“It’s going to take time to heal, Misti,” said my physical therapist, Jon – for about the fifteenth time in one week. “Today, we’re just going to work on strength.”
“And then what?” I asked.
“Then, we see how it goes.”
“But what are the steps I will go through? Is there any way I can make my knee heal faster? Should I ice more? More stretching? Strengthening?”
“Would you calm down?! Let’s take it one week at a time.”
I cringed, a reaction my fellow over-achievers will understand. This was only my third week of physical therapy after having surgery to repair my meniscus. The doctors ordered six weeks on crutches (non-weight bearing) and three months of physical therapy. But patience is not my style. I didn’t want to calm down; I had things to do, and this knee was slowing me down.
My father has always told me that patience is a virtue – and ensured I knew just how much I needed to practice. I still haven’t gotten it down. Instead, I torture myself. “You’re not doing it fast enough,” I tell myself. “Hurry or you’re going to miss something! If you don’t get it now, you’re never going to get it.”
Like many type-A professionals, my impatience is even more intense when it comes to my work. I recently took a top-notch speaker training course called the Bill Gove Speech Workshop, which drastically changed my understanding of the industry and gave me a whole new foundation. I left the workshop feeling excited and anxious at the same time. I had a tremendous amount of work to do, and naturally, I needed to do it all right away!
I hired a coach and agreed to write a new story every month (part of the Bill Gove process) and to video myself telling it. As I wrote the first story, I kept thinking, “You’re not doing it fast enough!” Unfortunately, anxiety really puts a damper on my creativity.
So, I begged my coach, Dawn, to tell me that I have what it takes to implement this system and become a hugely-successful keynote speaker. “Misti, you remind me of my husband,” she said. “When he first started this program, Bill Gove used to tell him, ‘Steve, you’re immature. Be patient. Learning this new system will take time.’”
I suddenly found myself thinking about a recent conversation with my partner, Francesca, and realized that Jon and Dawn’s advice would be helpful on the home front as well. In 2010, I concluded that I no longer wish to live where I have to shovel snow or scrape ice off my windshield. Ideally, I’d like to live by the ocean, where I can walk around in shorts and flip-flops for most of the year. And this was confirmed when Francesca and I visited friends in Hawaii for the New Year. After we returned to our gray, wintery city, I kept murmuring, “I feel so hopeless, like we’re never going to find a perfect place to live.”
Finally, Francesca had enough. “It seems like you want everything right now, in this very moment,” she said. “And you don’t want to put effort into finding that perfect place. It’s not going to happen overnight, Misti! Be patient.” Yuck! Those dreaded, yet realistic, words.
The Universe has clearly been trying to tell me something – and maybe it’s time to listen! I don’t like where I live, don’t know where I want to live, feel incompetent with this new style of keynote speaking and want my knee completely healed in half the usual time. Perhaps, Jon, Dawn and Francesca are right; I need to take it one step at a time.
And I’m not the only one. Stress and anxiety (and the health problems they can cause) are rampant issues in the U.S., particularly in the fast-paced, ADD-riddled business world. About one-third of workers report high levels of work-related stress, according to the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. And a quarter of them say it is the No. 1 stressor in their lives, according to Northwestern National Life Insurance Company.
Consider how much of that stress is caused by an impatient workplace culture, or by the impatience of over-achieving individuals like me who live in state of anxiety trying to beat the clock. Give the clock – and yourself – a break.
I’m letting go of perfectionism by breaking down all my goals into manageable steps. Knowing I have a plan in place for each big hurdle helps me calm down. I’m still a work in progress, but when it comes to patience, at least I’m finally getting the message and practicing. It is a virtue, after all, and virtues rarely come easy.
Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations
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