Patience is a Virtue… and a Curse

When pursuing happiness, whether it’s right at the start of your journey, or near the end, patience is tricky attitude to maintain. Too little patience and we miss important steps along the way, or mess up completely because we’ve gone too far too quickly. Too much patience however and we slide into procrastination, not actively doing enough to move our dreams forward.

This week, I asked the Lab-Rats to read the blog entry An Expensive Lesson from when I first arrived in France in August 2006 then answer some questions about their own experience with “leaping before looking.”

Before I get into the answers, though, here’s a bit about the answering styles. The Urbane Lion’s first language isn’t English, so he clarified what terms he was using before continuing (“I think we need to make the distinction here between patient and analytical.”) then provided me with the questions and his answers in a PDF document with the answers a different colour from the questions.  Sal went the opposite route and ignored structure altogether; telling me a story instead. Brett kept it simple, giving me just his answers numbered to match the questions, and Crista (who started a new blog this week) gave me a combination of all three. No matter the style, however, they all provided me with lots of information to digest.

Tomorrow I’ll post the full text of everyone’s responses so you can see for yourself.

Now, on to the analysis…

Leaper or Looker?

The men considered themselves lookers, while Crista identified herself as a leaper. The Urbane Lion‘s interpretation of patience related more to his response to others and to his desire for gratification. In that sense he says he’s not patient, expecting intelligent interactions with people and pleasure when he wants it. Literally, however, he looks before he leaps off the boat (to make sure the water is deep enough) and is very analytical about big decisions. Sal acknowledged that when he does try to be spontaneous he misses out on important details so prefers to move slowly. Brett felt that he was likely too patient, letting irritations stew inside and situations to worsen.

Crista has moderated her tendency to leap without looking because like the other male lab rats, her husband is also a Looker. She tries to honour his need for security, while doing the best she can for her kids (which requires planning). As a result, Crista can feel a bit hemmed in and annoyed that she has created for herself a Someday List.

Too Patient? Too Brash?

Given the above, it’s not surprising, therefore, that all of my Lab-Rats talked about their over-patience, their unwillingness to act even when the lack of action creates irritation, a sense of loss, or frustration. By not acting, the Lab-Rats either created a Someday or lost a moment of connection with their dreams (or desire in the moment).

Crista put her dreams of school on hold to raise her family, always saying “someday” to it (fortunately that’s changed and she’s going back to school).

Sal lost the opportunity to buy a great house because he hesitated too long (but they found another one they like).

Brett ended up in a deadline crunch at work because he didn’t speak up, requesting what he needed from a higher up (he’s working on leaving the job).

The Urbane Lion’s example included a frustrating and embarrassing lack of service at a restaurant with his in-laws. Given the restaurant’s out of the way location and time restriction, getting up and going elsewhere wasn’t an option, so his only possible action was confronting the bad service as it was happening. The Urbane Lion told me that it got so frustrating he finally knelt down and banged his head on the floor. I’ll leave it up to him to let us know whether he spoke up during the process or let it all build until the head-banging moment.

Finding Balance

Crista’s making the biggest change to find balance – she’s away for three weeks at the beginning of the school year to kick start her distance education degree. After putting school off for the sake of her family for so long, she’s missing her son’s first day at kindergarten and her daughter’s birthday.

During the exercise, Brett realized that speaking up when he needs something or when someone says something obviously wrong in a meeting will most likely make his work life better, not worse. Sal is going to take Tina Su’s advice and take small steps on projects – moving things forward, but not diving in.

The Urbane Lion for the most part has found balance. He knows who he is and that he needs to temper his hot-bloodedness sometimes. I say “for the most part” because given the restaurant story he relayed (you’ll get to read it yourself tomorrow), I wonder whether he waits until a breaking point before speaking up (I’ll let you decide when he clarifies).

