What no one tells you about pursuing your dreams is how much patience you’ll need to see them through. Perseverance, sure – people will talk about perseverance till they’re blue in the face and you could knock them over with a stiff breeze. But you could try as hard as you can twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year and get nothing more than burnt out, because what it really takes to succeed in your goals is patience.
Patience, learning to wait, learning to wait gracefully, has never been one of my strong suits. But it’s something I’m working on, day by day, just like my writing. Here are a few things that I’ve found help me when I’m growing impatient with the pace of my success:
- Distract yourself
You may not be able to get the results back from that latest writing contest any faster, or make your writing better by sheer force of will, but damn it, you can get your bathroom clean in one day and you can bake the most amazing batch of banana bread you’ve ever eaten and you can do a myriad of other small, but impressive tasks. Sometimes your brain is like an overactive puppy and it needs exercise and distraction.
This has been a recent tool in my toolbox and to be completely honest with you, I’m not 100% sold on it – but I’ve been told by people whose job it is to know that over time, it really, really helps. Being impatient is partially a sign that you’re not taking stock of all the good things you currently have going for you. You want more, but have you even stopped to appreciate what you have? To cultivate patience, cultivate gratitude. I’m doing this by writing down a daily gratitude journal. Each day, I fill up exactly one page with a list of everything I’m grateful for. Sometimes they’re big things – the love of my family, that the sun comes up every day; sometimes they’re little things – that at least one thing made me smile yesterday, that dogs wag their tails when they’re happy. The point is to reflect on all the good things I do have instead of focus on the things that I don’t.
- Physical exercise
I don’t know about you all, but when I get impatient, I get frustrated. And when I get frustrated, I get affected physically – I start to squirm, all my muscles tense, sometimes I even feel like I’m about to cry. That’s why physical exercise can be a good kick in the pants for me to regain some composure. I don’t usually engage in anything too strenuous (a nice walk around the park does it for me most of the time) but I like to get my body up and moving.
- Talk it out
If you’re feeling impatient, talk to someone about it. Unload all your fears and frustrations, let it out and not only will you feel better for not keeping it bottled up inside, but you’ll often realize how ridiculous you sound all on your own. “I’m so frustrated I haven’t published a book yet!” Yeah, self, you’re 28 – you have plenty of time! Slow down, crazy head! “I’m so impatient to hear back from this agent!” Well, you can’t do anything about it, so why not do something more constructive with your energy instead? A friend might even have some great ideas of tasks you can put your back into while you wait.
I have a very loud mind. I’m a writer, after all. If my mind were quiet…well, I’d have nothing to say, now would I? Meditation and I have danced around each other for a long time. A long time. But I’ve finally gotten into a pretty consistent practice with it and I honestly can say I think it’s doing me some good. It’s not about emptying your mind of thoughts – that’s impossible. It’s about not chasing after the thoughts that go by. And isn’t that what patience is? Learning to let go of thoughts and desires and instead accept things as they are? Meditation is great practice for that. I personally use an app called “Headspace” and have been really enjoying it, but however or whatever works for you, I’d say give it a shot! We could all use a little more patience in our lives.