“If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.” -Isaac Newton
Today, we live in a world not only filled with, but ran and maintained by means of high speed computers, instant messaging, text messaging, the internet as a whole, and the many other mobile communication devices we see used on a regular basis that make communication and transactions almost instant. Within this society, patience is something we often take for granted. It’s a subject we never really have to put much thought into due to the amount of instant gratification we have become accustomed to receiving. We are made to believe that there is always a better, faster way of getting something done, be that dieting, making money, commuting, etc… Unfortunately, we all too commonly realize that these forms of instant gratification, aren’t really all that instant, or effective. Instead, we hop from one quick fix remedy to another and cross our fingers, hoping that the next method we utilize will be more effective than the last.
This just isn’t practical, and everyone knows that feeling of just wanting to scream and pull out your hair because something isn’t working fast enough. People far too commonly quit something all together, as opposed to putting in the work and sitting patiently to reap the benefits of their actions. This creates unnecessary feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, and doubtful, that you can avoid all together by developing and strengthening your level of patience.
But wait… What in tarnations is this oh so mysterious thing called patience? Websters would describe patience as “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint” or “being steadfast despite opposition difficulty or adversity.” Realistically though, I feel there are multiple levels of patience we should acknowledge, and knowing when to act and when not to is just as important as possessing the ability to sit, content, where others would panic.
Patience… Or Lack Thereof
Financial stress is taking claim of individuals and households on a daily basis. The strain of the economy on many of us average citizens is almost unbearable at times. This stress, of not knowing what to do, where to turn, how to react, coped with those bill collectors calling and the feeling of being pulled in every direction but the right one is enough to make you pull out your hair or turn Grey, hop on your horse and ride off into the sunset waving a staff and claiming that your name is now Gandalf the Grey. This might be an effective method of stress relief, although the masses would probably call it a psychotic break, and this example may be mildly humorous, but it personifies a very real and dangerous event that many suffer from (Gandalf aside).
Many would ask “what does patience have to do with this?” Or “how is being patient going to help my problems?” The simple answer is that it probably won’t, but it will offer you a viable method to remain clear and level headed so that you can manage your stress, and other issues you may be facing effectively, as opposed to panicking and making decisions out of fear that you later regret.
I suppose you get the picture by now, but if not I’ll rephrase. Patience is important, without learning to be patient you open yourself up to stress, negative situations, and even desperation; none of which are positions you want to be placed in. They are all avoidable and a clear mind functions much better when it comes to problem solving than one clouded by fear, uncertainty, and frustration. So, now here comes the icing on the cake. How do we develop patience?
I put the idea of patience into three categories. I haven’t seen this around and even attempted searching for it for some aided resources but was unable to find anything remotely similar to it. The idea I had behind placing patience into categories was to first help myself develop patience to a greater extent, and later help others to do the same. Tackling an issue one step at a time is the best way to accomplish something. As the old saying goes, walking a mile begins with a single step.
These categories are acting, waiting, and watching. Together they encompass patience in it’s entirety, but individually help those eager to develop patience to understand and observe themselves in a helpful way.
Acting – Let’s assume that you have an unpaid bill and don’t have the money to pay it at the moment. You can choose to ignore the calls of the bill collectors or rather, try to find a method of coming up with the money or a strategy to acquire it and pay off the bill in a timely fashion. Action is required to not procrastinate or hope the issue goes away, when in reality it won’t. In this instance you would talk to the people who you owe, and with a plan in hand you will work towards that goal without changing. From here you can do nothing but what you planned on doing, and as long as you stick to your plan you will be successful. There is no need to be stressed, or overly worried and unsure if you are sticking to it. Patience comes into play when you realize that all you can do is what you’re doing, that being working towards a solution. This involves any topic, not just financial means. School, sports, dieting, meditation, etc… They are all things that typically involve goals. Making a plan and sticking to it is the best way to accomplish those goals.
Waiting – Waiting can even be broken down further into it’s own categories, however it in essence is when you cannot do anything else. There was an instance when I needed a refund check given to me by my university. I needed it to get housing for the semester but was unable to get it myself. I had to rely on someone else to not only ensure they didn’t throw it away when it came in the mail, but for them to receive it, and send it to me in a timely fashion. This is a situation when I have absolutely no control other than my informing the individuals who needed to be informed. In this instance all I can do is my part, followed by waiting for the outcome. At this point, letting go and waiting for the situation to transpire is all you can do, as opposed to me biting my nails and thinking negatively without end.
