I am SO impatient!

Posted by Doc
Apr 14 2009

As much as I talk about leading people to choose to change – influencing them – I have to admit that my natural tendency is toward impatience.  After all, I got it, so why don’t you?  What’s taking so long?  C’mon already!

Once I understand something or internalize something or in some other way get it, I forget about my own AHA! moment when I first got it.

What’s important for me to remember, therefore, is that everyone learns at their own pace, and their AHA! moments will come when they come, not when I want them to come.

When I was studying Shotokan Karate, I worked on a particular kata (form) for several months. I reached brown belt, and was so proud of myself. I was doing that same kata one day, and started seeing all sorts of flaws in it.  I went to my instructor and told him how confusing this was, because it seemed like the flaws appeared suddenly.  He said “the higher the mountain, the farther you can see.”

I think there’s a corollary: the higher the mountain, the more the details are lost in the mist of distance. I think this sometimes applies to the lessons I’ve learned and internalized (the “unconscious competence” level of learning).

As a parent, I’ve certainly seen the situation many hundreds of times. My wife or I will tell one of the kids the same thing over and over and over and… one day, all of a sudden, it seems that they get it.


No doubt there’s a combination of a critical mass of receptions, plus some catalyzing event or thought that turns it from more yadda-yadda noise into a message that is important to them.

This means that no matter how important or seemingly obvious the message or lesson, I have to learn to be patient, be determined, be consistent, and wait until the other person is ready.

In my work, I run into this frequently as well.  “Oh, now I get what you’ve been telling me all this time, Doc!”

It’s not that I said anything different, or said it differently.  It’s just reaching that moment, that point in time at which it becomes personally relevant and meaningful for them.

And that requires patience.


2 Responses

  1. Diana Larsen says:

    When I was a fledgling instructional designer, someone told me that, on average, a person has to encounter a new idea at least eleven times before it becomes their own. (Since then, I have heard numbers ranging from seven times to forty-four (!) times.) I’m not sure the number matters as much as the principle.

    When I’m working with individuals who struggle to adopt a change in behavior or other new practice or mindset, I remember that I may get to be “person 11” who gets to see the AHA! go off. And, I may be person 3 or 4 who is helping the learning happen, though perhaps not seeing the result. It also keeps me humble knowing when I am person 11 witnessing the AHA!, it’s because 10 other idea bringers helped along the way.

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