Want to be less hurried? Cultivate patient urgency.

27th Oct 2022

When you think of being unhurried, what comes to mind? Being cruisy and unstressed? Taking each day as it comes? That’s one way of thinking about it.


I’ve come to believe that ‘unhurried’ can be defined by something more nuanced than simply being cruisy. In fact, I reckon it’s somewhat of a paradox.


It’s about having a ‘patient urgency’. 


Let me explain.


Many of the people that inspire me are the ones who care deeply about the pressing issues we’re facing as a society, and they’re actively playing their part to solve them. Yet these people play the long game. They know that to rush – to strive to do it all today – is a fool’s errand. They know that burning out doesn’t help anyone. They know that taking the time to slow down, reflect and renew is a key part of the game. They walk a fine line between patience and urgency.


Take my friend and colleague Nick Petrie. Nick works with some of the world’s leading companies to help them think differently about how they do leadership development. He’s considered a world-leader in his field.


Nick was diagnosed with cancer in his 20’s. His initial response? Create a big old bucket list and go about ticking off every item on it. He travelled the world, chasing down the dreams on his list. After a year or so, he realised that he wasn’t that fulfilled. So he stopped and asked himself ‘how do I best want to contribute to the world and live a meaningful life in the time I have left?’


One big answer to his question was to work on improving the quality of how organisations do leadership development. In the face of not knowing how long he might have, he still took the long view. In his 30’s, he completed a Masters degree at Harvard, doing a research thesis on ‘Future Trends in Leadership Development’. He then joined one of the world’s preeminent leadership development organisations, the Centre for Creative Leadership. During this time, he also developed a deep expertise in his field.


Now in his 40’s, Nick works two to three days per week from his home in Nelson, New Zealand. He cares deeply about his mission, yet knows it’s a long game. He takes plenty of time out to reflect and recharge, while chipping away at his big questions. He’s living with patient urgency.


In a nutshell, being urgenty patient is about:

  1. Choosing your long game
  2. Reminding yourself that it’s a long game
  3. Doing something every day that contributes to that long game


It’s also about:

  1. De-prioritising the stuff that doesn’t matter
  2. Not trying to do it all today
  3. Enjoying the journey


When you come across highly effective people, they’ll typically carry an air of unhurriedness. They’ve worked out what’s most important, and they’re patiently working on that with a sense of quiet urgency.


Some questions for you to ask yourself:

  • What long game are you contributing to?
  • How might you be allowing yourself to be distracted from that long game?
  • Who helps hold you accountable for playing that long game?


Some questions to ask your team:

  • What long game are we contributing to?
  • How might we be allowing ourselves to be distracted from that long game?
  • How can we hold ourselves accountable for playing that long game?





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