Patience is a hard thing to learn and practice that mostly just comes with time. I won’t say it’s universally true, but with age comes patience. There’s a willingness to sit back and just accept things as they come – to sit back and listen. I think you can practice patience by doing things that require you to just be still and in the moment but mostly, I think it just comes with time.
Perhaps it’s less about age and more about acceptance that there are things you can’t control in life. When you are younger, so much of life is out of your personal control and you don’t really accept that thinking, “Hey, I’ll get out of this house someday and do whatever I want!” You eventually get some freedom but then the reality of life steps in – turns out, you can’t do just do anything you want without consequence. It also turns out that there are just some things in life, these days, that you can’t change.
My life experience was exactly that.
As a teen, I had about zero patience but I was also willing to walk away from something when it wasn’t going my way. In other words, my teenage version of patience was apathy and the ability to walk away from anything not specifically going my way. In my early 20s, it was much the same except I wasn’t able to walk away so apathy turned to anger – anger at bosses for being so slow to take my suggestions; anger at co-workers for being so dumb as to not know the basics of our job; anger at the parents that took days off because their kids were sick. Misguided anger, everywhere and for everyone.
Mid-to-late 20s? I had kids. I can honestly tell you that nothing changes your outlook on life quite as much as having kids but it can take some time to fully set in. In terms of patience? I gained some, sure, but probably not as much as you would think. In fact, having children really pushed me to change my life and left me feeling like I had wasted the first 20-some years of my life. (Which is a broad, incorrect generalization, but I’m sure you understand.) Feeling that way spurred me to change a lot, mostly for the better, but was a source of anxiety and stress for a long time.
It still is in some ways. I was an avid video game player – it consumed my life for many years – but when I had kids, I walked away from the worst of that. As my kids get older, though, they play video games now and I struggle every day with my own past – I want them to have fun with their friends while also ensuring they don’t waste years like I did. But hey, this isn’t a parenting blog, so moving on…
Getting to 30s, well, I finally found more patience. I think it was the cross-section of a lot of things in my life. I’ve achieved some goals and as my children get older – I have more free time to get back to pursuing dreams. Also, there are some fundamental differences between me now and the person that existed 10 and 20 years ago – differences rooted heavily in those life changes I alluded to but continue to provide zero details. The main point is that I finally found something.
Maybe it’s better to just say that I found some peace. For a lot of my earlier years, there was a sense of urgency tied to every pursuit: “If I do this, I need to be amazing so I can make a bazillion dollars and never work again.” Even in more recent years, I stressed about my paintings and how I needed to produce something that would get me known. The goal was less about adding something positive to the world and more about how I can walk away from my current career.
Reality hurts. As it turns out, all of these pursuits are extremely hard work and require a lot of effort and first attempts are rarely as good as we’d like to think. Even when you do turn out something great, you’re unknown so money doesn’t just pour in through some funnel without stopping. Even with my career – the reason why I’m good at what I do in my day job is because I now have years of experience and accumulated knowledge behind me that puts me above a lot of the competition. I haven’t crossed the peak into a place where new technologies are completely foreign to me and the younger generation is taking my place. That’ll come in the next decade, I’m sure.
These days? I have enough patience to understand that it’s a long game I’m playing. I might have little successes along the way but I expect to be struggling to get this off the ground for a long time, depending on the amount of effort I can realistically put into it.
So that brings me back around to our core topic. Looking back, there are a few things that I wish I had known which contribute heavily to my ability to be patient. Those items, in no particular order:
- Don’t put off doing the thing you love thinking that life will somehow afford you an opportunity later. Life will never work out that way. You have to make time and chase those things.
- You’re never as good as you think you are at first. That first album? Not the best. That first painting? Not the best. BUT, that’s okay.
- When you suffer a setback, don’t give up. Just keep working at it.
- Define what your version of success looks like in realistic terms. “Being rich and famous” is not a realistic goal when you are starting out, so don’t make it your measure of success from the start.
If I had practiced these things from the start, my anxiety would have been reduced and perhaps I could have been more patient, stuck with something for longer, and found modest success earlier in life while following my dreams.
If you have some secrets for staying patient, send them my way via email or twitter, I’d love to hear it!
P.S. Patience also comes from acceptance that failure is a potential outcome and accepting that it is better to have tried than to have done nothing at all.