I often feel a sense of urgency to get things done that stems from my impatience. I want results now!
I have found a good antidote to this is thinking of a particular story from Mahatma Gandhi’s life.
It was when he was going to the high court in Bombay to sit in the gallery and learn about court proceedings (I think he was in his 30s by then).
He spent 6 months doing this, which seems to be a very long time for an activity so passive. But more importantly, during this time, he kept falling asleep and learnt almost nothing.
Imagine if you were there at the court, watching some guy in the public gallery sitting there day after day, dozing off. For six months! Would you ever have imagined that a couple of decades later this same person was going to be called the “Father of the Nation” of the second most populous country in the world?
If you read Gandhi’s life story, you see his life was at times aimless and marked by a distinct lack of urgency.
Part of this might have been a function of the age he was living in. It took them 6 weeks for a boat journey from India to London. And on one occasion, he was delayed for weeks before the boat set sail because of bad weather. We are not used to such slow timescales and hence our expectations of how quickly we should get results are skewed.
But also, I think it was a function of Gandhi’s approach to life. I never got the feeling from reading his autobiography that he was in a hurry to achieve things. But over his life, he obviously achieved more than most.
For someone like me, who instinctively wants anything I try to get results in a week, it’s good to picture the man who would shape history, falling asleep in the public gallery at the Bombay High Court.