one tough virtue: patience? [a guest post]
[This is a guest post from House of Goals]
Patience is not my virtue. I’m usually moving too fast to notice, but a trusted friend has pointedly commented on my lack of patience, and associated frustration, usually in relation to minor manual tasks. Interestingly, I still never give up untying a knot, because I know that I will always win that battle eventually. Patience, in my case at least, is directly related the likelihood for success.
Being impatient means that I don’t become great at things
I’ve developed skills in my career that I’m proud of, skills that I’m good at: being organised, teaching others, and getting tasks done. But when it comes to being great at things I love — baking, singing, playing an instrument, learning a language, typography — which take no small amount of patience, I attempt them half-heartedly with no clear end goal. It doesn’t take long for me to give up.
Ultimately, I have never built a skill that requires practice (as opposed to skills that evolve) because I lack the patience to see beyond my repetitive failings. Others might consider lack of talent or lack of viable financial means as valid reasons not to bother developing a skill, but they are just excuses.
This year, I have set specific goals that require a lot of patience. One is learning the guitar well enough to accompany myself at an open mic night at the end of the year. The problem with a goal like this is that it is very difficult to see the likelihood of success, and therefore be patient enough to practice. The good thing with having a SMART goal like this (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) is that you are less likely to let yourself off the hook. When I want to sod it all to pieces, I remember what I’ve promised and by when, and I get on with my 15–30 minutes of guitar practice a day.
Being impatient means that I give up too quickly
For all of its wonderfulness, there’s a good chance that having a boyfriend has made me even less patient. Now that I oft have the attention of his engineering-oriented brain*, which can take to my problem like a fish to water, I make my feeble attempts, give up quickly, and then look at him with expectant eyes full of pressure. His patience feeds my impatience. The problem is that he’s not always so ready to sort out stuff that he has no interest in (although he once spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fix the zip of my handbag on the tube — much to the acknowledgement of every other woman in the carriage — that I hadn’t asked him to fix. That’s where the romance is, kids. He didn’t fix it, but there was a whole oven full of brownie points in that unsolicited gesture). When he won’t help, a 14-year-old me is bound to get involved with her best huffy tantrum.
*He just walked in and announced a dream of ‘building a computer’. These are the things I will never do.
I’m starting to realise that my impatience affects not just my relationship and my inability to play the guitar, but myriad areas of my life: I have a bad memory because I’m always moving on to the next thing too quickly; I listen to a song I love obsessively on repeat because I’m too impatient to wait for the emotional hit it gives me — and clearly I need to get a grip.
Tips for patience
For frustrating tasks, I’ve started to count before getting angry or giving up. While waiting for a bus, I count to 45 (this time frame might be relevant to only specific London bus stops). For jam jars and people, especially people, I stick with the ‘count to 10’ rule (to avoid making things awkward for the best part of a minute).
✓ Record your progress
If you’re trying to achieve a long-term goal, it can be hard to stay motivated and patient. I’m using video (learning the guitar), photographs (weight loss), and written progress to motivate me and show me how much my patience to persevere is paying off.
✓ Do one thing every day
My mum once told me that I should do three things before I leave the house every day. For me, the best I can usually do is make the bed, and though I may begrudge it, I see the value in coming home to a semblance of order and how this little routine can give me the patience to complete other tasks.
I believe that perfecting the art of patience will be the great determiner of my success. Rather than rushing around trying to get stuff done, I’m going to slow down, focus, and get stuff done well.
Do you have any lessons in patience to help me out?
Could you share them a little quicker, please?
Categorised as: wisdom+philosophy