Patience … When Is It Not ‘A Virtue’?

by Anne Webber on February 15, 2020

“Patience is passion tamed.” Lyman Abbott (1835-1922)

Working with a client recently, I was aware of how much she moved her body, even while seated, as she spoke about her plans and the things that were happening in her life to move her forward.

Her feet were tapping, her legs were jumping.  She leaned forward as she spoke and her speech was quick and full of expression.  I found myself smiling just watching her and commented on what I was observing.  She laughed and said that she just felt so excited to be getting going.  There were so many things to do and she wanted to be doing them all – now!

After she finished speaking, however, a shadow crossed her face.  I queried this and she commented that she also felt the need to hold back.  When I asked her why, she said that she didn’t want to do anything on impulse, but wanted to do things ‘right’ and take the time to plan it all out.

She felt both an urgency to get going and the need to wait it out and be patient.

The tension between ‘doing’ and ‘waiting’ …

This dichotomy – the tension between ‘doing’ and ‘waiting’ – is a common reaction to change.  When we are in a period of transition, between letting go of the old and creating the new, we can feel alternately pulled forward and back.  We may find our energies vary greatly, from bursts of creativity and excitement to the overwhelm of anxiety and trepidation.

Reflection on our past experiences has left residue, good and bad, which has taught us caution.  In addition to this, we are always being told that ‘patience is a virtue’.  We feel drawn to hold back and take things more slowly.

But is patience always the way to go?  What if you feel impatient because you’re not doing what you need to be doing?  How do you strike the balance between working with your passion and working with the space of ‘allowing’ and taking things at a steadier pace?

Establishing new businesses, projects and behaviours takes time …

When starting a new project or business, or changing a behaviour, we overlook that it may take time.  We want results now and we are working so hard that we want immediate delivery on the effort that’s being put in.

Maintaining momentum and enthusiasm during these times is key.  There will be ups and downs – some very high ups and some very low downs! – and we need to learn to roll with this.  Flexibility and resilience is the way through it all, maintaining the hope that it will all work out.

Patience then plays a role in keeping us on track.  It is a friend to us, helping us not to get too carried away and having too high expectations of time and of ourselves.

But … When does patience hold us back from embracing what we need to do?

There are times when being patient can hold us back from getting on, and it can be valuable to get impatient so that you keep going.  In this way, we can keep making the effort, keep buzzing with the joy of creating our new world.

When I’m on the brink of something new, I get impatient to be doing it.  I don’t want to be sitting back, planning, pondering – I want to be doing!  I am impatient to fulfill my promise, my purpose in the world.

We all reach that point, when standing still as we are is no longer possible or we’ll burst with the need to run!  That surge of energy which catapults us into the unknown, the new, the place of longing, is key to propelling us forward.

The way to balance the tension is to use the quality of patience to be kind to ourselves, but not to use it to tame our passion and enthusiasm.  Patience runs alongside our passion, ensuring we hold the vision and maintain the energy for our life plans and, that we cherish ourselves as we do so.

So … How do we handle the dichotomy?

The tension of ‘doing’ and ‘waiting’ becomes very apparent when we are on the brink of making major change in our lives.

One minute, we feel courageous and ready to hit the ground running, the next we’re stymied by the need to hold back.  It makes sense then to monitor ourselves closely during these times and question any hesitation we may notice in order to ascertain our motivations.

There is a simple process which you can follow to bring things into perspective if you find yourself holding back from getting into action:

  1. Take a moment for reflection.   (You may want to have a notebook to hand to jot down any thoughts you may have.)
  2. Stop what you’re doing, sit down and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Take a moment to think about the task you are about to undertake.
  4. Now ask yourself the following questions:
    • What is holding me back from completing this task?
    • Am I holding back to mask my fear of success, failure or judgement of this task?
    • Am I holding back to mask my need for this task to be perfect before completing it?
    • Am I holding back as a way to slow down the pace of change?
  5. Your answers to these questions will provide clues as to whether or not you are allowing caution to dampen your enthusiasm for completing the tasks ahead.
  6. Keep these questions in your head with each task you face.  Patterns will start to emerge as you reflect upon them and your answers will help you set the pace.

Remember …

Any significant change you make in your life is a courageous act.  So, be kind with yourself if you find that you’re holding back.  Positive change is change nonetheless and it has an equal impact in terms of adjustment.  We need to move at our own pace, maintaining the balance between the pull forward and the pull back.


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