Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I was reflecting upon virtues today – you know what I mean here – those character traits that represent superb, five-star, gold-plated qualities of moral excellence. These are the things we all strive for such as modesty, probity, integrity, kindness…the list is quite long and full of elements that cannot help but make us feel good about ourselves. Until we reach one virtue that, practically without exception, makes us all groan...patience.

As virtues go, I think we can all agree that patience gets a really bad press. I mean, come on let’s face it, who looks forward to waiting? Isn’t this the age of instant gratification? If I want it, I’ll have it now please. Which one of you enjoys hearing that irksome phrase “...remember - patience is a virtue…”? I’m willing to bet the numbers are in single figures! Even as I write this I’m feeling somewhat irritated as I ponder upon the various experiences that are yet to manifest in my life, as I tell myself to be patient because it’ll all come together in the end (cue gnashing of gritted teeth).

Patience is one of those words that’s steeped in negativity. We end up being so aghast and distressed at the requirement to wait that we put masses of energy into being impatient. Its really quite odd when we think about it. In our instinctive determination to rebel against being patient we end up making the whole process quite unbearable.

This is the age of now – if we want pizza at 1am we can have it; if we want to check our bank balance at 3am we can do it; if we want to read tomorrow’s headlines at 4am we can read them.

But what happens when we want an omelette instead of scrambled eggs? Or when driving to Manchester from London in a traffic jam? In those instances, instantaneous it most certainly is not! There are many circumstances where instant gratification has not made its presence felt. Think of pregnancy and childbirth (how many months?) or gardening (how long does it take for the bulbs to appear?) or baking a cake, roasting a joint, growing an oak tree or becoming a Jedi Master. They all require varying degrees of patience. There’s just no getting round it.

So in a fit of revolutionary pique I have decided it’s time patience got a makeover! I’m on a one-woman mission to convert you into loving this virtue and embracing patience wholeheartedly. I’m hopeful that the benefits will bring immeasurable joy into our lives and give us back our peace of mind.

Reader, allow me to share my 6 year old son’s explanation of patience. He said that patience is when we really want something to happen but it won’t happen immediately and there’s nothing we can do about that, so while we wait for it to happen we do other things to help pass the time. His proviso (my word not his – he was only 6 remember) being that we must always keep a clear and certain image of the thing we want in our minds. From the mouths of babes!

When I have applied my son’s logic to the many times patience has been required, it has indeed worked like magic. If I’m stuck in traffic when I’m running late for a meeting, I’ll use the time to do something constructive like mentally review my agenda for the meeting. That way instead of arriving at the meeting frazzled and flustered, I’m even better prepared and the traffic jam is a distant memory that hasn’t blighted my day.

I also find that gratitude is a crucial way to help the process along. We can always find things to be grateful for, no matter what the circumstances, and I’d urge you to think of 5 things you’re grateful for right now. See how it lifts you, and distracts you from the process of waiting?

Some things will always only ever happen in their own time whether we like it or not. So the more we learn to let go of the process itself and the more we focus with certainty (not desperation) on the outcome, whilst simultaneously spending our time pursuing other tasks and preoccupations that we enjoy, the less we tend to notice that we are in fact waiting. The added bonus being the realisation that we’re actually very good at being patient. Admittedly it does take some practice, but surely that’s a win-win we all want to be a part of?

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