It was a beautiful morning in La Paz. I walked along the beach as the fishermen arrived with their daily catch. Standing sentinel were a group of pelicans still and patient. Quietly they waited for the fishermen to toss the fish remains from a successful day in the Sea of Cortez. Waiting, waiting, waiting they were poised to dive in for the rewards of their diligence. Then a splash and suddenly an orchestra of wings, beaks, squawks--a flurry of activity that prompted the fishermen to laugh.
Yes, patience pays off. The pelicans know this. Nature knows this. Yet here we are, the world’s supreme species, and we struggle with such a simple concept. And I’ll be the first to admit, that I am one of the worst when it comes to being patient at home and at work. Seems many of us are hardwired from youth to be productive, to set goals and move towards action. In the process, we have forgotten that patience and thoughtful waiting sometimes reaps the biggest rewards.
Nonprofits create compelling mission statements eager to make things better. Dedicated, passionate, and yet perhaps impatient. Changing health and social outcomes takes time. I know I have been conditioned for immediate gratification and like many type “A” folks, I find myself getting frustrated when change doesn’t happen quick enough. I demand immediacy, rather than celebrating patience and an attitude of nurturing.
A wise boss and colleague from many years back once pulled me aside, and shared some valuable wisdom. He said that we plant seeds, that need time to grow. Our job, he added, is simply to nurture them.
So here’s an idea. Today, let's celebrate the virtue of patience. Let's slow down and feel comfortable with waiting--- just like the pelicans. Let’s be happy with the baby steps our nonprofit takes every day. Here are 5 things I am going to try to exercise my patience. See if they work for you.
1. Walk and talk slower. My high energy persona propels me to do everything fast. So I'm going to try to just physically slow my pace.
2. Set my larger goals not within a tightly defined time-frame, but consider them as a process over time---as a direction I am steadily moving toward.
3. Appreciate downtime. This is thinking, creative and regeneration time.
4. Understand the ebbs and flows that go along with the business of running a nonprofit. Working constantly in high energy "steroid-mode" will create burnout.
5. Be kind to myself. Yes, do the work to the best of your ability and complete assignments, but don't be so driven to achieve that your health suffers and you forget to treat yourself occasionally.
Don't let patience become a lost virtue. Just think about the lesson that pelicans teach us.