Do you have a "wait" problem?

by Alan Hosking: Publisher of HR Future, South Africa's human strategy magazine, and a Leadership Renewal Coach for senior executives.
One of the consequences of the comfortable, modern life most people in first world countries lead is the increasing number of people with a weight problem. The combination of delicious, readily available food and a lack of physical activity has resulted in obesity becoming a problem for an increasing number of people of all ages.

Obesity was probably not very common among our ancestors. In a day when people had to engage in fairly strenuous physical activity simply to secure food for the family and then have to rely on physical speed to outrun any animal that happened to fancy them as their next meal, people never got round to putting on weight. It was a case of the quick or the dead.

While weight problems are increasing, “wait” problems have been around for thousands of years. That’s because human beings simply don’t want to wait for anything.

Generally speaking, most people don’t want to wait in a queue, they don’t want to wait at a red traffic light, they don’t want to wait until they’ve got the right experience for a promotion, and the list goes on.

We see evidence of this “wait” problem on our roads every day, in the form of drivers edging forward, driving off before a red traffic light has changed to green or even driving through a red light.

Our instant society hasn’t helped with this either. You can get a filling meal from a fast food drive-through in about as long as it takes me to write that you can pull up to the intercom, give your order, proceed to the booth to pay and then drive to the next window to collect your meal.

It’s therefore no wonder that Generation Y workers want to be the CEO after two months on a job. Simply put, they too have a “wait” problem.

So what can you do about it if you realise you are one of those with a “wait” problem?

Firstly, differentiate between causes and consequences. If you try to treat consequences, you simply set yourself up for frustration and failure. You have to address the cause, and one of the main causes of a “wait” problem is a lack of patience, which is linked to an inability to delay gratification.

Here, then are some thoughts on how to develop patience:

Live in the present

People who live in the past and in the future usually live with a large amount of stress. This causes them to have very little patience. Part of being comfortable in yourself so that you live each day to its fullest involves living not only right where you are but right when you are. You have no other time but the present, so live in the present. When you learn the art of living in the moment, you will find your levels of patience start to increase.

Slow down your pace

We’re all trying to do too much in too short a time. We multitask to get more done and push ourselves in order to meet what are known as “stretch targets”. Doing things faster doesn’t however result in things being done better – only faster. Just stop. If you’re sitting in traffic, accept that that’s exactly where you are and there’s nothing else you can do about it. Identify why you’re feeling stressed by the traffic. If it’s because you’re late for an appointment, connect the dots and realise that, if you had allowed more time to get to your appointment, you might not have been so upset by the delay. Address the cause – leave earlier for your appointments – instead of trying to treat the consequence and get angry with the drivers of the cars in front of you. They’re probably just as frustrated as you!

Practise conscious breathing

By breathing slowly and deeply, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system which enables your body to heal and restore itself. This gets you out of the “fright or flight” state, something that’s necessary for a healthy immune system. If you have a “wait” problem, you’re probably always living in the “fright or flight” state, something you’ve probably become so used to that you don’t even realise it any more. It’s therefore highly likely that your immune system is compromised, making you a target for colds, viruses and germs that are doing the rounds. Then you wonder why you’re always battling with colds and flu ... not to mention indigestion, bloating and constipation or diarrhoea. Just by improving your breathing, you will take steps to address these conditions.

Think before you speak

How many times have you said something only to regret it and wish you had never said it? Once you’ve said something to someone, you can never “unsay” it. It’s there, in their memory. If you want to avoid putting your foot in things, start to engage your mind before your tongue. In other words, take a breath before you say something. It may be for a millisecond or a few seconds, but it might make all the difference between conflict or harmony, success or failure.

These four tips are by no means the only ways of reducing your “wait” problem but, as you start using them to address the cause of your problem, you will become a happier, more effective, more productive, more successful and more fulfilled person in your company, your family and your community!

Useful resources:
HR Future
HR Future is South Africa's only independent, most forward thinking human resource magazine with the richest content wealth of HR related issues on the continent of Africa to help executives recruit, manage, train, reward and retain the best talent.
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