Alyssa Mages, CVO – 4 September 2020
“Yes it is very, very, very hard to wait. Especially when you’re waiting for something extra nice…” This may be the opener of a children’s song, but it hasn’t lost its poignancy, at least not for me.
Patience. It may indeed be a virtue, but it’s certainly one that doesn’t come easily to many, and I am one of those. There are some days I literally must stop in mid-sentence, drop what I’m wanting to do, and simply – yet quickly – walk away. I do this because I’ve learned the hard way, far more than I’d like to admit, that I will say and/or do something that I’ll later wish I hadn’t. Time being as fleeting and precious as it is these days, I don’t want to waste a second on any type of regret, no matter how small.
So what is patience anyway? Webster’s definition tells us that patience is: “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” What stuck with me the most from this statement is the term “capacity”. That word literally carries weight and implies that we all have the ability to carry patience within us, which gives us another tool to carry along, that of hope.
What makes it so virtuous? By referring to patience as a state of moral excellence, it leads others to believe that another’s ability to wait without agitation is something to be admired. Especially as this is something we all struggle with (see above) and have for millennia. Good news for us being further down the evolutionary line is that patience is also a skill that can be learned & developed and only improves with time and effort.
Why is it so important to practice patience outwardly AND inwardly? It will actually make you healthier! Without its application, anger and its buddy stress will build and these two are enough to ruin anyone’s wellbeing. Patience is essentially the antidote for both of these, and by enacting patience, one can overcome any challenge they’re presented with in a more flexible manner.
Now these are all well and good to know about the origins of patience, but even more importantly is gaining the wherewithal to put it into action. Rhett Power wrote a great piece about this, and it’s spot on – we do need more patience in our current state, globally. He shared 4 tips that I’d like to share; I’ve added some of my own thoughts throughout as well.
- Hit the Pause Button
Well this doesn’t sound like much fun, but in actuality waiting for things – read the opposite of instant gratification – will actually make us happier long-term. Don’t jump off a bridge here, start little, like eating half of that special dark Hershey© bar and coming back later. Gradually increase the wait – either the duration, or the ultimate achievement. Gaining confidence and patience with every increment.
- Assess the Importance
Time is of the essence these days, and I’m as guilty as anyone in doing things that just don’t matter that steal my moments away. Taking that time and evaluating its worth and what’s occupying it – daily, weekly, monthly – then get rid of those time sucks. This goes hand-in-hand with another trick that we all struggle with, saying no, and allowing ourselves to remove stress/stressors from our routines. Lessen the stress, decrease the impatience.
Being aware of what occupies our physical and mental space is so important, and while I pride myself on multi-tasking, this can be detrimental if done constantly & continuously. By not giving your full attention, being inactive in your listening, and jumping ahead to the next item on the list before fully finishing the last leads to frustration and an overall lack of progress. Check your thoughts & processes. Identify the triggers that set your blood boiling, take a minute, and think or write it down what’s gotten you to that state and why. Not only will this help you in that moment, but it slows you down and again, removes a source of stress. (Sensing a theme here?)
- Breathe, Just Breathe
I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me to ‘relax’ I instantly tense up and do anything BUT relax. I also find that I immediately suck in my breath & hold it. And hold it. Only releasing once I feel like I can actually breathe again, and inevitably I’ve just made my shoulders seize up. Fabulous. But OK, I’m on board with self-awareness and upping my patience game – upcoming virtual learning for a 2nd grader anyone?!? – so how will deep breathing and relaxing help with this?
Anyone who’s done breath work can attest that when your focus shifts to the simple act of inhale/exhale, a true state of calm is entered. In turn, deep breathing exercises will start to alleviate any feelings of impatience that are creeping in. But if it’s been a DAY…and we all have those, up the game. Get up, get out of the space you’re in, and get moving. Or don’t. Meditate. Get your yoga on. Go for a walk. Punch a pillow. Jump up and down. Sing at the top of your lungs. Journal. Do whatever it is that gives you that chance to let go & let it be.
Patience may be considered a virtue, but it is also a skill. This is right up my ally! Skill work – that tangible, progressive process – is something to be practiced, fine-tuned, and something that will constantly change and evolve. This of course is dependent upon the amount of effort one puts into the task. I know I need to work on flexing my patience muscles – inwardly & outwardly; so here’s to putting the work in and being willing to wait for it.
As the legendary Bruce Lee said, “Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength.” A virtuous skill indeed.