The power of patience improves our lives and work
“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” Moliere
Patience has the power to improve our lives and our work, but in order to exercise this valuable ability, we need to slow down our hurry-up lives.
As a writer, I often am in a hurry — to finish that first draft, to publish it, to see if it’s curated or accepted, to….
Writers aren’t the only ones afflicted with this need to hurry-up-and-get-it-done mentality. Many entrepreneurs and business people suffer from it also.
We’re anxious, eager to see the fruits of our work and to move on to the next thing on our to-do list or desk. We rush headlong to the end, paying little attention to each step on the way.
Technology has created instant gratification. We can buy online and get it the next day. I can do a quick Google search on Scholar and find a dozen research papers on a topic. We text and tweet and wait impatiently for immediate responses.
We’re addicted to hurry-up and move on.
The great playwright Moliere advises us that by slowing down, we produce the best fruit.
If you’re like a lot of people — myself included — the thought of slowing down seems like blasphemy. If I slow down, I can’t produce as much, I won’t be able to pump out content, I can’t….
We view slowing down as something bad. Something we associate with being lazy.
- Patience: quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence
- Laziness: averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion; indolent
Patience Makes Us Mindful
“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo
Patience is the ability to let things unfold. As a writer, I can map out an article and follow the outline, diligently focusing on the final draft. That rush to the end can cause me to overlook potentially valuable side paths. I can miss opportunities to grow the article in new, perhaps better, ways.
All creators need patience. Michelangelo didn’t sculpt the masterpiece David a day, a week, or even a year. It took three years to complete the 17-foot, 12,000 lb. statue.
Every blow of the chisel was executed with care and patience. Each was purposeful. Each required mindfulness:
One small step by one small step can create a masterpiece.
Mindfulness is the opposite of hurry-up and move on.
Patience Brings Us Peace
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” Vincent Van Gogh
Impatience is a stress response to what is happening in our lives. We’re not getting what we want when we want it, which often is right now.
The more we feel the need to hurry up, the more we become stressed.
In the seminal book, Type A Behavior and Your Heart, the authors Martin Friedman, M.D. and Ray Rosenman, M.D. defined “hurry sickness” as “a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”
Patience gives us the ability to handle stressful situations without letting the stress undermine our resourcefulness.
Patience Makes Gives Us More Focus
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” Georgia O’Keeffe
Impatience can cause us to jump from one task to another like a ping-pong ball in a clothes dryer. The inability to see a task through to completion saps our productivity and decreases our feelings of accomplishment. We’re left with an unease of having things hanging over us like Rene Magritte’s boulder.
Multi-tasking isn’t a solution. The majority of people who think they are multi-tasking aren’t doing simultaneous tasks even though it might seem that way. They are serial-tasking. Their attention is switching back and forth from one activity to another so quickly that they don’t notice it.
When we exercise patience, we become focused; we stay with a task until it is done. This gives us a sense of completion.
There’s an added benefit for focusing on a single task: We enter flow states. When we are in flow, we see associations, connections, and possibilities more easily, which leads to greater productivity, enhanced creativity, and improved innovation.
Patience Is a Skill
Patience can be developed and strengthen like any skill. It takes awareness and persistence to learn.
- When you find yourself suffering from impatience, stop, breath, and become mindful.
- Focus on the next step you need to take, not the end result.
- Let the end arrive in its own time.
In the meantime, enjoy the ride and look for surprises along the way.
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