This morning I don’t have a client until ten so I was able to have a leisurely start with a good coffee and a particularly fine croissant bought yesterday in town. On opening the bag I found I had forgotten that, also yesterday in a craze of low blood sugar before playing football, I had already eaten half of it.
Looking out into the garden I am reminded of what it is to refuse the temptation of impatience. The salads in the raised beds are looking vibrant and healthy, the first radishes picked and eaten, the rose bush, brutally cut back in the early spring, is flowering with petal and foliage as healthy and strong as I have seen it, and the little yellow flowers, which I felt would never arrive to set off the abundance of green, are appearing on the jasmine. Some things just won’t be rushed, and for good reason.
A continual tussle I see in those I work with is that between impatience and acceptance. The impatience that, once identified as a problem, hindrance or self defeating strategy, the rot must be cut out immediately regardless of how long it has taken to establish. Versus the acceptance that it’s rarely simple to do so.
Back in the garden a few weeks ago there was a huge shrub full of nondescript green shiny leaves and very little else. It was unattractive, wholly out of place and it had to be removed. Cutting the bulk of it down to size was easy with just a saw and the secateurs, but what remained was everything underneath, all that was pervasive yet unseen, a root system built up over years and years. To dig that out requires strength, perseverance, determination, tenacity and single mindedness. Of course it’s much easier just to leave it because nobody really sees what was there until the remaining roots start sprouting and the ghastly green shoots start to poke up above the ground in an attempt to re-establish that which we worked so hard to remove.
We want to find solutions quickly and, when it seems as if the problem is rectified, we’ll happily turn our attention to something else. But mostly an issue extends far further than the bit we can see and our impatience at getting it sorted does not serve us well.
It’s the fashion these days to focus government funded mental health on action based, pragmatic and short term results oriented treatment. There is little stomach for delving back into the past where the trouble almost always started. There is nothing wrong with this except to say that if the only tool you have is a hammer then every problem is a nail. We are not all nails, and even if we were, it would require more patience to pull some of us from the wood that we have been driven into than it would others. Our patience as a society in securing sustainable recovery is not only helpful it’s imperative.
The devastating impact of impatience is everywhere in our lives, not least in our personal and intimate relationships. We give up far too easily preferring instead to “swipe” onto the next possibility living in the heady oblivion that it’s not us that have the problem but rather everyone else. Our impatience in refusing to hang around long enough to work out where the problem really is and, even better, attempting to fix it denies us both some valuable personal insight and the possibility of establishing a much deeper and stronger connection with those that we were pretty certain we loved at some point.
In communication impatience can affect both our ability to make a point in a reasoned and engaging way, and our willingness to listen properly to someone else. How many times do we find ourselves in conversations which seem to consist of two people not listening to the message given by the other but instead waiting for a small gap into which they might force their own next sentence? This is impatience too and it isn’t helpful, it hurts.
Paradoxically it is also impatience which can be the underlying cause of procrastination. On the face of it one would think that procrastination is the antithesis of impatience but in fact an unwillingness to stick with something until it is complete, however long that might take, and a refusal to entertain roadblocks which might disturb our timelines to an uncomfortable degree are the very things which might make us hold back from starting a project in the first place. Impatience stops us from starting and gets in the way of us making valuable mistakes.
Impatience disturbs our decision making capacity. When we are focused on the result our chosen route towards it will not so likely be affected by the most effective and fulfilling option but more so the one which will have us arrive in the shortest possible time and causing us to largely disregard all that we could see on the way. A journey from here to Scotland is much faster by plane but I will see infinitely more and have much more space to breathe and think if I take the train.
We have been groomed for impatience. Society encourages us to be demanding and tells us that we can indeed have what we want, whatever it is, whenever we want it. Technology promises that we can do more things simultaneously and that we can do them faster. Our choices of ways to spend our leisure time is so vast that we no longer need to use patience to wait for a TV programme we like, or a track on an album because it is so easy to fast forward through all the rest and discard it. We don’t even want to wait for our food anymore, not cooking it, not buying it and not even growing it. Businesses won’t wait for results and rarely invest in their people sufficiently to have them deliver, preferring instead to cast them aside and find someone who can step up immediately. Short-termism wins over the long game pretty much every time. This might make commercial sense but I wonder what impact it is having on us as a society when we are willing to wait for nothing, invest in nothing and nurture nothing unless there are instant results and gratifications.
Impatience is making us go faster and faster but we are less aware of whether it’s the right direction or not.
Having eaten half a croissant and dreamt wistfully of the missing piece I’m back in the garden. Just yesterday I was peering hard at the terracotta container into which I’d planted some dill and wondering if it had failed to germinate or whether Barnie, the cat from next door, had decided to scrape into it with his paws as he has a fondness of doing with most of my beds (the little sod). But this morning, like tiny wisps of herby hair, the shoots are poking through as if to say “You just have to be patient Graham. We’ll come when we’re ready”. Amen to that.