Ask any one of my friends and they will tell you I am the type of person who enjoys the destination more than the journey. I generally end up walking into a situation thinking I will be patient only to end up incredibly irritated at the pace of events. Let's just say I prefer race bikes to cruisers.
My ability to be more patient has grown as I have grown older, however. What used to drive me to near distraction in my 20s, such as long flights, road trips, and following cookbook steps, are now much more tolerable in my thirties. Nevertheless, I could stand to be a lot more patient.
So, I’ve been working on how to enjoy each of the proverbial flowers along the path of my day-to-day life. The thing I’ve found to be most helpful has been identifying when my ego rears its ugly head.
I know my ego is taking charge when I become preoccupied with what a particular situation or outcome means for me -- or what it may mean for how others perceive me. It’s not always easy to identify when this happens, but I notice it happens quite a bit when I meet with people one-on-one or when I am doing mundane tasks, such as cleaning the kitchen or commuting. When I’m doing these things, my ego is the voice saying, “This isn’t meaningful enough, you’re not doing anything important. Do you think other people are wasting their time doing this? If you were successful, you wouldn’t be doing this.”
My ego is the absolute worst.
When my ego starts going down this road, simply telling myself to calm down and be patient is a complete waste of time. Instead, I’ve found it best to stop and observe what’s happening, to slow down and trigger my ego more rather than speed up to satisfy it. I’ve also found it helpful to reach out and get on the phone with someone. Talking on the phone while cooking or cleaning can help quiet my ego. (She doesn’t like to be around when I’m hanging out with other people, she prefers to torture me when it's just the two of us.)
Another practice that has helped is making a point of capturing interesting and otherwise unnoticed things around me. Nearly every designer I know won't go anywhere without a notebook and a pen or pencil. They’re like reporters in that way, and it was one of the most comforting things for me when I was learning the design process.
I love catching a designer as they write down something that stands out to them — the shape of a building, a bicycle, a person walking down the street, a hair dye color, a quote — anything that they may find useful for inspiration later. Their fascination with and hunger for life is wonderful, and I find it calming.
I’ve gotten out of the good designer and reporter habit of having a notebook on me everywhere, but when I was up on the habit (and I really will work to get back into it), I found that, by focusing on capturing what was really interesting and noteworthy around me, I was able to slow down, be more patient and find more value in every encounter of my life journey.
With a notebook in my hand, my excess energy has a place to go, and everything I am encountering has meaning. I don’t want to miss a single moment of whatever journey I am on.
So, if you’re like me and struggle to be more patient, try calling a friend while you do the dishes or going for a walk with a notebook and pen/pencil in hand -- and write down as many things as you can observe.