The line between waiting and patience is a fine one. Let me define what I mean by waiting. Waiting is a passive way of being, the symptoms of which are: putting our life on hold, thinking the next big thing is just over the horizon, looking outside ourselves for answers, or believing it will be better someday.
- If you find yourself saying (or thinking) the following you may be waiting:
- I’m not ready, yet.
- I don’t have the right education.
- I need to lose ten pounds first.
- I don’t have enough money.
- I’m not inspired.
- They should apologize first.
Patience, on the other hand, can be defined as our ability to accept delay. It is a state of being peaceful or thoughtful. It is a time of introspection and quiet. As it is said, patience is a virtue. It can be a powerful place to be—and it can be misused, misunderstood, or manipulated. We may pretend we are being patient when actually we are being wimpy.
It is useful to distinguish which state we are in. Here are some general guidelines to know if you are waiting:
- You have a sense of unease—you know there is something you need to be doing and you are not doing it. And sometimes, you have waited so long in a particular area; you even struggle to identify what the source of unease is.
- You are dissatisfied—you are not living in the moment. You are sure your life will be better when it is different in some way than it is right now (e.g. you find your perfect mate, complete that project, go on your next vacation).
- You are grumpy—you feel like life is passing you by. You get in bed at the end of the day and realize you don’t have any clear memories of anything you did because in all your busyness you weren’t even present. You don’t even remember if you took a deep breath.
Waiting can hide out in the nooks and crannies of our life. To assist my clients in determining how and where they are waiting, I ask them to list the top-ten reasons they won’t accomplish something they say is important to them. This gives them the freedom to be unabashedly truthful; to put on paper the lingering doubts that are hovering quietly in the background or screaming loudly in their face. We humans are sneaky. We have all sorts of ways we sabotage our dreams. Only by telling ourselves the blatantly honest and sometimes brutal truth can we tell if we are waiting or being patient.
To illustrate, I did the same exercise when I was writing my book. I looked at the top-ten reasons I wouldn’t complete the project. Here is a sampling:
- I will continuously distract myself with busy work—cleaning out the junk drawers never seemed as appealing as when I am trying to write.
- I will repeatedly doubt and question my ability as a writer and compare myself to other “successful” writers.
- I will continue to look outside myself for inspiration.
- I will take on other projects and commitments and not schedule any time to write.
You tell me. Do you hear patience in any of these “reasons”? No! These are excuses I could use for not taking action on something that was tremendously important to me.
Now, I encourage you to look for yourself. Pick an area of your life that you have been working on for a while. Make your top-ten list. Be willing to shed light on those hidden ways you wait. Be bold and tell yourself the truth. See where patience is needed or where you are making excuses.
As a final note, the best place to exercise patience is in our relationships with others. All too often, this is where true patience is lacking. And yes, it is important to be patient with ourselves, but once again, we can be on a slippery slope. I can lull myself into believing I am being patient when in fact, it’s important to take bold action. Or I may actually be lacking acceptance for the way things are and what is needed is a touch of patience.
Being an eternally creative and mischievous human, I have to ask myself constantly, am I being patient with my process or am I simply letting myself off the hook?