I recently turned 50. (It’s weird to even say that. The feeling is similar to the way I felt the first hundred times I referred to Trista as “my wife” after we were married.) As you can imagine, I’ve been thinking about my life. And my mission to make a positive difference.
In this week’s Brain Food, I wanted focus on probably my biggest personal challenge… patience. Check out the video on YouTube!
One of the biggest things I’ve always struggled with is patience. It does NOT come naturally to me. What comes naturally to me is getting things done quickly and moving on to the next thing (or ten things) without taking time to breathe or celebrate. And that’s not healthy.
Why? Because you must celebrate your accomplishments. The process of reflection and celebration gives you the fuel you need for what comes next… more hard work, creativity and loving your neighbor.
Over the years, friends, family, and peers have helped me improve my patience. I picked three examples of these patience lessons, with the hope that one of them might resonate with you.
I’ve always been pretty good at getting back to people in my personal and professional life. Usually, I reply to people within 4 hours if not a few minutes. I don’t let things go by without responding to them.
The problem for me was that I assumed other people worked like that as well. And that they would treat my communications as importantly as I treat theirs. That’s a faulty assumption. People get busy. People have shifting priorities. Just because someone hasn’t replied in a timely manner doesn’t mean they don’t care. We’ve all had times in our lives where too many things are coming at us at the same time. And sometimes we lose track or shut down.
A contributor to this problem is that people can struggle with technology. They read a text message and forget to respond (maybe because they were driving at the time?) I know people that get over 200 emails every day and my emails sometimes get lost in the shuffle. I guess the point here is that there are plenty of situations where it wasn’t even their intention to not respond.
And another aspect of this is that people work at different speeds. An entrepreneur might get back to me within an hour. An employee at a large company might get back to me in 4 days. And I’ve had to learn that is okay.
When presented with a new opportunity, whether that is a trip with my wife or a business decision, I tend to look at dozens of angles. Usually, the focus is on what could become a problem. What could go wrong. Will it be hard to accomplish? Could it be a waste of time?
I’m trying to see potential outcomes so that I can make a decision that has the best chance of turning out well. The problem with my process is that it can come across like I’m coming up with a million reasons NOT to do the thing. (That’s not my goal, but the effect on people around me is obvious when this happens.)
Someone made a simple suggestion that has had an amazing impact. Start the process of looking at outcomes by talking about the POSITIVES first. And THEN talk about the risks.
And that’s where patience comes in. I’m retraining my default behavior of talking about negatives first. Having to wait to do that by focusing on the positives first does test my patience, but the results are worth it. I’ve been doing this fairly consistently for a while now. It was a subtle change. I usually get to the same conclusion, but the ride for people around me is smoother.
I love to buy things. I’m addicted to buying things online and having them show up at my front door.
My motivation isn’t about having impressive things or trying to impress other people.
I get excited about new technologies and want to try them out. And I click buy almost immediately when I see something that will make my life better/easier/faster or extend my mission to help people. (That might sound cheesy, but the people who know me understand this is a genuine goal.)
Keep in mind, most of these purchases are less than $100… and often they are $5-$10. But Trista has mentioned many times over the years that there is a delivery from UPS, FedEx or USPS at our house almost daily. I know our UPS driver and would recognize him if I saw him at the grocery store. So yes, it was a problem.
In 2020, I started putting things in my cart and choosing “Save for Later”. If I still wanted the thing after a week or so, I would go ahead and buy it. But about half the time, I found that I didn’t buy it because I didn’t really need it or found a different solution. This proved to me I was impulse buying.
I now ask myself the question, “do you REALLY need this? Or is it going to sit on a shelf for a few years or end up in a donation pile?” Those became clarifying questions that make it easier to hold off on impulse purchases.
So just because I can afford to buy something I think I need RIGHT NOW doesn’t mean I should. And enforcing some delaying tactics and reasonable perspective questions changed my purchasing habits significantly. How do I know? Because Trista noticed and was happy about the adjustment. 😊 And I’ve found that I appreciate the things I DO end up buying more than I did previously. Delayed gratification is powerful.
And that’s it for this Brain Food story. I hope one of these three ideas might impact your thinking or how you do things in a positive way. And I hope the glimpse into my messy brain wasn’t too painful. We all have our stuff… Being transparent and talking about topics like these are a good way to make progress. Thanks for being with me on this journey!