Bill Gates once said that “patience is the key to success”. You’re also probably acquainted with the phrase, “patience is a virtue” (though I couldn’t tell you who said it). My point is, many of us are familiar with numerous motivational quotes and mantras that celebrate the value of patience.
And for good reason!
Patience allows for us to slow down, to become better listeners (to ourselves and others). Patience allows us to cultivate more empathy, can increase better decision making, and can even lessen stress and anxiety.
Beneficial, right? But what does it look like to actually implement this into our daily lives? I find that patience looks a whole lot like waiting. And for some of us (myself included), waiting can feel excruciating! Waiting for that screenplay to get sold, waiting to get signed by an agent, waiting to get that book published... How does one manage those waiting periods (which can seem like an eternity) when you’ve been doing the hard work, achieving small goals and still haven’t reached the point of “success” (whatever your definition of success is)? Waiting can then feel like an uncomfortable place of frustration, desperation and downright discouragement.
But before you get discouraged, I want to validate how normal it is to feel impatient. As humans, we have a natural (and evolutionary) drive for instant gratification. Patience then, is something that has to be consciously learned and practiced. In addition to internal battles, we are engulfed by a society that reinforces our impulsive urges for instant pleasure. We see this feeling for immediacy through our technology and excessive consumerism (binge watching episodes of the newest show, dating apps, same day delivery services, etc.). It can seem overwhelming, daunting and almost impossible to ignore.
So what am I supposed to do?
To practice patience can be challenging, and at times, feel like an uphill battle. So, what are some ways we can encourage patience in ourselves and make the present more manageable?
The following are a five tips on how to manage patience that I hope you will find helpful in keeping perspective.
• Accepting your current reality - When I say “acceptance” I am not implying that you must like where you are, rather, just acknowledge that this is your current situation. If we can see our situations for what they truly are, then we can make the appropriate choices to move in the direction we desire, learning from challenges and setbacks.
• Celebrate the victories! - Be your own cheerleader and take time to celebrate what you’ve already accomplished! Here’s a quick exercise to try: pause to reflect on where you where, say, a year ago vs. where you are today. What’s different? What have you learned (and what have you done differently, as a result)? Now compare that with where you were TWO years ago! Can you imagine where you might be a year from today? See the progress, trust the process. And still, if you don’t feel that you haven’t moved far enough down the line, there are lessons here to take value from.
• Stay in your own lane - One of my favorite pieces of advice is from shame and vulnerability researcher and public speaker, Brené Brown. She encourages “staying in your own lane”, as “comparison is the thief of joy”.
Your journey is YOUR journey. To compare your situation with others’ is a waste of time; not only does it rob you of the pleasure of fully engaging with your craft, but it sets up a bind from which you will never be free. In other words, there will always be someone more successful than you, or ahead in the game, just like there will always be someone less successful than you. And these positions and balances will constantly be changing.
• What meaning(s) are you attaching to the present moment? - What story are you telling yourself about the present moment? That it will last forever? If you are, the good news is that It won’t, because that would be impossible. Life is constantly in motion; shifting, creating new dynamics, environments and situations, fluctuating in the ebb and flow. Like your feelings, your current situation is transitory, and will change like the tides.
Or maybe your narrative is that if you were talented enough, you would’ve “made it” by now.
Interesting fact: the actor Alan Rickman didn’t get his first movie role until the age of 42 (and if you are looking to be inspired, his is an incredible story of starting over later in life and perseverance). Actress Taraji P. Henson worked for 20 years in Hollywood before reaching commercial success, all while working hard to break type (racial and physical) in addition to proving her talent. These are just a few out of numerous stories of creatives who didn’t reach success until much later than they anticipated.
There is no way to predict when it will be your time to reap the harvest. So just because it isn’t happening NOW, doesn’t mean you won’t ever get there.
•Be open to new possibilities. Not only do we not know when we will reach success, none of us know how our goals will manifest. We may envision what we’d like our success to look like, in specific detail, but ultimately we have no control in what form it will take. For example, Vera Wang, the designer, didn’t even begin designing clothes until the age of 40. Prior to this, she had been a figure skater and journalist. But her passions took an unexpected (and in my opinion, very exciting) turn! I’ll wager that this was not something she had expected for herself years ago as a skater. Likewise, Julia Child didn’t write her first cookbook until age 50...
All we can do is deal with what is right in front of us: investigate the curiosities, follow through on creative impulses and act on the opportunities that present themselves. I believe these are clues from the universe, communicating and shepherding us to where, and who we are intended to be.
So my suggestion is to be patient with yourself, and listen.
What are some other ways you cultivate patience in your life?