Monday, August 9, 2010

Be Strong, Be Smart, Be Patient

Thirty years ago, I lived near Yorktown, Virginia and worked at the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, nearly fifty miles away. It was a long commute and included the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, which was famous for stop-and-go traffic, especially in the summer. On a good day, when traffic was flowing nicely, I could make the trip in about an hour, door-to-door.

I clearly remember a time when I wanted to get home “on time” because I had dinner reservations. On the bridge leading to the tunnel, traffic slowed to a stop. I could see that cars were motionless a half-mile ahead at the tunnel entrance. I remember shouting several of my favorite obscenities and pounding on the steering wheel. I was furious. They didn’t have cell phones back then.

I’m not sure how or why, but days later I got the brilliant idea of keeping books and audio cassettes in the car—something to do when traffic stopped. The idea was to make good use of the time.

And it worked. When I got stuck on I-64, I reached for a book I was reading. Time flew by, the traffic started up again and I learned some things. Cool.

I also learned this valuable lesson: When you have to wait, you’re in control of how you use the time. You can spend it fuming, with all the well-known deleterious side-effects. Or you can spend it thinking about something important. Or you can get into the moment—enjoy the afternoon cast of light on the water, the gulls playing in the ocean breeze overhead. Or you can listen to an audio or read a book—get smarter by the minute. You’re in charge. Spend the time any way you want. It doesn’t have to be time wasted or time lost.

A Fortune Cookie for you...

Know when now isn't the right time, and you’ll be ready when it is.

The story behind the Fortune Cookies...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Sarcastic Bastard said...

I liked this post, Denny. It is an important reminder. The Buddhists say that when we get held up, we have an opportunity to practice patience. I need to do A LOT more practicing. Laugh.



Lisa Monet said...

Good reminder, thank you! I have come to enjoy "waiting time" and use it to get centered, pray, do some favorite meditations, etc.

The opposite of this is when things are moving too fast! On I-5 this week, I got flustered and angry when I was forced into maneuvering around enormous vehicles going way too fast. Let me know if you have any advice for handling those situations in which decisions need to be harmoniously made in split seconds.

Denny Coates said...

Lisa, thank you for your comment on my blog. And your question. Split-second decisions are interesting because they have to be made “automatically” by habit. You have no time to think about them, just time to react. So two things help you. One is to already have the right skills to do what you have to do. The second is to trust your skills. Trust your instincts and just be confident that your brain already knows what to do, and go with it. If you try to reason it out in a split-second, you’ll get in the way of your instincts and mess things up.