Anyone who knows me well will tell you that patience is not a strength of mine. Ever since I was very young, there have been countless times where I’ve been told my patience is lacking. It is something I’ve had to gradually acknowledge as a reality, but it wasn’t easy to get to that point. I chose to live in denial of this fact for the larger portion of my existence thus far.
In many everyday situations and interactions, I can easily lose patience if I go unchecked. Similarly, it can be easy to lose patience over an extended period of time; to lose patience for the process necessary to take big strides forward. Losing patience for the process is especially dangerous, because process is required to achieve success in any part of life.
It is ultimately up to us, as individuals, to embrace patience and acknowledge the process in all facets of life.
The choice comes down to this embrace, versus the alternative of rejecting or cheating the process (whatever the process may be). Success, or lack of success, is directly dependent on this choice.
I have been reflecting on the ideas of patience and process over the recent weeks, as I’ve been slowly going through the recovery process after an accident. There are some common beliefs and habits that we allow to hinder our own process to achievement.
The Dangerous Belief in Passive Success
Let’s get one thing straight: there is no such thing as overnight success. In a crazy plot twist, we are all sold ideas that it is not only real, but attainable.
Look at the lottery as an example. Millions of people buy tickets that they hope will literally be their ticket to a new life. How many times have you overheard a conversation at work about winning the lottery? How many times have you caught yourself daydreaming about it yourself? Not to be a buzzkill, but winning the lottery won’t solve any of your problems.
Why? Because the key to happiness lies in figuring out what you want out of life, and working tirelessly to make it a reality. All the money in the world isn’t going to solve that equation for you. As it turns out, having all the money in the world without understanding your own happiness will probably lead to disaster.
The lottery is just one manifestation of our cultural belief in the idea of instant success. Another example is the idea of passive income. The late (and great) Scott Dinsmore outlines this myth so well, I don’t even want to try restating it. The point is, we can all probably find multiple examples of people who appear to have it made, but we fail to contemplate the struggle and failure that was likely endured and pushed through to get to where they are.
The belief in instant gratification is strong, bleeding over into how we perceive the reality of people we don’t even know. It is amazing to consider all of the energy that goes into envy, jealousy, or downright hatred of others who have achieved success.
A belief that success comes easy to others but not yourself is a powerful way to avoid looking inward and answering the hard question for yourself: what makes you happy, and how will you make it a reality?
If you live within the parameters of a belief system that is predicated on the idea of luck and passive success, it really is just an elaborate excuse to keep you from doing the work necessary to move forward. It is a distraction to help you settle into a mediocre existence. Speaking of excuses…
Keep Your Friends Close…And Your Alibis Closer
There is a universal trait that we all share, and are really good at: the ability to devise excuses and alibis. We are so good at it, in fact, that we can ironically spend more time coming up with excuses than it would take to simply do the thing we are working so hard to justify not doing.
Alibis are the vehicle of procrastination. If not confronted, their power can bring any progress to a halt. Worse, it can stop us before we even start.
You can reason away anything that you want or need to do, just by surrendering power to your alibis.
Any big change in life requires time and discipline to accomplish. Alibis feast on time and discipline; scarfing them down for breakfast. There’s not a shortage of excuses that can be applied to any situation in order to justify inaction.
The saying “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” comes to mind. Alibis are your enemy, keep them in close range at all times. Be aware of their presence, so that you can properly dismantle them. Don’t let them fly under the radar, stealing your energy before you even know it’s there.
Stay Away from Life’s Comment Section
Look at all the arguments you see on TV and online, especially now that it is election season. There is a significant over-saturation of memes, ignorance, and harshly unproductive discourse. It’s easy to get bogged down and swallowed up in the mess of it all. It’s easy to throw yourself into the ring and get fired up. At the end of the day, what is there to show for it?
Just as with the comment section online, there’s no shortage of B.S. and bad advice waiting at every turn in real life. Especially if you are daring to live by your own rules in any way, shape, or form. It’s important to remember that even well-intentioned advice can be detrimental.
This is why it is so important to understand deep inside why you choose to pursue whatever it is you are pursuing. The more you understand yourself, the more genuine your desires become. The more genuine your desires become, the more you can tune out the noise and focus on what will help make those desires a reality.
There is enough noise pollution everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it must be absorbed. Learning to selectively pay attention to what’s truly helpful is a discipline, but it is important to hone it. Try your best not to make it harder by willingly imposing that comment section on yourself.
Embrace the Journey
I used to dread getting older. Every year as my birthday approached, I would cringe at the thought of my waning youth. I now realize that getting older is actually something to look forward to. When I was so afraid of growing old, I was failing to fully enjoy my youth. I failed to fully enjoy the journey of growing up.
In our busy lives, it’s easy to focus too much on a future destination and lose appreciation for the journey. The destination could represent many things. It could be a goal or milestone, such as marriage, a promotion, or retirement.
The destination itself isn’t a bad thing to think about, but it’s important not to focus too much energy on the end state or to grant it a disproportionate weight in determining your happiness.
Many times, the destination is given so much mental energy that the very process of getting there is seen as an obstacle to be resented, shunned, or hurried over – as opposed to something to be embraced, enjoyed, appreciated, or laughed at. This is especially true if the destination is prescribed, and not something you genuinely desire deep down.
A symptom of placing too much weight on the destination is when you are chasing that “one more thing”, but you don’t really know why. When you say to yourself, “I’ll be happy when I get that promotion”, “I’ll be happy when I am making $X”, “I’ll be happy when I have a car of this caliber and a house of this size”. By thinking in these terms, you will enjoy your life less until you have those things. And you may find that you aren’t any happier when you finally get them.
If you do the work to understand yourself and why you are pursuing something, the journey itself will naturally become very rewarding and fulfilling. It will be rewarding and fulfilling because you will be living with purpose. The setbacks, the struggles, and the inevitable detours along the way are where life is truly lived.
A few days ago, I was sitting in the waiting room at my surgeon’s office. I was there for my third post-operation appointment following surgery due to my accident. As I was waiting, I was thinking about how far I have come since the first time I was at the very same office for my pre-operation appointment six weeks prior.
At that time, I was focused on my long road to recovery, and all too aware of how functionally limited I was going to be in the immediate future. But in the span of less than six weeks, I went from being completely co-dependent back to being independent.
I could have chosen to be miserable on my return path to independence. But what would that have accomplished? Instead, this six week period turned out to be one of rekindling a relaxed mental state with no induced demands tugging me in multiple directions.
Just as with anything that takes time, committing to patience will yield results. How many times do we cast aside the things we really want to do for a lack of patience? How many times do we avoid the most important things we could be doing, and how many times are these things avoided because they will take time to pay off, or because we choose to get our priorities backwards? How often do we let dissenting opinions sap our energy?
In the age of instant gratification, it is important to constantly remind ourselves that the best things in life are worth waiting and working for.