Experimenting with Patience

Patience is not something that comes naturally to me. I have a tendency to rush myself, and others.

Learning patience

I suspect that living in New York feeds my impatience. Rushing is a way of life here. Our food arrives minutes after we’ve ordered it, the subway shoots us from one end of the island to the other, the streets are clogged with city dwellers sliding, eyes-rolling between groups of dawdling tourists on the sidewalks.

It is a city where time is people’s greatest resource. Services have evolved to outsource anything that might ‘waste’ your time. Task Rabbit will run your errands or clean your flat, a virtual assistant will call your electricity company so you don’t have to wait on hold, Fresh Direct will bring groceries to your 5 floor walk-up so you don’t have to spend precious minutes in the line at Trader Joes.

It is all terribly efficient. But it is good for us? Is it feeding our happiness?

I spent the past two weeks travelling in Costa Rica. It took close to 3 hours to rent a car, every meal we ordered took at lease 30 minutes to make it to our table, we had to wait for an hour in the bank to speak to someone after a machine swallowed our debit card, we got stuck behind suspiciously-leaning-cattle-bearing-trucks that barely broke 40 MPH on the highways while spewing thick black exhaust.

And yet the World Database of Happiness lists Costa Rica as the happiest of 148 nations

Quite possibly it has a lot to do with the natural beauty of the country, or the fact that they dissolved their standing army in favour of pumping money into education, but it might also have something to do with living in a country where things happen in Tico-time.

Tico time happiness

Moving more slowly, waiting more often, forces us to look around. It may infuriate us but it also has the potential to let us see things, hear things and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Maybe all our rushing around is making us blind to the world outside of our blinkered efficiency.

So back in the city of hooking cars, heavy-footed cab drivers and appointment laden weeks, I’m seeing how it feels to talk a little slower, to walk at a different pace and spend a little more time watching the chaos around me.

4 thoughts on “Experimenting with Patience

  1. So I read your link on twitter, which limits our attention span to 140 characters. Twitter is conduit for people without patience and the world is losing its patience with everything. Soon vowels will be extinct. We no longer have the patience to write whole words or sentences. What happened to, ” good things happens to those who wait ” or ” patience is a virtue ” or the best, ” slow down to smell the roses ” . As a lifetime New Yorker, I can echo your sentiments, New York City is not a place for patient people, but yet I love it here (I may be one of those honking drivers). I am sure over your travels, you must have run into many a person who weren’t patient enough to listen to you as you spoke. I have found listening is the most important trait in leaders and that takes the most patience. Not all people are quite as eloquent as others with the words.

    I have enjoyed your writings and hope to have the opportunity to listen to you during your publicity tour tour. Best of luck with the book.

    • Tracy – thanks so much for your brilliant response. Twitter and New York are both perfect for impatient people (both are addictive as well – I’ll look out for you on Twitter!) . Couldn’t agree more that ‘true’, sincere listening takes patience – I value that kind of focus more than most things. I try to cultivate it in myself and am incredibly attracted to it in others. Fingers crossed I get to do some kind of publicity tour – I’ll definitely organize a New York event so I’d love to meet you at that.

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