You must first have a lot of patience
to learn to have patience.
-- Stanislaw J. Lec
When we adopted Ana from China, she was one year old and seriously neglected. She couldn't even roll from front to back, weighed only fourteen pounds, and had second-degree burns on her buttocks from lying in urine. As soon as I laid my eyes on this beautiful child who had been allowed to languish for thirteen months, all my maternal instincts went into overdrive. I made a decision: this precious being simply needed love and attention to flourish.
From that moment on, I had all the patience I needed. I refused to look at development charts in the pediatrician's office that described where she should be. I refused to compare her height and weight to children of the same age. When she began stuttering at age three, I refused to draw attention to the problem, allowing her the time to work it out on her own.
Don and I held her, slept with her until she was four, and, aside from the time she was in preschool, spent virtually every waking hour with her. At five and a half, she is a bright, beautiful, articulate, hula-hooping champion who is about to enter the advanced kindergarten at her school.
Love & Patience Can Conquer All
Ana is proof that love can conquer all, but she is also a clue to where my patience easily resides. I have tremendous patience with people. I can get occasionally frustrated, annoyed, or even angry, but ultimately my patience kicks back in. I simply refuse to give up on a living being who has come into my sphere.
You too have enormous patience for something and the more you study what fosters your patience, the more you will be able to engage it in any circumstance. Here's a way to begin. Take a few minutes to make a list of when you are naturally patient. Is it with people? With adults and children, or one more than the other? With animals? Or, like my daughter, in making things with your hands? Do you persist until you meet your goal, no matter what? Where and how does your patience exhibit itself?
What Is Your Pattern of Success When It Comes to Patience?
Now look at your list and study your pattern of success. Think about what makes patience possible for you during those times, when it's easy. You probably aren't consciously aware of it, but you are actually doing something to trigger your patience. It could be a feeling you have, a picture you see in your head, a phrase you tell yourself. You are doing something that allows you to hang in there.
When Bob, a client, did this exercise, he discovered that he is very patient with breakdowns of all kinds in systems at work because he sees a picture of himself succeeding in the past and that gives him confidence in the current situation. With me, whenever I'm patient, it's because I've felt my deep desire to foster the growth of another living being. When I feel that feeling, my patience is virtually endless.
How To Handle Situations That Try Your Patience
Once you discover your pattern of success, you can use it in situations that normally try your patience. For instance, I now engage my patience better when I'm waiting by framing the experience as an opportunity to foster my own growth. When dealing with his kids, which is where Bob often lost his patience, he began bringing to mind a picture of a happy outcome as soon as his blood began to boil. As a consequence, he didn't lose his patience at home nearly as often.
You are patient. By seeing where and how, you can learn to access your patience when you need it most.
©2003, 2013. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
The Power of Patience: How This Old-Fashioned Virtue Can Improve Your Life
by M.J. Ryan.
In The Power of Patience, M. J. Ryan teaches us how to slow the rush and reclaim the forgotten virtue of patience on a daily basis. She shows how doing so allows us to make better decisions and to feel better about ourselves every day. The Power of Patience calls on us to reclaim our time, our priorities, and our ability to respond to life with a firmly grounded sense of who we are. It is the best gift that we can give ourselves.
About the Author
M.J. Ryan is one of the creators of the New York Times bestselling Random Acts of Kindness and the author of The Happiness Makeover, and Attitudes of Gratitude, among other titles. Altogether, there are 1.75 million copies of her titles in print. She is part of Professional Thinking Partners (PTP), an asset-focused consultancy whose expertise is in maximizing thinking and learning individually and in groups. She specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, and leadership teams around the world. A member of the International Coaching Federation, she is a contributing editor to Health.com and Good Housekeeping and has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, and hundreds of radio programs.