How many times have you been told to be patient? It seems that literally everywhere we turn, we hear the virtues of patience extolled upon us: “Be patient”, “Have a little patience”, “Remember, patience is a virtue.”
Patience IS a virtue, one that is arguably necessary to succeed in business. It’s what we should aspire to have more of, a muscle to flex, as we work toward our ultimate goal. It’s what gives us the strength and perseverance to keep moving forward, especially when faced with adversity.
…Until that patience becomes tolerance.
These leadership traits, patience and tolerance, are often thought of as one and the same. While in practice these words have a lot in common, their differences show how they in fact exact opposites.
Patience is defined as determination, resolve, tenacity, endurance and single-mindedness. All good qualities when you are working toward a goal. It means taking a steadfast approach, but also a willingness to work hard and let things unfold over time.
Tolerance, on the other hand, is defined as lenient, indulgent, permissive, and long-suffering. Instead of waiting for things to unfold while continuing to work toward your goal, tolerance means putting up with something that is clearly not working.
When we move from patience to tolerance, we shift from that steadfast resolve toward our goal to flat out acceptance of not reaching it. Tolerance means you are buying into excuses, doing the same thing over and over, and letting that goal slip away.
The trouble with confusing patience and tolerance is it allows us to justify not doing something about it. Where patience is tactical and methodical, tolerance is indulgent and lacks accountability. It signals to others that less is acceptable!
This corruption of patience allows us to fool ourselves into believing that we are showing our tenacious character by putting up with a load of crap. Instead of calling people out on what is happening, we empower them to continue doing it while congratulating ourselves on being so patient!
It’s a subtle difference that has vastly different outcomes. With patience, you will eventually reach your goal. Tolerance, however, will only serve to keep you stuck in the status quo. Patience is you allowing others time to rise to the challenge; tolerance is accepting whatever mediocrity they give you.
Patience is the mindset of leaders that calls forth your best, and the best of others! Tolerance is the mindset of martyrs that allows you to be the victim of other peoples’ excuses.
Are you being patient in your life, or are you being tolerant? Only you truly know.
Hint: Irritation is a red flag that your patience with the situation may have turned to tolerance. Do a quick internal check on any irritation levels you feel toward a particular event or person, and start looking there!