Life’s lessons come to us in many guises, in foreign environments and with unexpected teachers. I learnt a slow and sure approach from a former colleague that changed how I drive and how I view investments. She worked as a middle level manager but had over time secured investments in real estate that had most of her seniors green with envy. I wondered what her secret was and finally got the chance to ask one day when she gave me a ride in her yellow beetle.
She drove a steady predetermined pace (she had set her speedometer to buzz when she went past 100km/hr). It was intriguing at first but then as other cars whizzed past us like we were on reverse gear, it begun to get a little frustrating. For me. “Oh never mind them,” she waved her hand dismissively as she read my thoughts.
“I always catch up with them at the lights,” she smiled, then added a little wickedly, “That is if they haven’t gotten into an accident.” She was right. When we got to the lights, we found the other cars there, their owners tapping the steering wheels impatiently. I think about her every time I am tempted to put my life and that of other road users at risk by driving fast.
However, what I really wanted to know was the secret sauce behind her real estate investments. “Oh that’s easy. Buy the cheapest property in the best location and then wait!” she said. “Anyone can buy a plot but most people are not prepared to wait.” Patience, it turned out was the magic formula and this pragmatic approach had worked for her.
Waiting is hard, harder now in our generation of instant coffee, microwave dinners and online banking. Reducing time between tasks is the hallmark of efficiency in the workplace but in the school of life, important things usually take a bit of time.
We may reduce the hours it takes to fly between two continents but a baby still needs nine months to mature in the womb. Most education systems take about 16 years to prepare one for a career. Human beings take 18 years, give or take, to become adults. Life refuses to be rushed, it takes it’s sweet time and religiously rewards those who delay gratification in the pursuit of their goals.
Consider the exercise regime you started at the beginning of the year. Are you tempted to give up because nothing is changing? Take a realistic approach. If it took you 10 years to acquire the excess kilos you have, why would you think you can change all that in one month or two? As parents, we repeat ourselves over and over to our children and wonder if they retain any of the good advice we are giving them.
It is often tempting to throw our hands up in frustration. I find that when it comes to children, it helps to take a long term view. It may be years before you see the complete fruit of your labour; usually around the time they become parents. What a long time to wait! Then there are all those business start-ups that expect to make money within three months.
The business is not yet even structured at this point. Like a baby, most businesses will need at least a year to get on their feet.
The reason most goals or resolutions set in the heady fireworks of the New Year do not last is because most of us give up on them and ourselves too soon. We run out of steam when it becomes apparent that what we want needs lots more time and effort.
In her book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, Amy Morin gives some strategies on how to delay gratification and stop expecting immediate results. She writes, “Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your end goal in mind to stay motivated on the days when you feel like giving up.” Other strategies include, “Celebrate milestones along your journey... create short term objectives and celebrate when you reach each milestone.”
She adds that we must also create a plan to resist temptation, deal with feelings of frustration and impatience in a healthy manner, and pace ourselves so we can be methodical as we move towards our goals.
Most worthwhile pursuits take time. And if you are like me, you don’t enjoy waiting. Yet if we are to make something special out of this life, we must learn to take the long term view and stay on course even when we are not seeing results. We must learn to wait.