In my newsletters I typically share the importance of being proactive in shaping your life — from cultivating creativity to living courageously. In this edition I share something that can be infinitely harder but just as rewarding as taking bold action: practicing patience.
Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. — Aristotle
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. — John Quincy Adams
Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing.” It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” — Fulton J. Sheen
The dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset,” or “quiet, steady perseverance.” Those all sound like good things, but in today’s world of instant gratification full of texting, Internet access, and one-click shopping, patience often gets a bad rap.
Judith Orloff says in her book Emotional Freedom that patience isn’t about passivity, inhibiting, or stalling. Instead, it’s a form of power, “a kick-ass, emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act.” The ability to intentionally pause and wait — without fear or anxiety — is empowering.
Think of times when you worked hard and patiently waited for an outcome versus a time something came quickly and easily. Wasn’t the result you had to wait for just a little bit sweeter? Patience builds a calm steadiness in our spirits that makes it easier to ride life’s ups and downs. It provides us with the opportunity to face life’s frustrations and disappointments with grace and understanding. I think you’ll agree with the words of St. Augustine: “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”
Life is full of times of waiting — and a patient spirit can do a lot to help you remain calm, determined, focused, and free of anxiety during the ebb and flow of life. Unfortunately, the virtue of patience doesn’t come naturally to many of us. The good news is that patience is a skill that can be developed with practice, if you put your mind to it.
So how do you practice patience? Start by mentally committing to being more patient. Next time you find yourself waiting in line at the grocery store or stuck in traffic, instead of hyperventilating or cursing under your breath, tell yourself, “I’m going to wait patiently and enjoy the pause.” Alternatively, try forms of distraction. Empathize with the stressed-out cashier or smile and engage with others waiting in line. While in traffic, tune in to upbeat music on your radio, look around and see if you see anybody you know, or count the number of cars like yours. Like any skill, the more you practice patience, the more naturally it will come to you.
- This too shall pass. Everything comes and everything goes — the seasons, joy and happiness, sorrow and woe. Keeping this in mind gives you perspective in good times and patience and hope in difficult times.
- Attitude makes all the difference. Things may not always happen in your timeframe or according to your plan for good reason. The Dalai Lama believes, “When you lose, you don’t lose the lesson.” The event itself doesn’t determine how good or bad you feel — that is a direct result of your attitude and how you choose to react.
- Remember the goal. When a situation taxes your patience, it may seem easier to give up than to keep on waiting. Reminding yourself of your goal — why you set it, why it’s important, and how it will change your life — will help ensure you stay the course.
- Wait for the end of the story. In the short term, many situations seem stressful and worrisome. Instead of getting all worked up over all the twists and turns along the way, wait for the end of the story. Patience allows you to maintain perspective during the current situation and be more receptive and resilient no matter what happens.
- Find meaningful distractions. It’s important to keep your goal in your mind to battle discouragement, but intentional distractions can make the time go by faster and help you feel more centered and less anxious. Dabbling in a new hobby, spending time with family and friends, or reading a new book can help you grow in patience and bring fresh perspective and vitality to your life.
- Anticipate and plan for obstacles. Uncertainty can be a powerful force for anxiety when you’re trying to practice patience. Using your “waiting time” to anticipate speed bumps on the road to your goal, and plan how to overcome them can be both practical and mentally reassuring.
- Think long-term in setting up your life. For example, instead of pursuing work that pays well now but has no intrinsic reward or personal growth potential, consider investing the time and energy to gain skills that will flower into a stimulating work life for the rest of your career. I would argue that most of the things that are worth achieving in life require us to delay gratification and to prioritize restraint over indulgence.
Focus on the Future
At Leap Forward Coaching we have a process to help you increase and practice patience in your personal and professional life. Our thoughtful methods will help you gain new perspective and find increased fulfillment and peace in your life. To leave a comment, share this newsletter on social media, or see links to other newsletters and my blog, please visit www.leapforwardcoach.com.