The twin virtues

It is important to be patient and keep going to reach the goals
The twin virtues
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What are the main qualities you need to inculcate to be successful at work? Hard work is one of them. Reliability is another. But one quality that is just as important but rarely discussed is patience. It is important to be patient and keep going to reach your goals. Once we learn the importance of patience, we can stop worrying when things take longer than we would like. This applies to small problems like getting stuck in traffic jams as well as bigger issues such as getting your dream job. Patience makes life easier because it reduces negative emotions like stress, anger, or frustration. Those who understand the importance of being patient try to stay calm and focused even in situations where waiting is not easy. Patience is an important life skill. If you Google the definition of patience here’s what you’d find:

“The quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.”

“An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.”

“Quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.”

Doesn’t this definition make patience a prime virtue. Patience is one of the most underestimated strengths, the one we all can develop. Not just that, patience is misunderstood to a large extent. Very often people wrongly associate patience with being passive, or the absence of boundaries. The reality is that people are capable of being firm, gentle, ambitious, assertive, yet patient. These qualities can coexist and show up in various combinations, whether it’s in relation to parenting or leadership roles. Patience is the strength of will to navigate the obstacles and challenges you will face as you work the process. Patience is essential because there will be problems. There will be people who irritate you and situations that frustrate you. If you are patient, you stay focused on doing the work. You don’t complain, you solve. Patience isn’t passive; it is proactive. Patience over time leads to perseverance, which means staying the course, not deviating, holding fast and especially remaining patient. Perseverance is being relentless about doing what needs to be done for as long as it takes. Perseverance is essential because there will be plans and projects that require a great deal of effort and endurance. If you are relentless, you don’t give up. You don’t listen to the quitting voice. You trust the process, do the work, and keep going.

Patience and perseverance are essential for achieving any goal, personal or professional. Success is the result of working the process that is necessary for the time that is required. It is simply the nature of the world in which we live and work. Achieving things does take time and following the laid process. You can’t cheat the necessary process, nor can you cheat the time that is required. In some situations, it is possible to use strategies to streamline the processes or techniques to accelerate the time, but The Law still applies. There is always a process that is necessary and a time that is required. In any area of your life where you want to achieve something, it is your responsibility to understand the process and time required and then do the work; for as long as it takes; without complaining. That is The Law of Patience and Perseverance, and it applies to virtually everything of importance in life and at work like performing a marriage, raising children, leading a business, managing a project, navigating change, getting in shape and mastering a skill.

Both patience and perseverance require focused attention. When you lose focus, you lose patience, which in turn diminishes your perseverance. This happens when you complain about working the process, get irritated about the time that is required, or get annoyed at the obstacles you have to face and deal with. When you lose patience and get frustrated, it is an indicator that negative things have hijacked your attention, and you are no longer focused on the work that needs to be done. Patience and perseverance - and the focus that comes with it - are essential disciplines of leadership. People with patience and perseverance have an enormous competitive advantage over impatient people. Patient people solve problems faster, get better results, and experience significantly less stress. If there is some area of your life where you are impatient - it could be toward a person you work with or live with, it could be toward a plan or a project you are working on, it could be toward a process you are trying to implement or change, whatever it might be - it is time for a reset. It is time to refocus your mind and rekindle your motivation for doing the work. It is time to rediscover The Law of Patience and Perseverance. It is time to work the process that is necessary for the time that is required, and solve problems along the way.

A behavioural scientist conducted a study by watching people and noting the presence or absence of patience in the way they responded to situations that confronted them at airports, on freeways, in hotels, restaurants, business meetings, schools, conversations, and work projects. The amount of impatience witnessed by him was alarming. It was noticed that in every situation where people were impatient, three things happened: (i) The impatient people lost focus on what really mattered. Rather than working the process that would achieve the goal they wanted, they engaged in BCD (blame others, complain about the situation, defend self). (ii) The impatient attitude and behaviour was always counterproductive, and it made the situation worse. (iii) When people were impatient, their stress level increased quickly and dramatically. It not only made the situation more difficult for them, it also made the situation more difficult for the people around them. When impatient people encountered an obstacle, they were quick to get frustrated and angry, and they were quick to complain. Ironically, their complaining wasted significant time and energy that could have been invested in solving the problems and making progress toward their goal. He also noted that very few of the situations that impatient people complained about were unexpected. The work they had to do and the problems they were likely to face were not a secret. What derailed them was their mindset. They weren’t prepared to do the work required, and they weren’t prepared to navigate the obstacles. The problems weren’t the problem; their impatience was the problem.

He also observed people acting with patience and perseverance, and saw something very powerful. The patience of these people empowered their perseverance. It strengthened their resolve and kept them focused on the process. They maintained their focus on doing the work to achieve their goals, and they weren’t discouraged by the obstacles and challenges they encountered. Patient people accepted problem-solving as part of the process. They weren’t surprised by obstacles; they were prepared. It was also noticed that patient people were a source of encouragement and positive energy. They had a calming effect on the people around them. Because the patient people did not get upset or derailed by the problems they faced, they influenced others to complain less and solve more. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of patience and perseverance in life. These are sometimes called the mother of all virtues. The twin virtue of patience and perseverance constitute a great resource for those seeking growth in their personal and professional lives.

Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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