Someday Lessons:

  • Inaction is a choice and there will be consequences – likely ones you didn’t consider when weighing the possibilities.
  • When acting against our natures, it’s easy to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.
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38 thoughts on “Patience is a Virtue… and a Curse

  1. Totally awesome analysis! I can’t wait to read the answers straight from the horses’ mouths. Or would that be rats’ mouths? Mind you, I know the Lion’s story, as I was there, and yes Dear Readers, he did literally get down on his hands and knees and bang his head on the floor.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..The cost of relationships

  2. Urbane Lion says:

    My hot temper has shut me some doors in my past. Although that’s all behind me now I sometimes wait a little too long before reacting which only serves to build up the pressure and frustration. In this case, although we did voice our frustration, little could be done about it. The staff were all imcompetent, inexperienced and ill equipped to face a restaurant crowd. Our only option here was to endure. A very frustrating experience!

    Urbane Lion’s last blog post..The Neutered Lion – The procedure

  3. Alex Fayle says:

    Thanks! It was a fun process synthesizing the data (I actually remembered some of the skills I learned in university).

    If you make every attempt to change the situation and nothing happens, then yes, there will be times you just need to endure and get out as soon as you can. At least the headbanging would have provided some entertainment for those around you…

  4. Brett Legree says:


    This is looking great, and it will be a lot of fun. As I’ve said to you in email, it will (and has been so far) a great learning experience.

    You may have to start charging future rats once everyone sees how this works (business idea? sort of like a TV talk show, only on the net, help you solve things in public, minus the flying chairs…)


    Brett Legree’s last blog post..never lose anything again. not even waldo.

  5. Alex Fayle says:

    Perhaps I could charge more if I figured out how to send chairs flying virtually… 😉

  6. Brett Legree says:


    I think there’s some plug-in for Facebook that will let you do that!

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..never lose anything again. not even waldo.

  7. Al at 7P says:

    Hi Alex – that’s a great point about balance. I’m usually in the mindset that the instincts, the initial gut reaction, is usually the right choice, but it’s good to make sure what the consequences are before making that choice. Definitely a balancing act that’s needed.

    Looking forward to the lab rat responses in your next post.

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..Why Should I Help You?

  8. steph says:

    Excellent so far, and very thought-provoking!

    I’d say I’m a Leaper, because I believe that those who make the most spontaneous decisions often and who change them less often or not at all are the most successful. They’re acting on their gut. I’m not much of a looker. I want what I want, say what I feel like saying, and do what I feel like doing, most times. Makes me sound like a selfish bully, but I wouldn’t say that’s always the case, but yeah, sometimes that’s not all good. At work it was great (Brett: it’s true. You will have an easier time if you are forthright — and tactful.) But dealing with particular friends or family, for example, it’s not always smart not to look first.

    There is a risk involved in being a Leaper, for sure, and it could very well be a not-so-good decision you’ve made in leaping. But then I think, yeah, but that only presents another choice of what to do. And so on and so on and so on…

    I won’t say I’m perfect by a long shot. There needs to be a strong impetus for me (which could be translated as waiting till the frustration becomes unbearable and usually becomes I”m scared) and I do tend to hem and haw over things I think will be too hard. In that case, what finally gets me to leap is becoming sick of hearing myself whine! 🙂

    steph’s last blog post..No Lamb For the Lazy Wolf

  9. Brett Legree says:


    That’s so true, the distinction between “work” and “family/friends”. Being more assertive at work is a good thing (in that particular case, I’d just mentally moved on a bit too much, and stopped caring for a bit…)

    I can leap, if needed, of course – I have big strong Viking legs 😉

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..never lose anything again. not even waldo.

  10. Sal says:

    It is funny too, the way opposites attract in relationships. While I am the calm, feel everything out first, type of person, my wife is exactly the opposite. She will leap in a heartbeat. It makes for a very interesting relationship. One that is filled with much excitement and spontinaity for me anyway.

