don't have to do more than take a short drive to see how impatient people
tend to be. Speed limits seem to be irrelevant to most people, who
are in such a hurry to get where they're going that their only concern is
arriving, and they're not paying any attention at all to the process of
getting there. I've worked for people who want things done now, and
they didn't care a bit about the quality of the work--if they had allowed
their people another couple of hours to put on finishing touches, the
product of the labor would have been of much higher quality. They
got what they needed quickly, but the quality wasn't anywhere near what it
could have been, and the people who needed the work done weren't nearly as
satisfied with it as they could have been.
values speed and output; we talk of quotas and productivity. A few
companies base entire marketing campaigns on maintaining quality over
producing great numbers of products, and those are the companies that will
last--as long as their product delivers what their ads promise. This
focus on speed, though, hurts us in quite a few ways.
of all, when we focus on speed, quality almost always suffers. There
are a few types of jobs that really can't affect quality if we speed them
up, but most jobs do. Do you really want the person who worked on
your computer on an assembly line to risk making a mistake because he or
she has to meet a quota every hour? Maybe that's why my modem
doesn't work properly--someone was in such a hurry that he or she missed
soldering a very important connection, or plugged something in a bit
too loosely before everything was closed for good.
And what happens when we force young people to hurry
up? What are we teaching them? That taking their time and
doing a job right aren't valuable habits--speed is all that matters.
It's kind of sad, but it's very true. Kids grow up thinking that
things have to be done super quickly, not super well.
We also lose
our ability to focus on the process. If we're so focused on getting
to work, all we notice are the other cars that may or may not be in our
way, and we focus so much on the driving that we don't see anything around
us--we miss the trees and the flowers and the birds and the people that we
could be seeing along the way. We sacrifice those things because we
want to focus on the road and the destination, not the trip itself.
Sometimes I've built things quickly, and I've gotten nothing out of the
process of building them other than a finished product. Sometimes
I've needed to do this, because I've needed things quickly, and the
quality didn't really matter.
But other times, I've taken my time and I've focused on the
process of doing something very well, and I've gotten an awful lot out of
the process of making what I've made. It's been great to take the
time to measure things several times, and to make slow, precise cuts in
wood, for example, or to take my time with the paint and pay attention to
every brush stroke.
of us also lose our ability to relax and smile a bit. Because we're
so caught up in thinking about getting what we need soon, we can't relax
until we have it. We worry about time; we look at our watches
instead of trusting other people to deliver what they've promised.
Does this help us? Not a bit--we end up being worried all the time,
and much time passes that we haven't enjoyed, never again to be
recaptured. The time we've spent fretting and fuming and warning and
being impatient cannot be reclaimed, and if someone were to ask us if we
were getting the most out of our lives during those moments, we'd have to
shake our heads ruefully and answer "no"--that is, if we're
myself to recognize when I'm starting to be impatient, for I'm an
impatient person by nature. If my car isn't ready when they told me
it would be and I have another hour to wait, my natural tendency is to be
impatient and annoyed. I try very hard, though, to force myself to
find a positive way to spend the time--usually I'll do one of three
things--take a walk in the conscious attempt to see something I've never
seen before; visit a store with the same purpose in mind, or take the
chance to read something that I normally wouldn't read. When I've
done these things instead of being impatient, I've gotten a lot out of
time that I otherwise would have wasted, and I've felt much better about
myself afterwards. Sometimes, I take the opportunity to do
nothing--I just go outside and watch people or think. That's nice,
robs us of a great deal of joy, and it prevents us from enjoying peace of
mind and peace of heart. If we can find ways to deal with it, we can
get so much more out of our time. We don't have that much time on
this planet, but when we think about it, we have a lot of time.
Let's use it productively and get something out of it, rather than being
miserable just because we want something now that we can't even get
now--we have to wait. Let's make the wait enjoyable.