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Patience: A commodity in short supply

October 28, 2020

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Why is the microwave so slow? Why is traffic so slow? Why is my computer so slow? I wish things were faster.

For many, patience may be in short supply. This is probably why there are such things as road rage, snapping at others, and getting frustrated easily. When many of us hear the word patience, the ancient saying “patience is a virtue” comes to mind. Also, a gut reaction for many is, “I don’t have patience.” The consequence of being impatient is often bad decisions. However, we have the power to increase our patience. It is only a matter of choice.

Ironically in today’s fast-paced world, it seems we are pushed to embrace an impatient attitude. Impatience often conveys a sense of importance, busyness, urgency, etc. If we do not act with impatience, we are seen as slackers or having a lackadaisical attitude. And, since time is money, we therefore can’t be trusted to get the job done in a timely manner. To avoid this label, impatience is often worn as a badge of honor. Many of us have said or heard colleagues say, “I’m up to my eyeballs in work.” While this may be true for some, we should strive to practice more patience because many hasty decisions often yield disastrous results and many regrets.

In this essay, I will share with you my relationship with patience and how I developed it. In a previous essay, I mentioned I like gardening. This hobby started before I was ten. I can remember helping my mom plant seeds and she would tell me how many days they would take to germinate. Now, many seeds take a few days to germinate, but I can remember taking a small twig and digging up the seeds the very next day. Seeing no germination I would rebury them. The next day or two I would dig them up again. This time, I may see the roots sprouting, but the process of digging them up would damage the roots of many seeds. As a result, the vibrancy of the plant was compromised.

I did the same thing when we planted potatoes. From the time the potato “seeds” are planted, it takes about 70-120 days to harvest mature potatoes. Well, as a child, I was not prepared to wait that long. Within the first week, I was digging up the seeds to see if they were growing. Most likely, this negatively affected the development of the plant. As soon as the plant grew and looked mature to me, I would dig away at the roots to see if there were any potatoes. In my impatience, I was destroying the roots needed to develop a successful crop.

In the first 50 days in the life of a potato, nothing much happens in terms of development. The plant is spending lots of energy growing foliage to capture energy from the sun and sending feeder roots out to capture the nutrients from the surrounding soil. It is only after the leaves and roots are developed that the plant will use them to develop the potatoes. The healthier the plant, the greater the capacity it has to store energy in the form of potatoes. Most of the development of potatoes takes place in the last three weeks.

So, when my impatience got the better of me and I dug up the plants to see how the potatoes were developing, I was actually sabotaging my efforts and the subsequent potato crop. The learning for me was patience will yield great results. However, it was necessary to do the ground work and properly prepare the soil in a sunny location before planting the potato seeds. After care include pulling weeds, watering, checking for bugs, and a few months of patiently waiting, a huge crop awaits harvesting. Even a few weeks too soon could reduce the yield by more than 50 percent. Patience does bear dividends.

Over the years, my patience has been well rewarded with many great potato crops. Digging potatoes is also one of my biggest gardening joys. So much so, that I have invited many people to my garden to experience the joy of harvesting fully-grown potatoes. To me, in addition to a sense of achievement, it is the anticipation of what will be harvested. It is the culmination of patiently waiting for the plant to do its thing. This is very different from flowers, and things that grow above ground where you can see the progress of flowers and fruits.

The process of planting potatoes and patiently waiting has been reinforced over the decades. So, today, to summon my patience gene all I have to do is think of waiting patiently for rewards and not allow my impatience to destroy the very thing I want. For example, in relationships our impatience with people is often what destroys our connection with them.

From an academic perspective, the concept of waiting can be explained using emotional intelligence (EQ). Two of the major components of EQ are self-awareness and self-management. The former is being aware of one’s emotions. The latter is effectively managing them. In managing emotions, one must be aware of one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions. These are the things that drive behavior. Therefore, it is crucial to become self-aware of these things. By changing your beliefs, values, and assumptions via self-management, you will change your behaviors.

In closing, I wish you well as you develop your EQ and become better at mastering your impatient impulses. Patience does yield great dividends.

My dissertation is on EQ. If you are interested in learning more about the subject, please feel free to contact me.