Calm, Cool, and Collected
At the beginning of the New Year, I shared some ideas surrounding the idea of reframing expectations. Since, then I have been tested time and time again, and it seems as though my expectations have been shifting pretty regularly.
For better or worse, my patience has been challenged, and I’m learning how to better react and deal with circumstances in which things don’t operate according to plan.
Most recently, I traveled out of the country to spend a few days without distractions and focus on being present. Enjoying the trip, the time together, and the need to ‘reset’, we extended our stay for one more night. However, the quick and easy adjustment in itineraries ended up having us in a panic, and franticly trying to determine when we would actually be able to return home.
It just so happens that the day we were due to travel home was the same day that Denver, Colorado, was hit with a snowstorm that left more than a foot of snow. After several delays, the flight was eventually cancelled.
No big deal, right?
Well, there weren’t any available flights for the next day on any airline to Denver, and the soonest our airline could get us home was this coming Wednesday, March 30th (a week later). Also, the city was preparing for Easter Celebrations as most Central and Latin American countries often do. Therefore, hotels were nearly sold out, or a premium was being charged if there was availability.
Not only did we need to reframe expectations, but more importantly, we needed to be patient in order to navigate how to make the situation better.
Can you remember what it was like, as a kid, waiting for Christmas morning to arrive? Were you anticipating that morning, anxiously awaiting the moment when you could open the gifts stowed under the tree? Perhaps you even tried to sneak a peek at the presents when no one was watching – I know I did on one or two occasions – all because you just couldn’t wait.
What about the time you spent several weeks planning for a vacation that was 4 four months away? Did it become harder to concentrate on your daily responsibilities as the trip drew nearer? Were you able to remain focused on all of life’s other priorities until the day of departure?
Was there a period of time when you attempted to learn a new task, yet quit practicing because mastering the fundamentals wasn’t interesting for you? Did you return back to the basics, or decide to move on to something new?
In each of these scenarios, hurriedly rushing through priorities, losing focus, and getting ahead of yourself, is not going to make the situation any better.
Now, back to the story…
I’ll spare you all the details, but, fortunately the airport had a fairly decent wireless network, and we were quickly able to snag an overpriced hotel for the evening. The next morning we were able to finalize travel arrangements to get us to my hometown for Easter weekend and catch another flight back to Colorado immediately after. Believe it or not, this was the soonest and cheapest option for getting back to Denver instead of changing hotels every night for another week.
5 Strategies to Keep Calm and Collected
In the process of figuring out ‘what to do next,’ my patience was dwindling, however, there were a few key, identifiable strategies that helped as we worked through the next 24 hours.
- It’s best to focus on one task at a time – Many people believe they are experts at multi-tasking. However, when your patience is tested, focus on what’s most important now. In my recent travels, it was not working out well when we were trying to find hotels and re-arrange flights at the same time. Priority number one quickly became ‘find a place to sleep and book it’. From here it was easier to move onto the next challenge of getting back to the US. In your own life, do you ever feel overwhelmed at work – project deadlines, meetings to attend, calls to make, commitments to keep? As a result, is your patience running slim? Prioritize, focus on what’s most important and put the rest to the side and complete the task at hand.
- No matter how much patience you have, there is only so much that is within your own power – In moments of being excited or anxious, there is only a certain amount of control you have over the situation. Keep in mind what it is you’re capable of doing, and expend your energies in these areas. If it’s out of your control, then it needs to be out of your mind.
- Understand that you are likely not the first, nor the last that will experience What you are – As we had spent at least eight hours in the airport, we began having conversations with others who were due to travel on the same flight. Everyone was trying to gather ‘intel’ and share it with the rest of the group. The conversations were not always pleasant, but they were a quick reminder that we were not the only ones in this situation. More than a hundred other people were also trying to book hotels, re-route their flights, and ultimately, make it to Denver. As you begin a new task, or approach feelings of unease as a big day arrives, your drive to want to succeed has the ability to outweigh the need to be patient. When this become the case, then the frustrations kick in, and it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. This is the point in time when it’s important to tell yourself that it is highly plausible that someone else has experienced exactly what you are and overcome the challenge – so can you.
- Stay patient, and make the best decisions – Losing patience has the ability to put you ‘on edge’ and in panic mode. When this happens, your thoughts can become irrational. Have you ever made a quick decision just to ‘get out’ of your current situation? Sure, it may have worked out, but was there a better option available? Unless you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, then brash decision making isn’t something you’re probably good at doing. Patience helps lead to coherent and logical decision making in everyday circumstances, and patience contributes to ‘best-judgment’ decision making in times of trial. The opposite of this would be consequential decision making just to ‘move on to the next thing’.
- Remain patient and focus on the reward – Imagine if you had been practicing a new instrument for several months. You had experienced some struggles along the way, and at other times your practice had seemed to pay off. Then, one day it all went to hell. Chords didn’t make sense. You couldn’t figure out the strumming pattern or technique. And, you finally gave in and quit without ever knowing what you would accomplish in the month that followed. Now, think about the opposite result – the one in which you pushed through and reached your goal because of your patience. What do you think it would feel like to play your favorite song on that instrument? Would that be rewarding and satisfying to you?
- As soon as you think you have enough patience, think again – Well, perhaps there are six strategies worth sharing! Working through hardship will not be a one-time occurrence in your life, nor will it always repeat itself. Every moment of adversity brings a different struggle, and every struggle requires a different approach. And, there will come a time when your patience will be tested like it has never been tested before.
At the end of the day, being patient is often easier said than done. In the heat of the moment, or when life seems to be in a cluster, you are required to react and make decisions. These decisions can be quick and brash as a result of rushing the process. Or, the decisions can be quick and concerted – well thought if you will – as a result of showing patience.
Patience is a virtue, and a virtue is associated with other words such as asset, advantage, benefit, plus, feature, and quality. The association between the two words is both relevant and direct. The association is also honest and true. The next time you find your patience running thin, choose to test it, instead of it testing you. Grow in patience, and allow it to help you grow into relation with others – especially those closest to you.