In today’s business environment, all of us want things to happen fast. Any business leader, manager, employee, and even (and perhaps especially!) consumers, have expectations for immediate results. We get impatient when we have to wait for something we desperately want. We focus on the outcome instead of the process.
I know I get insane when my Internet connection takes more than a few seconds to bring up a web page I’m seeking. My feet start to tap when I realize that I’m the fifth person in the slow deli line, and one person continues to order a measly 1/2 lb of each item! My mind races as I await a response to an email that I felt should have happened hours ago. I have to consciously remind myself to slow down. Today’s sophisticated technology makes it possible for most anything to happen in an instant, and it sets an expectations for immediacy in our actions and the same demand for results.
Animals don’t seem to have that kind of problem.
Oliver, our petite and quiet cat, gave me a lesson in patience this past week. My husband, Pete, first noticed that Oliver was hanging out in the kitchen a lot. It’s not a place either cat would stay for long; they come and go for the water dish, but nothing much more than that. Yet we found Oliver often stationed in front of the oven, with an intentness of purpose. After a few days of wondering what had his attention, we got on our knees, shining a flashlight under the appliance, figuring there would be some favorite lost toy he wanted us to retrieve. But aside from a fair amount of dust, we could see nothing very interesting.
More days passed by, with more and more time spent serenely sitting at his station. At this point, Pete felt certain Oliver was monitoring a mouse (or maybe mice?). I was hopeful that wasn’t the case, but Pete called it right. That night as I was washing dishes, Oliver darted behind me chasing a live mouse. I wasn’t completely freaked out, nor was I thrilled either. I called to Pete and grabbed by camera. Not in time, the mouse disappeared, but Oliver was calm and collected, not a bit frustrated at the lack of securing his prey.
The next day as I worked at my computer, something caught my eye and as I looked to my right, that darn little mouse was scurrying by, Oliver in tow. Again, he (she?) escaped, probably down the heater vent. Oliver didn’t appear discouraged at all. Just part of the process.
A few more days went by, Oliver ever-more dedicated to his post by the oven. And finally on Wednesday morning, Pete found the tiny, weary mouse dead in our living room. We weren’t around to witness the scene, but found Oliver fast asleep, apparently content and satisfied that his days on vigil had run their course.
At no time did Oliver seem rushed to reach the conclusion. In fact, he was incredibly serene, placid through the entire week, as if he was meditating. It wasn’t the kill (or the end result) that he was most interested in, rather it was the journey. He seemed to enjoy each moment, anticipating the next move, the next adventure. I can imagine him thinking: when would the mouse appear next? Where would he go? Will I follow him or watch him? Can he out-run me? Will he slide down the heater vent? He seemed more interested in the questions rather than the answers.
Our everyday lives are filled with anxiety about what we haven’t been able to accomplish. We stress over those unfinished items on the ‘to-do’ list. But what if we savored the moments of the journey in the way Oliver did? What if we found the joy and peace in HOW we move through the day, as opposed to focusing on what we need to show for it.
Next time I’m waiting for my Internet, I’ll think of Oliver and smile. What would be the harm in simply sitting and gazing at the miracle of technology as it happens, for just one minute?