A Season for Patience

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Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing,” it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles, and in the right way.

Fulton Sheen

A Quest for Action

We spend so much time in action. As leaders, managers, and working professionals, we are measured in what we produce. Our effectiveness is tied to our productivity. This fuels our need for action: make it happen, get it done, keep moving. All of that productivity produces an obsession with the kinetic, the real or imagined sense of clear progress.

But work and life move in seasons. And, there is a time for all of them. A time to sow and a time to reap. A time to tear down and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to make things happen and a time for patience. Even the off-season has its season. Every now and then, we need to create space for a time to wait and to let things unfold. We need a season of patience.

In a season of patience, we need to nurture. It is a time to feed and water our crops, our herds, our projects, ourselves. It is a break from the big, sweeping efforts of championships, planting, and harvest, and a move to the seemingly slow interior work that seems to move nothing.

However, the season of patience isn’t passive, merely relegating us to waiting for something to happen. Patience demands a different kind of output…and a different kind of input. It has its own rhythm. A cadence slowed to a resting heartbeat, but still moving life along.

A Time for Preparation

This is the season of preparation. The season of reflection. The season of waiting with intention. It demands that we don’t tweak the seeds we’ve planted or overwork tired muscles. It allows for replenishment, restocking, restoring, and rejuvenation.

We feel the natural flow of such seasons as they follow their own patterns. Patterns that don’t always align with quarterly expectations, deadlines, or quotas. They will vary with the calendar, our chosen profession, and the cycle of life in which we find ourself, our role, or our organization.

Patience can be incredibly difficult as it calls us to engage in a counter-intuitive way. It is not retreat but it also is not invasion. We want to launch our assault and force the issue but the timing may not be right – the season has not yet come. In waiting, we struggle with what to DO. We struggle with “non-productivity” and the sense that we are not making something happen. Forward motion must be active, right?

The season of patience demands different skills. It needs the branch that bends with the wind. It needs the boat that rolls with the tide. It needs the wings that rest upon the airstream, allowing momentum to generate lift. It needs the hands that occupy themselves in other ways, while the heart and mind move in the flow of this particular moment of time.

For the drivers of the world, this can be maddening. We want to see movement. We want action. We want dramatic results. We want to see the seed turn into the rose and bloom quickly. We want it all on our schedule. We want to throw gas on the fire.

Know Your Seasons

So what do we do? Know thyself. Know your seasons. With time and perspective, it all makes much more sense. Of course you want it when you want it. Wall Street will not change. Investors will not care about your seasons. Our society does not want to wait for anything. Your own internal clock will still alarm loudly with other expectations.

Step back. See the bigger picture. Look back along the road you’ve traveled. Count the distance. Recall the start, the journey, and its other seasons. Take an inventory. Look at the scoreboard. Our go, go, go, standard of living warps time, causing us to lose track of progress and all those miles you’ve covered get lost in the rush to push forward. You’ve come a long way, baby.

Then, look at the open field on which you’re currently standing. Look where the seeds are planted. Remember the barns and tractors and hands, all in place, ready for the harvest.  Recall the preparations, the sowing you’ve done. It all needs time to unfold and nothing you do will make it move faster.

Now, look ahead. The road to the horizon. The other fields lining that road. Imagine rows of beautiful crops waiting around the corner. The sounds of the reaping that promise to fulfill your desire for action. The horizon that whispers possibility in the harvest and new dirt to be turned just the over the hill. If you don’t connect with the farming metaphor, imagine any project with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Whether you’re building a house, a company, or a movement, they each move with their own seasons.

This Season

In what season do you find yourself right now? December is here and the Holiday Season brings its own rhythm. Perhaps you’re in the season of patience right now. Maybe the quiet and the stillness and the shortage of tasks is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Maybe your time has not come. Maybe that’s ok.

We spend so much time and energy wrestling with the seasons. We resist. We complain. We argue and pout. But, like the weather, the season still comes…and it still goes. This is a place for waiting. There is a place for patience. See it for what it offers and, for what it requires: planning, preparation, rest, renewal, nurturing. This season is not passive and its demands will push you. Be patient, winter, then spring, is coming and you must be prepared when the time for harvest arrives.

Showing 4 comments
  • Jaime Borkowski

    Just what I needed to hear right now.

    • Jarilyn Berry

      Just what I needed as well, Flip! Thank you again for staying so relevant to the demands of my life 💙

  • James McHugh

    Really makes you think.

  • Erick

    I love this post. It is relevant from both the perspective of one’s personal life as well as professional. On the personal side, how often do we wish for the next milestone at the expense of the present moment? Sure, it’s exciting when your kids can go on 20-mile bike rides with you, throw baseballs harder than you, or teach you how to do a jig in the living room but more often than not it seems the videos you go back to watch are of you running alongside the bike the first time the training wheels came off, your son running the wrong way around the bases, or your daughter seeking guidance from their instructor standing off stage. Did I have patience in those moments or were there ever feelings of frustration, embarrassment, or failure as a parent? Did I always act in the right way? Years later those same moments are universally reflected on with joy and laughter. I hope that going forward I can always find the patience to appreciate those moments, in the moment, with joy and laughter.

    Professionally, it seems that there is constant and increasing pressure to do more with less. There is so much focus on implementing the next big thing that will make everyone more efficient that we don’t allow enough time for deliberation (is this the right tool to invest in?), preparation (do we have the resources we need to run this tool?) or optimization (am I even using this tool in the way that allows for maximum benefit?). Implement and move on. What if we allowed for more patience along the way? Patience doesn’t sound like it’s attached to hard dollars but certainly there’s a return on investment if we were to allow for it. Increased staff engagement? Decreased turnover? Better job satisfaction? Optimal implementation of technologies? But patience takes time and as we know, time is money. Is there a CFO that will listen? In my experience, hard dollars are worth a lot more than soft dollars but am interested in the exercise that shows the ROI of patience.

    Thanks for the post and providing the opportunity to reflect.

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