By Dean Leutscher, PMP (profile)

If you Google the term “business skills,” I guarantee that patience will not be among the skills included in any list. If we think of patience in a business setting at all, it usually comes to mind when someone is not doing something fast enough to suit us.

Immediate action and short-term results seem to drive our business culture, at least in the United States. Technology fosters our need for instant feedback from people and immediate resolution to situations. If we don’t get a quick reply to the voice-mail and e-mail messages we leave, we’ll try to contact people using instant messaging. Maybe they are “just in a meeting” and can respond now.

Some believe that we are either born with patience or we are destined to go through life without it, in a constant state of frustration and anxiety. I believe patience is no different than negotiating, speaking, listening, or every other business skill; developing the skill of patience takes a lot of practice.

One definition of patience is “the state of endurance under difficult circumstances.” Wow, can we be any more negative about a natural part of life? Does being patient have to be a challenging, uphill, survival experience? That sounds more like the definition for being a patient than being patient.

The definition for impatience most often cited is a lack of patience. I think that is incorrect. It’s not that we lack patience; it’s that we choose not to use it. Like every other thought or action, deciding to practice patience is a choice. When you feel impatience creeping into your thinking change your mind. Choose a different thought.

Impatience is not the cause of frustration, dissatisfaction and dis-ease; it’s the fuel. I suggest that the progression of feelings is this: Fear … resistance … frustration … anxiety … physical dis-ease. Ask yourself, what is it I fear will happen? Then consider: What’s the worst thing that can happen in this situation? The answer to that question is usually so benign that it might make us laugh at ourselves if we think about the energy we waste in fear-based impatience.

Let’s be clear: Patience does not preclude persistence. By all means, continue to work toward your goal, but keep things in perspective. Unless we are waiting for rescue from a life-threatening circumstance, there is nothing worth the dis-ease we create for ourselves by being impatient.

Patience involves timing and stress. The former may not always be within our control, but the latter is certainly ours to have and to hold if we choose, or release. What is within your control, and what can you release, knowing that you can’t do anything about it, at least at this very moment?

Look at your watch or a clock on the wall. It can only indicate the present moment. The past is a collection of those now moments we have used, and the future is every now moment we will have to create what we experience. But it all only happens now.

Patience is the skill of creating now.

Practicing patience may not mean that we achieve perfect patience, but we will get better at it when we monitor our thoughts and actions. We will eliminate stress, enjoy the present moment a whole lot more, and even be more productive in our work.