Have you ever had those moments when you’re pretty sure everybody around you is just trying to annoy you?
Everyone is driving slowly when you’re in a hurry. People are walking the aisles of shopping centres like they’re balls in a pin-ball machine, making it impossible to get around them. The person at the petrol pump in front of you decides now is the time to clean their windscreen back to showroom condition. The clerk processing your payment at the post office reminds you of the sloths from the movie Zootopia (check it out, great movie). Your child is attempting a world record for longest time taken to eat a bowl of cereal. Your teenager is on their third trip back into the house to get something they forgot and can’t leave without. Your work mates are reaching new heights of meeting-hijacking abilities.
Of course you have those moments, sometimes many of them in succession. We all do. If you were getting anywhere with this whole ‘becoming more patient’ idea then these are the moments that are set to derail you … big time!
Patience is the act of waiting well. It’s the ability to endure set backs and challenges without becoming anxious or irritated. Patience is indeed a virtue and one that is tested on a regular basis.
In our efforts to become more patient we’ve noted the need to take a big picture perspective – to step back and see things in their broader context. We’ve looked at the idea of planning in order to be more patience – choosing wisdom over reaction. And we also need to keep an important truth in mind … it’s not actually all about you!
It turns out not everyone is intentionally plotting ways to make your life miserable – even though it might seem like it. The slow driver in front of you probably has no idea you’re there. The dude at the petrol station is more worried about his windscreen than you. Your teenager is probably just forgetful or distracted. There is not, despite the seeming appearance to the contrary, a concerted focus on the part of all the people in your world to make life miserable for you.
And this makes perfect sense as you read it. But in those moments, so much of our irritation is borne out of a sense of focus on ourselves that causes us to see everything as a deliberate mission to make us frustrated.
It’s not all about you!
Next time you find yourself impatient with the actions or in-actions of another person, pause and take a moment to consider the situation from their perspective. “I wonder if that slow driver is lost, or a learner, or experiencing anxiety or dealing with a crying baby in the back seat.” “I wonder if this sales assistant is new to the job or tired from a full day of work.” “I wonder if my teenager is trying to keep too many things in their mind, or is worried about something; or is hormonal.”
Such a thought process changes nothing of the circumstances. You’re still going to be impeded or impacted by the other person’s behaviour in some way. But patience isn’t about not waiting it’s about waiting well. And when we shift the focus from ourselves we release something of the anxiety and irritation and replace it with empathy or compassion.
What might that look like for you? How might taking the focus of yourself cause you to be more patient with others?