When to be Patient and When to Take Action –Do good things really come to those who wait?
By nature, I am not a very patient person. I have been called ‘a doer’, ‘a driver’, the ‘go-to person’, and I generally pride myself in making things happen. In life though, I continually feel like there is a lesson in patience that the world is trying to teach me. I also wonder if I’ve missed any business opportunities because I ‘pushed through’ versus allowed something to germinate. And reflectively, I wonder who I have probably driven crazy in the process of ‘forcing through.’
It’s ‘the meek shall inherit the Earth’ versus ‘He who acts first, wins.’ What is the right call? Especially if your actions determine your outcome –not your behaviours. What’s a ‘pacesetter’ to do?
My children certainly don’t respond to force. The utility companies have tested my patience to the moon and back over the last 6 weeks in trying to get service in our new home – lost orders, no return calls when promised, no shows, etc., and when I stop to think about it, do I really want my defining characteristic to be that of control and force? Doesn’t that make me a bitch?
So, I’ve been doing some heavy-duty thinking on when one chooses patience over action. Is it scenario based? Is it dependent on safety and accountability? Or is the divine universe sending me a message and so, if I hurry up and get the patience lesson, can go back to my comfort zone of action?
Patience as a Virtue
Having patience means being able to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity. Patience can make the difference between annoyance and level-headedness, between worry and tranquillity.
There are numerous studies1 that support findings that patient people tend to experience less depression and negative emotions, perhaps because they can cope better with upsetting or stressful situations. Patient people also feel more gratitude, more connection to mankind and to the universe, and a greater sense of abundance.
But can patience help us achieve our goals?
The road to achievement is a long one, and for those without patience—those who want to see results immediately— they may not be willing to walk that long journey. Think of all the headlines about millennials being unwilling to “pay their dues” in an entry-level job, jumping from position to position rather than growing and learning.
In a 2012 study, Susan Schnitker examined whether patience helped people get things done. In five surveys, completed over the course of a semester, patient people of all stripes reported exerting more effort toward their goals than other people did. Those with interpersonal patience, in particular, made more progress toward their goals and were more satisfied when they achieved them (particularly if those goals were difficult) compared with lesspatient people. According to Schnitker’s analysis, that greater satisfaction with achieving their goals explained why these patient achievers were more content with their lives as a whole. Certainly a lesson for anyone who thinks they need to forgo personal obligations for meeting corporate demands.
Other research has found that people who exhibit impatience and irritability—a characteristic of the Type-A, doer personality—tend to have more health complaints and worse sleep. If patience can reduce our daily stress, it’s reasonable to speculate that it could also protect us against the damaging health effects of stress.
Patience is never celebrated
Patience is often exhibited behind closed doors: a parent reading a third bedtime story to her child, an athlete waiting for an injury to heal, a farmer waiting for nature to take its course. In public, it’s the impatience that grab all our attention: drivers cutting each other off; heavy sighing and eye rolling in check out lanes; a parent chastising their kids for stopping to pick up invisible treasures as ‘we’re late again.’ Should it be celebrated?
From decisions made in haste to words spoken without reflection, impatience can cause a vast amount of pain, waste and damage. However, if you want something you never had, you have to do something to get it.
The Case for Action
So I come down on this side of the fence. You have to take action. I can positively think about all the things in life I desire; I can empathize and explain away why my movie ticket line isn’t advancing, I can allow someone to beat me to the punch, but at the end of the day, if I don’t take action I have not progressed.
The only way to conquer my goals is with action. Wondering about them will not get anything done. Avoiding challenges will only make them grow bigger. Starting from exactly where you are right now with exactly what you have right now makes great achievements. Stop wondering and start doing. Once you’ve made a little progress you’ll always know, that you can make even more progress if you try.
So, in the end, after putting positivity into the universe that my cable would finally be installed, I mounted a barrage campaign. And although I’m not certain it resulted in my utilities getting connected any faster than was already planned, I took action and was talking with people to make it happen. And that ultimately felt more productive and empowering than waiting for the universe to get back to me.
Simply put, no action, no results.
But where I think the intersection between action and patience is, is the following:
* Action must be in alignment with what you are trying to create. You can pray for, wish for, and visualize what you want until the cows come home, but your wishes are unlikely to be answered without you taking action steps toward what you desire. Even if the perfect job opportunity were to just show up on your doorstep, you still have to take the action steps to get to know the company, make contact, develop an exchange, to use essential life skills to assist in making the job a reality.
* There is a responsibility to avoid reckless action. No one needs to feel bad about himself or herself for something to get done. No one should even be broken or bullied for progress to take place. It’s about the ‘how’ the action is delivered and engaged.
So, take action, and take purposeful action. Ask yourself if what you are saying and doing is leading you closer to your goals or farther away. Consciously choose words and behaviours that move you toward your goals but don’t harm others. You don’t need to be a bull in the proverbial China Shoppe, but you do need to let them know you walked in the door with intent to buy.
It’s a mindset shift. Train your thinking to achieve your goals.
- 2007 study by theologian Sarah Schnitker and psychology professor Robert Emmons.
Heather Mae Cavanagh is a communications and change management professional. An accomplished 25+ year track record spans advertising, finance, and marketing industries. She has parlayed her vast personal and professional experience into a successful coaching business, now focused on mentoring other high-achievers to shift their mindset and perspective to find their balance, uncover their resilience, improve their networking and ability to make critical connections — allowing them to thrive! Heather has a Masters in Leadership Studies, specialized in coaching & change management. She is also a trained Success Ambassador with Power to Thrive and Wealthy Woman Warrior. You can take a sneak peek