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The mother was clearly at the end of her tether with her daughter who was crying, wailing and wiping snot off her face, while lying in a crumpled heap at the entrance to the supermarket.

Sharp words were heard before the mother scooped up her child and plonked her slightly roughly into the child car seat, slamming the car door shut.

Frustration, irritation or annoyance can easily get the better of us, especially when we’re feeling stressed, time pressured and WE NEED TO GET ON!

I have to confess to not being the most patient of people either.

If I’ve got to get somewhere, let’s go!
If something needs to be done, let’s do it!

I can’t stand watching someone dithering, not making a decision, when it seems such easy and logical choice to me.

I also hate being kept waiting. I hate waiting to pay for fuel, for my groceries, for a human being to speak to me on the phone after listening to their recorded message for thirty minutes, and how anyone can retain their sanity waiting in line to speak to someone at Centrelink, I don’t know.

Is my impatience a character flaw?

Or a sign I need to get something finished. Now.

My favourite clip from the film Love Actually is when sales assistant Rowan Atkinson asks the character being played by Alan Rickman if he would like the necklace he’s buying for his girlfriend gift-wrapped in the “flashiest of flashes.” It is excruciating to watch because everyone knows Rickman’s wife is only a few meters away in the same shop.

You can feel Rickman’s impatience growing by the second.

Have you noticed how your impatience builds the closer it gets to the wait being over?


Our need for closure

Given the option, would you rather pay an additional $1 to buy something now, rather than get a discount by signing up for a loyalty card that will take a week to process?

Would you stay late and finish an extra 15% amount of a project to get it done rather than charge for the extra hours it will take tomorrow?

If you’re booked to go on leave from 4 pm this afternoon, would you work for an extra hour of unpaid overtime to complete a report?

In these examples, the reward isn’t about reward per se. It’s about getting that item off the to-do list so it’s one less thing you have hanging around waiting for completion.

If closure is your aim, researchers have found you’re far less likely to procrastinate!


Reduce impatience with better communication.

A friend’s son was travelling with his family from Melbourne to Perth for his sister’s wedding. Forty-five minutes into the flight, the passengers were told the plane’s destination was being changed due to “technical issues.”

The passengers weren’t convinced by the reason and started venting their frustration at not being told earlier, because now they would have to wait until the plane had landed to work out how they were going to get to where they needed to be. The rest of the flight was now a prolonged irritation.

The message here is if you know there is likely to be a delay in delivering a package or getting the information needed to make a decision, let others know as early as possible.

You might not like the fact your plane’s departure has been delayed by three hours or the destination changed, but knowing that earlier, allows you to come to terms with what’s happening and helps you manage your expectations.

How does impatience show up in your life and work?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

One Comment

  • Eva says:

    I think one of the worst things you could take up for this is trying to write a novel. First, you have to learn craft. Then you have to try to figure out how to write it yourself as there are several different methods and they don’t suit everyone. Writing it takes ages as does typing it.

    A lot of experts say that everything will happen while you try to write to slow you down even further and they are so right. Life happens and you get ill as well as a million other things happening. Sometimes it can take years to finish a book. The statistics show that only between 1-3% finish their novel.

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