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When Should We Be Patient?

When should we be impatient?

I've been thinking about the issue of patience a lot lately. It is a bit late in life, but I'm learning more about myself. I have always considered myself to be a "patient" person. However, there are different levels of patience for different situations.

I found that with my wife, I had developed incredible level of patience. Mary was almost always late for most things and over time I learned to live with it. I used to say, "I'm so patient, I should be admitted to the hospital—I'm so "Patient." Of course that would be a different type of "patient."

Then there is the "impatient" side of me. I like to see things get resolved. Having a project be in "limbo" is definitely not my style. If I have control of the situation, I want things to always be moving forward to what is hopefully a successful conclusion. That is not always the case. Sometimes you have to, once again, wait for others to do their part.

I can tell you that in work situations that require regional action by other partners, with them joining your efforts or you joining theirs, we must revert to having a higher level of patience. In these situations we don't have total control. As in the Army, when running in formation, the pace has to be set where the vast majority of the people running can keep up the pace being set. Otherwise, it becomes an individual race that is not unified and results in a total collapse of the effort to stick together as one unit.

Regional efforts require negotiation about what will be accomplished and how it will be accomplished. Getting to an agreement will likely required compromise from all the parties involved. This process of achieving success requires a higher level of patience.

Then, there is the situation where there is one particular recalcitrant individual or jurisdiction who is holding up the progress of the whole. At what point do you "lose patience" with them and move forward without them? That requires a higher degree of judgment as to your course of action and which provides for success or dooms the outcome because of non-participation of a key partner.

Personally, as the clock continues to "tick" I'm finding that my personal level of patience is not what it once was. I want progress to be made—Now—OK, maybe not "now" but sooner than later. For better or worse, waiting to see how things turn out is not my style.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.