Scratch the surface of impatience

I tap my foot. I check my watch. I sigh. I pull out my phone, flick through emails, check Whatsapp, and scroll through social media feeds. I’m ready to leave and they’re not. Argh. Come on.

This is just one example of impatience. Here’s another.

When I have an idea for something, the first thing I do is waste money on domain names, and time toying with website designs, endlessly rewriting the copy. Instead of validating the idea before allocating resources to it, I want to get to the fun part. The bit where I design, where I get to work out and work on the systems I’m going to use.

This tendency to be impatient hasn’t severely damaged my life, yet. But I’m worried that it will do in the future. So I want to understand it, to figure out where it comes from.

Leafing through Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are, the essential primer on mindfulness, I came across this passage.

“Patience is an ever present alternative to the mind’s endemic restlessness and impatience. Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. It’s the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or something for it.”

So impatience is an indicator that where I am is not where I want to be? That makes sense. If I’m ready to go out the door and my friend isn’t, I’m impatient because I think we should already be on the road. If I jump ahead and start playing with design and copy before I’ve validated the idea, it’s because I want to skip ahead to the part where I have a flood of customers and potential clients. 

But why? What’s so wrong with where I am now that I can’t bear to look at it? That I can’t manage to focus on it, and instead flit between visions of the future? Like so many things, I think it has to do with appreciation and entitlement. I don’t appreciate what the current moment, what my current situation, has to teach me. And I feel like I’m entitled to something more than what I have now, to something better. Perhaps the way to dissolve this impatience is to impress upon myself the value and the opportunity inherent in the present moment, in my situation as it is, right now? Sounds good. But how do I do that?

Here’s one way: take stock of your life. Retail stores regularly count everything they have in the building to make sure it aligns with what their inventory management system says they have. Do the same for your life. Compare what you think you have with what you really have.

​Consider the value you attach to every aspect of each section of your life—friends, family, health, work, creative—then zoom in on each aspect. See what it’s made of. How many friends do you have? What can you learn from your family and how do they support you? Consider the quality of your health and just what that allows you to do everyday. Look at your career and try to see all the options and possibilities on the path ahead. Do this in as much detail as possible and I guarantee that your impatience will evaporate. Do this and your subtle anger will subside and be replaced by a profound sense of gratitude for everything in your past, your present and your future.