    I like to chose my words carefully, and like Steph, my wife goes right ahead and says what is on her mind. I actually admire this quality in her, but sometimes in public, I will almost cringe thinking “Wow, I would not have said that”

    Sal’s last blog post..14 + 1 Facts you may not know about Wal-Mart

  11. Sal says:

    BTW, those pictures look vaugely familiar. I think I have seen them somewhere before 🙂

    Sal’s last blog post..14 + 1 Facts you may not know about Wal-Mart

  12. Brett Legree says:


    It sounds like your wife and my wife are pretty similar, which makes our relationships also pretty similar 😉

  13. I tend ask more questions before leaping than the Lion. I find he reads information, or listens to people quite quickly (because his mind is likely designing something very cool), and there are a lot of assumptions made, and quite a number of blanks. I have just learned to give him a list of questions and he is happy to research them. Interestingly, however, it’s the opposite for business decisions. I got my website up and running and filled in the bells and whistles after. The Lion put his up two months later, but it was fully equipped with all the bells and whistles. Bottom line, like Sal and Brett with their wives, the Lion and I balance each other out.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..The cost of relationships

  14. Lisa says:

    This is a great topic! There’s so much that I agree with here. And, I’ve been experiencing all of it lately too.

    Being prepared to take the one thousand steps it takes to your large goal is really important. As soon as I think of any journey in those terms, typically, I get a fairly good balance.

  15. Urbane Lion says:

    Everybody has their own level of acceptable risks or level of confort for a given situation. Once my level of acceptable risk is reached, I leap without looking back!

    Urbane Lion’s last blog post..The Neutered Lion – The procedure

  16. I have been a – both feet in at the same time jumper – most all of my life. This has created some *unique learning experiences* Ahem…

    Fast forward to my late forties and I’m starting to put at least a few toes in the water to judge the temperature before I jump. But…I usually still jump.

    Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations’s last blog post..For the Love of Words

  17. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Alex – It’s great to hear about their progress. Not speaking up, or changing things when you’re unhappy about something just makes you miserable.

    Now I would loved to have been in that restaurant when the Urbane Lion banged his head on the floor. He seems to get up to some weird things in restaurants.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Relationships: Are You Kissing Goodbye To Success?

  18. I am so far from a leaper that it’s sad – indecision is by far my biggest weakness.

    Janet Barclay’s last blog post..Nearly Paperless Forms

  19. steph says:

    @ UL: Good point about everyone having different levels of acceptance!

    steph’s last blog post..No Lamb For the Lazy Wolf

  20. Sal!!! Is that you?!!! Geepers, us ladies asked for buff photos of the lab rats and you delivered!

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..The cost of relationships

  21. Urbane Lion says:

    OK, I have a great picture to show also!

  22. This lab rat experiment is very interesting. It seems to me that most men are lookers ( that doesn’t surprise) and us women are leapers.

    I can relate to you Steph by what you said. I’m so spontaneous that sometimes I should have really thought before speaking up. LOL, it’s gotten me into some pretty edgy situations before.

    I do believe though that if something is worth going for, I am – like a steam train. I even managed to log my husband all the way to Australia. Considering he always wanted to be a famous chef with his own TV show that is an accomplishment. Best of all, he actually thanked me for helping him see the “other side”.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Blog Communications

  23. @ Sal: Nice bod. 🙂 One for the ladies, now we too can be lookers.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Blog Communications

  24. @Urbane Lion – no, no, no, no, no. And a thousand times no. Nobody, not even me, wants to see that picture!

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..The cost of relationships

  25. Marelisa says:

    Hi Alex: I’m a leaper. This has led to some very interesting life experiences, and it’s also led to a few “OMG, what did I just do” moments. All in all I plan to remain a leaper, although lately I have been known to take a little longer to look over the edge to make sure I aim toward the water and away from the rocks.

  26. Alex Fayle says:

    Anyone noticed that the women seem to be leapers and the men lookers? Are there any leaping men out there other than me? Looking-women?

  27. Sal says:

    @UP & Monika: That WAS me. A picture today would show otherwise, as those pictures were taken about 5 years ago…before I was married.

    @Alex: I would think it depends on the age. I know when I was younger, I used to be a leaper. It didn’t matter, I would do just about anything, from jumping off a 10 meter platform to going on a spontaneous road trip that was announced 5 minutes ago. As I have grown wise (ahem…errr…older) I now look first. I think it has to do a lot with life experiences. I have gotten myself into trouble numerous times and “learned” from those lessons.

