called The Hot Sauce Principle: How to Live and Lead in a World Where Everything is Urgent All of the Time.
His book proudly sits on my bookshelf. I reached for it as I was writing this blog. But I got impatient when I couldn’t immediately find what I was looking for, so I picked up the phone and left him a voicemail message. (Yes, another example of the need for patience and how urgency can create problems). He kindly returned my call within 30 minutes and we had a productive conversation. In fact, he shared a personal story of being at the gym, wanting to work out harder and push through the pain in his knee. But his realized that if he prioritized urgency over patience, he might exasperate his injury. The body needs time and rest to heal and recover. Indeed, the body needs more patience.
Practical Advice from Brandon M. Smith, author of The Hot Sauce Principle
Please enjoy these words of wisdom from Brandon Smith:
“There are two cases when adding more urgency will can cause more harm than good. When you don’t have the proper resources (people, materials, time, etc…), adding more urgency will result in frustration. In this case, one must wait until they have everything they need before they apply any hot sauce. In other words:
- Not Enough Resources + Urgency = Frustration
The second case when urgency can be counterproductive is when you have already applied a “maximum dose.” In this case, you have reached a threshold of impact for urgency. Any additional urgency will result in resentment, burnout and ultimately apathy. We begin to become numb to the hot sauce and resent the person applying the pressure. In this case, reading others is key. One must pay close attention to the cues that urgency and rely on patience for the duration. In other words:
- Maximum Applied Urgency + More Urgency = Resentment & Apathy”
“If the outcome of a situation is happy, this compensates for any previous difficulty or unpleasantness.”
All’s Well That Ends Well
If you are wondering what happened with the Army Corps of Engineers. One magical day at the end of April, when we least expected it….the approval letter came through! We celebrated that evening with cheers and good feelings for everyone involved.
With a burst of new energy, hope and urgency, the next day we pushed through to submit our house build plans to our local town for approval.
And now, we wait again…patiently!