Patience…it’s one of those things we all need, but it seems harder and harder to come by these days.
To be honest, I thought that the isolation of a pandemic would have brought a greater sense of kindness and compassion—both important ingredients of patience. But the more we move away from lockdowns, the more I recognize that patience is still something that we all could use a little more of.
Don’t get me wrong—there are so many kind and compassionate people in the world. And we all know someone who fits the bill. But it seems that every time I am out and about in the world, there are people who forget that kindness is always the best way to lead.
If you want a lesson in patience, visit the airport.
The other day, I was in the airport traveling from New York City back to my home in Florida. There were two lines: one for TSA PreCheck and another line for everyone else.
For those of you who don’t know, TSA PreCheck is a service that allows you to get through the line faster with a smoother screening process.
Our son doesn’t have TSA PreCheck, so he went through the regular line while we went through the PreCheck line. Twenty minutes later, our son called us, asking us where we were at. He was able to get right through, but we still had over 100 people ahead of us in the line that was supposed to save us time.
As you can imagine, people around us started complaining very loudly. They were moaning and groaning, demanding to see the supervisor, and insisting that they shouldn’t have to wait.
I was frustrated too. I thought that I could have organized things much better. For starters, our line had two agents manning the station while the other line had six agents who were just standing around. But I was there as a traveler, and it wasn’t my job to fix it.
After hearing the people moan and groan around me, it would have been incredibly easy for me to fall into the same trap. But I thought to myself, “What good is complaining going to do?” The two agents were working furiously to try and get people through the line as quickly as two people could manage. And I had a lot of compassion for them as I watched them working hard while also fielding complaints.
Enter the surprising gift of shoes.
I decided to let go of my initial frustration and distract myself with something a little more positive. Rather than focus on the time it was taking to clear the line, I found myself looking at people’s shoes. You would be surprised at how many different kinds of shoes there are in the airport.
Now you may think that looking at the shoes of airport visitors is silly, but it wasn’t about the shoes. I made a conscious choice to find something else to focus my mind on so that I could more patiently wait for the line to move forward.
It had nothing to do with the shoes. It was about where I chose to place my focus—or rather what I chose to NOT focus my energy on. And believe it or not, that line seemed to go much faster while I focused on the shoes because it allowed me to remain in a relatively calm state of mind.
This lesson on patience has changed my perspective.
My purpose in sharing this experience is to prep us all for the upcoming holiday season.
Everyone knows that the holidays can be a time where people tend to feel a little more stressed and lose a lot more patience with each other. Maybe this is because we’re always trying to cram everything into one small time period. Maybe it’s because we feel the need to buy lots of gifts, make a gourmet meal, and host the best holiday party.
But maybe—just maybe—if we changed our focus, the holidays could be so much better.
What if we made the focus of the holidays spending time with friends and family?
How would things change if we made our focus love and community, kindness and giving?
What if we skipped black Friday shopping and spent the day helping someone instead?
Patience during the holidays isn’t an elusive unicorn—it’s a natural positive consequence of where we choose to place our focus.
The world needs a little more patience.
That experience in the airport was a good reminder to me that as we move into the holidays, we need to make patience a priority.
If you’re going to a store, understand that you may be waiting in line for a very long time. Take a book, talk to the person behind you, or become a shoe watcher. Do whatever you feel inspired to do to remove your focus from those circumstances that lie outside of your control, like a long line, an angry shopper, or stormy weather. The less you focus on your sources of frustration, the more peace you will have this holiday season.
We’re all doing the best we can as we try to get back out there and do normal things. But there’s always room for improvement. Now is a good time to reflect on the kind of people we want to be moving forward.
For me, I’m committing myself to becoming a little more patient. Sure, there are moments when I’m going to struggle with this, but there’s always shoes to focus on. And even if there’s not, I’m going to make considerable effort to bring my best self to every situation—to be patient, to be kind, and to show compassion to those around me.
We have no idea what the people around us are struggling with. But everyone feels better when we lead with kindness, patience, and compassion.