Thursday, November 10, 2011

The need for patience

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

When I instructed students in how to prepare for job interviews, I told them to turn a negative into a desired positive.  For example, when asked the question (as interviewees often are), what would you say is your biggest negative trait?  I told them to use their impatience positively.  That is, interviewees could say, “I am an impatient person.  I have trouble waiting in line.  I have difficulty waiting for results to come in.  I don’t like wasting time.  I prefer solving a problem myself rather than waiting for it to be solved by others.”
In our society today, instant results are preferred simply because they are available.  The advertisers for Internet connections speak of the speed of their servers so users can get instant access and instant search results.  People shouldn’t have to wait for anything.  Not only do the media promote instant access, but expedited responses, prompt solutions, and immediate gratification are not just slogans but guiding principles.  Nobody wants delay of any kind, and time is always at a premium.  
“Patience,” however, according to the website Essential Life “is the ability to tolerate waiting, delay, or frustration without becoming agitated or upset. It's the ability to be able to control your emotions or impulses and proceed calmly when faced with difficulties. It comes from the Latin word pati which means to suffer, to endure, to bear,” according to an essay on patience, “Patience & Tips On How to Develop  It.”  
We know what it is, but that doesn’t make waiting any easier!  The problem is a simple one and it is one that some young people today may not realize.  Anything you desire that is worthwhile or important doesn’t take place instantly.  Examples, of course, are endless.  Losing weight, developing a good body, becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or other professional, getting to be a top athlete, becoming an outstanding musician or artist, overcoming losses or tragedies, and achieving most goals require time, dedication, and effort.
What many people don’t understand when they can’t get what they want instantly are the many benefits of patience.  What I had to explain to my students — especially when it came to their college education — was that the time spent in college would help them develop good study skills, allow knowledge and understanding of their world, provide greater understanding of their life choices, develop important people connections, and make them better human beings and citizens.  What I was selling, in a nutshell, was patience: the dedication, time, and effort devoted to their college education would have rewards, but all of them required patience to obtain them.
At the website referred to above, Essential Life, the author of the essay lists the following benefits of patience: It: “reduces stress levels and makes you a happier, healthier person . . . results in better decision-making . . . helps develop understanding, empathy and compassion [and] . . . helps you understand and appreciate the process of growth.”
Admittedly, becoming a more patient person — whether you know, appreciate, or want any of its benefits — is not easy.  This is especially true in a society where a message can be sent instantly to almost any place in the world, where one can obtain credit instantly, and where the virtues of immediacy are proliferated daily via any of the media.  To settle for patience goes against the perceived majority viewpoint, against what friends and family seem to demand, against the standard seemingly promoted in business and industry and, as a result, against the internalized notion that immediate results can be achieved.  Why would anyone need or desire patience?
Rather than discuss the steps for becoming more patient, let me refer readers to a website that includes eleven.  At wikiHow, in an essay, “How to be patient,” attributed to more than 25 different contributors, the steps include: 1) keeping a journal, 2) figuring out why you are in such a hurry, 3) pinpointing the triggers that influence why you lose your patience, 4) overcoming bouts of impatience, 5) looking for patterns, 6) letting go if you can’t do anything about the impatience trigger, 7) reminding yourself that things take time, 8) expect the unexpected, 9) give yourself a break, 10) remember what matters, and 11) remember that you will eventually get what you want.  Each of these steps is discussed in greater detail at the website, and the explanations are valid and to the point.
In my life, I had a number of examples (during my education) where I discovered patience had virtues.  When I first took swimming lessons when I was in third grade in Chapel Hill, NC, I had the desire to become much better, and I knew I had a lot to learn — even at that early age.  So, I continued taking lessons at every opportunity, growing, developing, and changing.  When available, I took Junior Lifesaving, Senior Lifesaving, Water Safety Instructor, and even a Lifeguard Instructor Course.  In high school I joined the swim team, and I swam competitively for several years.
When I realized that writing was going to be important to me no matter what career I pursued, I enrolled in an Advanced English course in high school to be exposed to one of the best English teachers there: Mr. Granville.  I knew one course would be insufficient, but I had the patience to know that more would be necessary. Not only did Mr. Granville inspire me, I went on to make English a minor in college so that if I ended up teaching speech in high school (I became certified at the high school level), I could also teach English at that level.  I even took a couple of additional English courses during pursuit of my master’s degree.
Getting a complete education — becoming truly knowledgeable in ANY field — requires a great deal of patience, just as developing talent, ability, prowess, or success in any endeavor.
Of the eleven steps above for achieving patience, I have found that number seven, “reminding yourself that things take time,” is (at least for me) the most important one.  I am, indeed, an impatient person, and I am often giving myself internal messages to calm me down: “I do not need to be in a hurry,” “I have the time,” “Everyone does not operate at the same speed as I do,” and Cato the Elder’s phrase, “Patience is the greatest of all virtues.”  It also helps to know, as Saint Augustine said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”
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At Self Help Zone there is a wonderful, brief essay, “The Importance Of Having Patience In Our Everyday Lives” that end saying, “If this sounds familiar and it may be what you experience you should really concentrate on being a little more accepting of other people.”

Dr. Beverly Smallwood, at the Personal Development website, has an essay, “How to become more patient," in which she offers readers a short justification for considering patience important and then five strategies for developing it: . 1) Become more realistic in your expectations.  Expect and plan for delays, complications, and setbacks.  2. View setbacks as temporary.  3. Keep the mentality of the problem solver, not the victim.  4. Reject bitterness, and,  5. Remember your successes in other difficult situations.
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Copyright November, 2011, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.

1 comment:

  1. I would have completed reading your essay but the microwave oven didn't finish my breakfast fast enough and I had to get going. Sorry.


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