I have a new handbook that I’m taking with me wherever I go. It’s called The Power of Patience: How to Slow the Rush and Enjoy More Happiness, Success, and Peace of Mind Every Day by M.J. Ryan. Besides being a small manageable size, it’s great to re-read whenever I’m waiting…for anything.
I will be the first to admit that I am patience-challenged. Before reading this book, I thought I was genetically predisposed. Now I realize that impatience is a habit, not a genetic trait and this human quality, like any muscle, can be strengthened if you are motivated, aware, and committed to practicing. And therein lies the key…PRACTICE!
Ryan’s book is so readable and so quotable. Her key premise is that patience is a crucial factor in whether we have a satisfying life. Patience gives us self-control—the capacity to stop and be in the present moment where we can make wise choices. As seekers of patience, our task is to increase self-awareness and Ryan delivers a multitude of strategies and insights. The book is divided into five sections beginning with how this old-fashioned virtue can improve your life and ending with twenty simple patience boosters. In between are stories and examples that illustrate the rewards of patience, attitudes that strengthen patience, and finally ways to cultivate this “habit of the heart.”
Ryan explains that the book is meant to be read slowly but I was impatient to get to the end and start practicing those patience boosters. She says that impatience is neither a character flaw nor an inherent personality trait. It’s a habit that is learned and can be unlearned. She suggests trying one or two practices you feel drawn to and recognize that this is soul work as well as mind training. Accept the fact that we’re not always going to do it right when we lose our patience, but it’s important to notice how we treat ourselves. Do we berate ourselves for not being perfect or kindly acknowledge that we are still learning and wonder what we might learn from this?
In order to do that, we need to understand why something pushes our buttons rather than thinking we can just try harder. We can have all the willpower in the world, but if we don’t understand the cause, we’ll just do the same thing again. Ryan suggests that the next time you find yourself losing it, rather than think of yourself as a bad person, try thinking: I wonder what was hard for me about that.
It will take conscious effort but she offers some thoughts on where to look: the person we’re impatient with is doing something we don’t permit ourselves to do or exhibiting an aspect of ourselves we’ve pushed away or are angry we don’t have. There’s a world of difference between feeling like a failure and feeling like you have something to learn.
So next time your buttons get pushed, try seeing it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself.