On Patience in Times of Complexity

Patience is a virtue that we all need in these difficult times. Patience with employees, with results not going as expected, with illnesses that emerge and so many others.

Therefore, what is patience?

I say that patience is waiting for the right time to act.

So much has been said about patience and its timing.

Arabs said from old times “time is like a sword for if you do not cut it shall cut you”. Interestingly, Arabs have the same word for patience and cactus. It is “sabr”.

Lao Tzu said,

Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?

What Lao Tzu said makes sense. However, in complex systems, the clay shall never settle completely and so the water shall not be very clear. Complex systems are volatile with the rapidity of their change, with their uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Clay may not clear completely but may form patterns. Now, visualize complexity as the clay in water that settles to give patterns. It is the patterns that we need patience for these patterns to emerge indicating that random information has started to coalesce into some orderly information.

This realization is important because of the increased complexity of our world. Complex events that led to the spread of the coronavirus are one living example. The paradox is that we need to be patient, but also we need to save lives and to restore normal life. These needs pressurize us to act fast.

Patiencetime Is an emerging phenomenon

Spacetime is any mathematical model, which fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional manifold (Wikipedia).

It seems to me the same concept applies to patience in the emulation of spacetime. We need the patience space and time together to consider when to act. Patience is waiting for the time to act as I defined it. We need to consider the past, the present, and the future with time. I am still pondering on this idea.

Exponential pressures and exponential time

When people face a crisis, they demand quick actions. The harder the problem is, the greater the pressures are. It seems that we go from linear growth of pressure to an exponential one.

This urges the acting faster and faster as if we are in a race with time growing exponentially.

This is the risk if we lose patience that we take the wrong actions before the clay settles into patterns that guide our actions. Sometimes we need to know what not to do before knowing what to do. It takes courage to stand against the turbulent pressure and we may end worse than we started with.

These times are indeed testing times for our patience.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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  1. What a moving and inspiring comment yours is my friend Aldo Delli Paoli. It just oozes wisdom.

    Loved how you described patience “The patience is the ability to control a vital energy without letting overwhelmed, but directing it to a purpose”. Very meaningfully, you describe the role of leaders on how to do this with very sound reasoning. “To nourish patience, it is necessary to lower the pace, concentrate on the present and live it with conscience”.

    Yes, the future shall come and why not meet it with preparedness and agility.

    I love every word in your comment.

  2. I think the “patience” is an aspect that is often overlooked among the virtues that a leader should attend, instead it has its weight in the daily exercise of management. Many people confuse patience with laziness, indifference, apathy. Mental states characterized by the lack of vital energy. “Impatience” is instead considered an innate quality, as if it were a test of intellectual vitality or strength of character.
    In my view, the impatience always creates panic and discomfort. It is often a tool of despotism and poisons life and work.
    On the contrary, I am convinced that “patience” is a virtue fundamental and we can learn to build it with strict exercise of will. The patience is the ability to control a vital energy without letting overwhelmed, but directing it to a purpose. The manager who wants to obtain the consent of his co-workers, if he wants to really motivate them, must be ready to listen, to talk, to explain, to justify, as is the coach of a team. In other words, it must have a lot of patience!
    To nourish patience, it is necessary to lower the pace, concentrate on the present and live it with conscience. With the certainty and tranquility of knowing that the future will come as long as we accompany it with healthy good practices and positive attitudes.
    Patience allows us to live life actively, adapting ourselves to its rhythm. Ultimately, it is about knowing how to wait and keep calm, because sometimes it is also prudent that things happen when they have to happen.