Impatience has long been a characteristic that people try to improve, control, or reduce. “Good things come to those who wait,” goes the common wisdom. But what if impatience is actually good for your career?
As a matter of fact, it may be exactly what you need to get going, get ahead, and create a positive future this year.
Impatience comes by its poor reputation with some justification—and it can cause some serious negative effects. Impatience can lead to feeling frustrated, angry, stressed, or anxious. Impatience can cloud our thinking and negatively affect our relationships. In an increasingly fast world, you may feel impatient as you wait for a colleague’s reply to your email, wait for a web page to load, or wait in line during your coffee break. All of these are likely moments to manage your impatience and avoid letting it control your emotions or your day.
But there are also positive ways to channel impatience which can benefit your career. Here’s how.
A focus on efficiency
One of the hallmarks of impatience is a negative reaction to what’s going on today and wanting something more. Impatience often arises when we see a problem that hasn’t yet been solved, when we notice an issue that is getting in the way of progress, or when we identify something that isn’t being done efficiently. This kind of critical mindset can be an asset to your career.
With the quickly evolving business landscape and the need for organizational innovation, employers value people with the ability to see what can be better—and your ideas and recommendations for how to constantly improve.
Stay aware of what’s not working and identify potential barriers. Keep on the lookout for a customer who isn’t being served ideally or an ineffective process in your team’s approach. Go beyond being simply critical and push yourself to think of solutions and improvements. These will have positive effects on your credibility.
Another element of impatience is an orientation toward action. When you’re tapping your foot or hearing the voice in your head wondering what’s taking so long, you’re craving to move forward with next steps. While reflection is critically important, it’s also valuable to be able to take action and move ahead.
With the trend of quiet quitting, positive and proactive impatience with a focus on action can set you apart at work. Plus, this kind of engagement can also have personal benefits. For instance, research from Muse found that quiet quitters report negative impacts on their concentration, memory, productivity, creativity, and even their quality of sleep.
Focus on making a contribution, roll up your sleeves, and dig into your work. Consider your teammates and what they need from you to be successful. Try new things and take initiative to grow your skills. Put your idea forward before it’s fully developed in order to give others the opportunity to weigh in and provide input. Test potential solutions while they’re still in development so you can learn from customers and from the market. Volunteer for an initiative that will test your skills and stretch your abilities—all of these will tap into impatience and pay off in growing your career.
Impatience can also be motivating. Burnout is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, being out of control, and giving up—and its opposite are feelings of empowerment and effectiveness.
Use your impatience to give yourself a sense of confidence and capability. Remind yourself of all that you’ve accomplished in the last few years, despite setbacks. Validate the way you’ve bounced back from a layoff, a slowdown in your business, or a plateau in your career. Consider all you’ve learned and how you can apply your new thinking to the project you’re leading or within the team you’re participating on.
Feeling that there’s more you want and more you can achieve can help keep you motivated and also impact the people around you. Organizations that prioritize having a strong, healthy internal culture value those who have a positive influence on people around them—and your energy will help expand your opportunities as a result.
Closely related to motivation are grit and determination. The greatest accomplishments don’t come from just smarts, but also from the ability to persevere in the face of hardship and to stay the course when things get tough.
When you’re impatient, you can use the frustration you may feel to fuel your stick-to-it-iveness. Consider the ways you’re unsatisfied with your team’s progress so you can manage the project more effectively going forward. Give thought to what’s not working well so you can invest ongoing energy to making things better.
Companies are successful when they make strategic choices about where to invest and where to pull back, and you’ll be perfectly positioned to grow with your organization by being the employee who can stick with the most important bets and maintain your focus in the areas that will benefit you and the organization most significantly.
At its core, impatience is driven by a desire for change and improvement, and these are great boosts for your learning and development. When you learn, stretch, and grow, you’re more likely to experience happiness.
Research conducted jointly by Oxford University and the Workers Educational Association of England and Scotland found that engaging in formal learning resulted in people experiencing better mental and physical health and improved life satisfaction. Another study at San Francisco State University demonstrated that learning was associated with greater happiness and satisfaction.
Impatience can be a lens for improvement. When things aren’t going the direction you want, or with the speed you desire, you can consider how to improve and grow. Perhaps you’re still waiting for a promotion and additional development can help you get it. Or maybe it seems like you’re not getting the recognition you deserve from your boss. Taking steps to enhance your knowledge or expand your skills can get their attention so you can advance.
While there are downsides to impatience, the upsides are significant as well. Tap into your dissatisfaction, your need for speed, and your desire for better conditions to help move your career forward. Good things may come to those who wait but also—and perhaps even more—to those who take action.