    As far as women go, they most always have a man to fall back on and catch them if they make a mistake. Wether it is their father or the man in their life. I speak for myself here, that whenever my wife makes a mistake, I see it as my “duty” as the father and husband to take the blame for it and make it right.

    Does anyone else agree?

    Sal’s last blog post..10 Business Strategies I Learned from Wal-Mart

  28. Alex Fayle says:

    I went to university in the mid 90s with lots of women studies friends (the height of identity politics, before so-called post-feminism and the “feminist backlash”), so I’m just going to walk away from that your last comment v-e-r-y slowly… 😉

  29. @ Sal: Woohoo, marriage. Isn’t it fascinating how we use marriage as an excuse to get out of shape? No offense to you by the way. But I seem to be doing the same thing. Perhaps we get more comfortable by not having to go and hunt the field.

    What do you think?

    @ Alex: My words. 🙂 Seems to be a common behavior.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Blog Communications

  30. Sal says:

    @Alex: I understand. I just think that women need to be treated like the princesses that they are, at least that is how I treat my wife. My daughter is learning fast too. I always open the door for her and pull out her seat at the dinner table.

    Sal’s last blog post..10 Business Strategies I Learned from Wal-Mart

  31. Alex Fayle says:

    With my friends we never notice gender – whoever reaches the door first opens it and holds open for the next person. One time in high school, my mom told me off for not holding the gate open for a friend and my friend said “What? I have arms. I got there first. He’ll do it next time.”

    The only time I make an effort is with an older person – I will always open the door and hold it open for them.

    I see no reason to treat a whole gender differently only because of tradition – now treating your wife and daughter with extra care is personal – I do little things to make Raul’s life easier because I love him so much. As I’m sure they do other little things for you.

  32. Sal says:

    @Alex: I completely agree. I will hold the door open for anyone if they are using the door behind me, but I do, like you said, make a special effort to go out of my way for my wife and daughter.

    Sal’s last blog post..10 Business Strategies I Learned from Wal-Mart

  33. @Sal and Alex – the Lion ALWAYS opens and holds the car door for me, and he tries to carry more than his share of the groceries. He also makes sure he walks alongside the road, with me tucked safely in the inside. It took a bit of getting used to, but now I am totally good with it. For the first time in my life, a man cares enough to treat me with chivalry.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..He said he never…might…will get married

  34. @Sal – re: As far as women go, they most always have a man to fall back on and catch them if they make a mistake. Wether it is their father or the man in their life. I speak for myself here, that whenever my wife makes a mistake, I see it as my “duty” as the father and husband to take the blame for it and make it right.

    OUCH! No, I believe that every person, male and female, should be responsible for their own actions. It’s called learning and growing. I never ‘fall back’ on the Lion. Rather, we both support each other with our strengths and weaknesses balancing nicely.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..He said he never…might…will get married

  35. Urbane Lion says:

    Sal: I just think that it’s important to know that you can always fall back on your partner for support. Whether you’re the male or the female. Makes no difference. I also have my bad days when I’m feeling down and out and I know that the panther will pick up the slack until I get back on my feet again. And vice versa. If we’re both feeling down and out, we just stay home and fix things with a bit of cuddling and copious amounts of alcohol.

  36. Sal says:

    @UP & UL: I’m sorry, let me elaborate a bit more on what I meant. I am talking about life lessons, but only the first time they happen. After that, you should have learned what not to do.

    I agree, my wife and I make all of the decisions together and use each other’s strengths and weaknesses to balance on.

    @UL: Cuddling can fix just about anything! The power of touch is amazing (that is if it is your love language).

    Sal’s last blog post..Look Before You Leap – Or Not

  37. […] 22, 2008 by Steph A couple of days ago, Alex of Someday Syndrome posted the answers to the self-improvement exercise he’d most recently assigned his lab rats Brett Legree, Sal, Crista, and Urbane Lion. I only […]

  38. Alex – in answer to your question, I’m a female looker, but I suspect it has more to do with personality type than gender… I’m a Thinker, whereas most women are Feelers – which are decision making processes.

    Janet Barclay’s last blog post..My #1 Time Saving Search Tool

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