Patience is not a particularly interesting topic, at least on the surface of it. Though patience has a lot to do with why people we admire accomplish so much, we tend to focus only on the fruits of their patience, or their visible actions.
Patience is seen more like drudgery. But reflecting on patience, we can begin to get some traction with it, and give ourselves an advantage for having done so.
How do we get started with becoming more patient? Consciously or not, patience always begins with a decision to be willing to endure averse emotion as it arises in an endeavor – choose pain over comfort. So being more conscious of that mental process, or mindful, will help us get more of a handle on accessing our patience when we need it. One wave of averse emotion at a time, we can develop our patience, even as we fall off the wave and our efforts are thwarted. We are strengthening our patience just by consciously meeting the wave that threatens it. We do the best we can.
Yet we know our efforts will be thwarted. Patience is built on a foundation of failures to be patient. It will strengthen your patience if you are kind to yourself and others even as your patience fails you. Or as Idries Shah wrote, learn to …”be patient with your patience.” Resolve to relate to yourself with heart as often as you can remember to do so.
Fortunately, not everything requires patience. In fact, there is a time to give into your impatience. It is always wise to soothe or bypass averse emotion unless doing so disrupts the focus you require to complete something important. Putting patience aside sometimes and favoring pleasurable activities will help replenish the energy that patience requires when you really need it. Misplaced patience is an energy drain.
Nonetheless, you really can’t overdo patience in situations that require it. The challenge is deciding which situations really require it. After all, we are told that he who hesitates is lost. Then again, we are advised to look before we leap. Maybe better sayings would be “He who hesitates to look before they leap unnecessarily risk being lost”. or “if you don’t look before you hesitate to leap you are just guessing and are already lost”. Anyways, my playing with the wording of pithy quotes might not clarify anything. Patience does not replace critical thinking. It just gives you adequate time to engage in it.
Patience must not confused with the capacity to wait. Patience is a tool that permits us to see and seize the moment when waiting any longer is unhelpful. Procrastination tends to be the default way we employ time. Waiting is not hard for the procrastinator in us. We put things off and distract ourselves with something more interesting or easy. But it really is more a failure of patience than ambition not to get started on something. After all, you have no problem ‘getting started’ with easier activities, no shortage of ambition or gumption there! You are simply refusing to make a decision to endure the averse emotions that getting started on the tougher challenge might evoke. Call a spade a spade, and call impatience what it is – impatience.
Patience is very worthy of our focus in enhancing our development and making progress toward our goals. It can expand and deepen our perspective on situations and make possible the vision required to make better decisions based on a greater grasp of what is happening and how it all fits together.
But it will not insist on your attention. It is a quiet virtue, and you have to be able to still yourself to really be able to employ it.
I am sorry if this piece is a boring or dry, but that does sort of speak to the point I am trying to make.