Watching – This comes to me from Mindfulness Meditation practices. When practicing you are taught to “watch” your life from almost a third party seat. As you walk, you watch, notice, and observe your feet hitting the ground, legs moving, how your body feels, the environment, etc… The same is applied to patience. When you take a step back from your current situation and just watch it unfold it requires a high level of patience to accomplish, and in a sense is a level of patience all on it’s own. When a situation is completely out of your hands, or seemingly so, you can do nothing more other than watch it unfold. Worrying, pulling out your hair, embodying the Lord of the Rings, or any other hip fad movie for that matter will not help the situation. All it will do is deepen a hole of unhealthy habits you are building for yourself. Take a step back and just observe. Look within yourself to see why you’re so worried, reevaluate your priorities, really look at the situation, yourself, and how it’s affecting those around you.
The first step in building patience is to avoid situations where you feel overwhelmed all together. Like I mentioned in my post “Stress and Effectively Managing It” you should try to handle everything once, as soon as possible. Procrastinating is the worst thing you can do in most cases and often just leads to frustration and irritation. This is something that should be made a daily habit. Despite this, though, there are instances where things are just beyond on grasp and we have to handle those situations as they come our way. When this happens a good deal of patience is expected. Here are some exercises you can begin to use in order to develop that patience on day at a time.
1. Make An Effort – Take time out of your day everyday to consciously focus on being patient. Think before you speak or act. Make it your number one goal throughout the day. The more conscious effort you put forth to be patient, the more patient you will become.
2. Don’t Cut Corners – Patience should be built upon with baby steps, and as such this is a very effective method of aiding you in that pursuit. Not cutting corners when you’re walking from one place to another is a great first step. A lot of the time you will see people who aren’t even in a rush, hurry across the grass, or take a “short cut,” just because they can, or because it’s “convenient.” For a week or so watch yourself as you walk, or drive to your destinations throughout the day. Whenever you feel that urge to cut a corner for the sake of convenience, push yourself to take the long way around. Take your time and don’t rush just to rush.
3. Abstain or Delay “Gratification” – The next time you feel that impulse to buy or eat that piece of cake, that bowl of ice cream, or anything else you would normally get along those same lines, take a step back and get or eat something else, if anything at all. Taking a step back and delaying what you typically do on a regular basis to “reward” yourself is a great way of exercising your self control and developing patience. Letting something wait for later can have huge benefits for your patience, as well as your health because you may avoid eating or doing something that you later realize wasn’t in your best interest.
4. Meditation – Meditation is a great way to improve on patience. The core foundation of meditation is patience. Sitting or laying for extended periods of time doing different exercises or just focusing on relaxation is a very effective practice with benefits beyond that of developing patience.
5. Yoga – Yoga, similarly to meditation utilizes a series of breathing exercises; slow, fluid, and steady movements, as well as the holding of postures and/or stretches. It’s done in a way that requires you to take your time and move in accordance with your breath. *see also: Tai Chi*
6. Learn to Expect the Unexpected – Often times we tend to make plans and then get our hearts set on that particular thing to go according to how we “planned” it. It doesn’t always workout like this, however. Understanding this will enable you to step back and take things as they come so you never put yourself in that position whereby you feel at a loss of some kind.
There are a lot of different things you can do to help you develop patience. Even playing games like Sodoku, Solitaire, Chess, and like games are great methods to help you along your journey. The number one thing you can do, though, is to consciously work at it everyday. Be aware of yourself, your thoughts, and your actions. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to develop patience but I assure you that if you work at it, it will pay off in the long run. Lack of patience has terrible affects on your life, from relationship issues to issues at the workplace or home. Make it your conscious effort to work at it as much as you can, but don’t let patience be an excuse to procrastinate. This is a tip you will probably find most everywhere you see patience discussed, if not, it should be. Being patient is great, but putting something off and calling it “waiting” is doing nothing but bringing you back. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. Remember that Acting is one of the first steps you need to take in understanding yourself and handling things early on, which in turn helps you develop your patience and tolerance.