Recovering From 'Hurry Sickness'

05/20/2013 12:03 am ET | Updated Jul 19, 2013
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It's been 10 years since I wrote my book The Power of Patience. As I revised it recently in preparation for its release in paperback, I was struck by how impossibly more speeded up we've gotten in the past decade. Meyer Friedman, the creator of the concept of the type-A personality, calls it "hurry sickness." Witness my 16-year-old and her friends who can't even listen to the whole of a three-minute song -- even one they profess to love. Music, Facebook, texts -- they touch in for a moment, then move on because they might be missing something otherwise.

Then there's me. I'm just as hyped up as ever -- or perhaps more. Everything is urgent now -- clients expect an instant response, traffic is worse and so I'm frantically trying not to be late, I must say yes to every opportunity because another may not arrive.

I know better. I know that the capacity for patience -- that blend of stick-to- it-ness and ability to tolerate delay calmly -- is a must-have quality that not only contributes to our sense of well-being, but is the foundation of success at home and at work. Patience helps us create space between impulse and action, which allows us to respond to challenging people and situations wisely. It allows us to hang in there and keep going, whether with a person or with a process. It keeps us out of fight-or-flight, so we have access to the executive and intelligent part of our brains rather than just responding from our limbic systems, where our thinking is more primitive. Plus, the more we keep the fight-or-flight stress response off, the fewer stress-related health issues -- like high blood pressure, chest pains, muscle aches, autoimmune diseases -- we will likely suffer from.

I know all this, and yet I continually get caught up in a sense of emergency, which is the antithesis of patience: must do now or will die! In this state, every tiny obstacle becomes a mountain of a problem, every person an irritant to be done with so I can move onto something more important.

They say awareness is the first step of change, and re-reading my own book made me aware of just how far away I'd gotten from the practices that keep me centered no matter what is going on around me. There are many, but there's one that helps me the most. Perhaps it will help you, too. I say "I have all the time I need" to myself as soon as I become aware that I've flopped over into impatience. It works like magic. I instantly calm down and from this more patient place, manage to actually do all I need to do. It even works for me in traffic -- I find I'm never actually late and if I were to be, at least I wouldn't be a stressed-out wreck when I arrive.

We don't have to be victims of hurry sickness. We do have all the time we need -- and from this patient mind zone, we can reclaim our time, our priorities and our ability to respond well to life and all its demands. With patience, we're in the driver's seat of our own lives.

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