Patience. Do you have it? In a world where immediate gratification is the new norm, it is easy to be anything but patient.
We don’t want to wait in line, any time, anywhere. We don’t want to shop in stores, and wait in more lines, when we can click our way to purchases online. We don’t want to wait for text responses. In fact, our phones have become a primary social interaction where we expect people to chat with us the minute we hit send. When the response does not ping back instantly, we are annoyed.
When I was a kid I often heard my parents say that “patience is a virtue.” That saying likely originated with the 1360 English poet, William Langland in the poem, Piers Plowman. There is a line in the poem that states “patience is a fair virtue.” A possible meaning for patience as a virtue is having the ability to wait for something without get upset. It indicates a quality in a person.
It is normal to look forward to events, such as a special occasion, with anticipation and excitement. “I can’t wait,” being the oft-used operative phase. We are impatient because the impending, desired event makes us want it as soon as possible.
What is not so normal, is getting frustrated about small matters such as why someone is not promptly answering your text message. As if your day and your life depend on it. As if you are being ignored and worthless if someone does not respond. As if standing in line is only bearable if you can text your time through it.
I consider patience, as the madness of holiday shopping takes hold for 2017. We survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Those deals, lasting for a limited few hours or days, that people would climb over one another to get to, are now giving way to the next advertising push for our credit cards . Those things that people must have, right now, will be hardly remembered come January 2018.
I ventured downtown yesterday to shop, wading into the lines that could easily have tried my patience. Instead, I decided to be in the “spirit” of the season. I had a list of items for family members and I chose to make purchases with love first and foremost in my heart. I prepared for my outing with thoughtful consideration of what to purchase and why. I did not comb through Cyber Monday ads or race to any stores where deals awaited. When the line was long, I focused on the purpose of my outing.
Did it work? Well, I did not lose patience but I may have been annoyed at a man I encountered in multiple stores who yelled at the salespersons and left each store in a huff. I felt as though he was following me and testing my resolve for a calm, patient shopping experience. I let it go. I joked with one of the salespersons about his impatience and impertinence. We rolled our eyes and moved on into our day.
That I had to prepare myself to be a patient shopper is a sign of the times for me. Patience though has a larger, more pervasive value. As we manage our professional and personal lives in a “give it to me now” milieu, we are inclined to think our progress painfully slow. We want yesterday what we still need to work for tomorrow. We want title and position and advantage with as little effort as possible and as quickly as possible. If we are not racing ahead, achieving the max, then we fear falling behind and out of contention for opportunities. Patience is the virtue that could save us, will save us. And more importantly, patience will teach us to enjoy life more perceptibly and more fully.
If we go back to back to the definition that patience is the ability to wait for something without getting upset, it inherently implies that slowing down is a good thing. Storming ahead, demanding immediate results, blurs details and overshadows experience. We subtract enjoyment in the process and are left frazzled, burnt out, disillusioned. Simply because we race ahead does not put us in first place. In fact, it is often the contrary.
I think of patience like this. It is the ability to slow down and wait while keeping the vision of where you are going clearly in your mind while working consistently and patiently towards that vision. Achieving goals often pairs well with visual stimulus. Seeing it is inspiring – like a vision board placed on your wall. Getting there takes one day at a time and the willingness to endure divergent paths and significant delays.
Patience is not only about the wait. It’s also about how you wait and what you do, as you wait. Patience should be an active state of methodically and purposefully creating a life in which you flourish. Where is the fun in being rushed and angry and frustrated? What is your haste? What will you do when you get there? What will you have missed that matters to you?
Practice patience until it restores its rightful place in you as a virtue.
Be calm in the midst of this not-calm world and enlighten others to do the same.