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In the Age of Instant, Here's Why Leaders Must Learn the Art of Patience Leaders today must resist the urge to fall in with the age of instant gratification, choosing instead to practice the dying art of patience through their actions and decisions.

By Hanif Lalani

Key Takeaways

  • Our culture prioritizes immediacy and constant engagement.
  • Now more than ever, we as leaders need the ability to navigate uncertainties and make thoughtful decisions.
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In my exploration of yogic philosophy, I have found particular resonance in the concept known as pratyahara. Its translation from Sanskrit is "the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses" — broken down to its most simple interpretation; it is the practice of redirecting our awareness from the external world to the inner experiences.

Today, our culture prioritizes immediacy and constant engagement, and as a result, pausing for reflection is increasingly becoming a lost art. Although pratyahara's origins can be traced back thousands of years, its importance has only grown as sensory overload becomes more common. Instant results have become the norm throughout many aspects of society, and our ability to practice patience is waning.

I have found that leaders often grapple with impatience more than most. The inherent traits that make us effective in business — decisiveness, ambition and a drive for results — can also create a breeding ground for a heightened sense of urgency and restlessness. We are under considerable pressure to meet the high-paced demands of the modern business landscape, and there is an expectation for instant solutions, accelerated growth, and immediate responses.

Additionally, the pervasive influence of technology and the era of instant communication have created an environment where waiting has become a rarity. With the ability to send messages across the globe in seconds and access information at the touch of a button, impatience has become a byproduct of this culture of immediacy, and leaders often feel the weight of these expectations more intensely than most.

Now more than ever, we as leaders need the ability to navigate uncertainties and make thoughtful decisions. Cultivating patience gives us the mental space to pause and reflect before making choices. It encourages a careful consideration of options and potential consequences. This allows us to differentiate between decisive actions stemming from a thoughtful evaluation of the situation and impulsive reactions driven by the moment's urgency.

Related: Harness the Power of Patience to be a Better Leader

Developing mindfulness

As with most things, the first step to developing patience is becoming mindful of the feeling itself. We often attribute our impatience to external factors beyond our control: someone is taking too long in front of you at the grocery store or getting stuck in bad traffic.

While it may seem natural to attribute impatience to external events, our emotional responses, thought patterns and mindset play a large role in how we experience and express impatience. When you understand that your reaction is still within your control, you can be empowered to reshape your internal responses to them.

Beginning to cultivate patience starts with setting an intention to identify when impatience arises within you and what situations most commonly bring it forward. Even before starting this exercise, you can probably already think of a few scenarios that trigger those feelings of frustration and restlessness such as being placed on hold or having to listen to someone take what seems to be an interminably long time to explain something.

Related: Why Mindfulness Matters for Entrepreneurs

Expectations vs. reality

Impatience often occurs when reality isn't conforming to our expectations. We expect that project timelines will not be delayed, meetings will start promptly, and deliveries will be on schedule. We expect people to behave as we want them to, promptly responding to emails, meeting deadlines as promised, and actively contributing to meetings. The dissonance between these expectations and the unpredictability of real-world situations is where impatience can grow.

Related: The 5 Most Important Cognitive Biases Holding You Back

Mind-body connection

After pinpointing the sources that trigger your impatience, you can then explore how impatience manifests in both your mind and body. Simply suppressing impatient feelings will only exacerbate the problem; instead, work on becoming familiar with the physical sensations that accompany them. Is your stomach in knots, or are your shoulders suddenly tensed all the way up next to your ears? Have you clenched your fists or tightened your jaw?

The physical expressions of emotions serve evolutionary purposes, preparing the body to respond to challenges. However, in modern life, these physiological responses can sometimes be disproportionate or misaligned with the actual circumstances. Understanding the mind-body connection is an important factor in developing strategies to manage our emotional and physical responses to impatience.

Shifting attention

One of the most practical tools available to develop patience is to shift one's attention. You are not your emotions, which means that you have the power to control how you are reacting in a given scenario. Impatience is unarguably unpleasant, so consider what you would rather feel instead. While calm is often seen as the opposite of impatience, achieving this shift can be challenging. Instead, explore alternative emotions such as curiosity or compassion. Curiosity allows you to engage with the present moment, finding interest in the details of your situation. In contrast, compassion towards yourself and others creates understanding that can soften the edge of impatience.

Rediscovering presence

So much of our lives have become automated. Technology has allowed us to streamline tasks that once required concentration and time to complete, and while this has certainly created new efficiencies, it is important not to allow ourselves to also run on autopilot. Understandably, when we become used to distractions, the idea of being present in the moment without external stimuli can seem unappealing. Our culture values constant activity and busyness, and slowing down and dedicating time to mindfulness inevitably clashes with that.

However, mindfulness can be a valuable tool for cultivating and strengthening patience. It does not have to involve taking up a yogic practice or dedicating extensive hours to meditation. At its core, mindfulness is simply the conscious choice to observe your thoughts, sensations and surroundings without judgment, allowing for a heightened awareness of the present moment. Leaders today must resist the urge to fall in with the age of instant gratification, choosing instead to practice the dying art of patience through their actions and decisions.

Hanif Lalani

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


Hanif Lalani is an international telecommunications executive based in the United Kingdom. He is currently working on a number of high-speed internet initiatives in Central Asian countries as well as in the Middle East and East Africa, and has served as an advocate for closing the digital divide.

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