Eighteen months. That's how long the dead-looking orchid sat on our windowsill. Although it had some green leaves and roots, the stem itself ended abruptly and had zero signs of life. Yet, my husband continued to believe in the plant's potential. For 18 months, he cared for it daily and waited patiently.
Then, one day not too long ago, signs of life appeared. A tiny bud. More tiny buds. And in the last few weeks, 7 gorgeous flowers bloomed (see below!). A miracle! How could flowers have bloomed when for so long it seemed like nothing was happening?
We all have our own mental and internal timelines, and often, we are impatient. We know what we want, and we want it to happen now. We're eager for change and we're ready -- to launch our business, to create a culture change, to get a board seat, or to advance in our organization.
Other people's timelines are not always aligned with ours. You want to create change as a leader, and people are slow to adopt your ideas. You want a promotion, and your boss is not ready to discuss it. You want to launch your business, and you get delayed filling out more paperwork. You want to switch jobs to your dream organization, and the exploratory conversations with them feel like they drag on for months and months.
Progress and change can take time. And many pieces of a change process are out of our control. So what can you do? You can remember what's in your control and you can choose how you navigate the waiting and unfolding of it all. Here are 3 coaching suggestions for being more calm and patient, whether you're waiting for a new job, a vaccine, or your next chapter:
1. Choose how you want to be as you wait. We have choice about how we "be" in our lives. We can be patient or frustrated. We can live in fear or courage. The "how" we live life matters deeply, as our thoughts and energy affect our body and our behavior. If you're a leader, and you're leading change at your organization, how do you want to be seen? Do you want others to appreciate your equanimity or notice obvious impatience?
2. Choose your guiding mindset. Our thoughts create our reality. Take a moment and notice the thoughts that guide your waiting. Believing "this is never going to happen" creates very different feelings internally than believing a statement like, "I have faith that the pieces are falling into place behind the scenes." Regarding the orchid, my husband clearly had the belief that it would someday bloom again.
3. Recognize and count progress along the way. Often, we get so focused on the end goal that we fail to recognize the progress that is happening, even if they are only micro-changes. A client of mine was so impatient to launch a new business that she felt like she couldn't celebrate until her doors opened. Not true! We get to recognize small successes along the way and celebrate each one. Each one is an important building block, and celebrating each step of success will help you feel happier and recognize that progress is happening, even if you can't quite see it.
Lastly, remember that we see only only one part of the whole in life. Like with the orchid, we saw only the external manifestations of plant growth. Now I realize how much dynamic internal plant growth must have been happening all along. When something isn't moving as fast as you'd like, take a moment and ask, "What might be happening that I don't yet see?" I'm guessing there's a lot unfolding that might not yet be visible.
I'd love to hear updates about your life, where you're being patient, and what might be happening behind the scenes.
p.s. In today's episode of my podcast In the Right Direction, I share the coaching question I use most to understand what someone else is thinking. This is a question you can use in personal and professional conversations to create quicker understanding and alignment. You might also notice that my Podcast page on my website looks different. It's been updated and will also now contain full transcripts for each episode.
Stay tuned...in a few weeks I share a bonus interview episode with Sarah Scala, who coaches leaders while kayaking. Both she and this type of coaching are super interesting!
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