I pull up to an intersection, and the oncoming traffic is approaching briskly, but I have a small window: if I gun it, I can merge in. “Patience.” I’m working with a customer who is demanding and irate. My blood pressure spikes, I feel an adrenaline surge, and my mind starts racing. “Patience.” Negotiations have stalled and neither party is budging; I know I have a strong hand but want to close the deal quickly. “Patience.”
My mind’s voice is so trained to utter this simple word that it emerges from my subconscious before I even start to think about the correct course of action. It all began when I realized that my aggressive driving was a detriment to my life and well-being. I set out to lighten my lead foot, quell my road rage, and eliminate close calls. I found a simple, perfect solution. Every time I would encounter a driving situation where my heart would skip a beat and I’d feel an urge to wildly maneuver, I uttered the word, “Patience.” First, the practice was out-loud, and then I simply said the word in my head.
The results of this practice are immediately tangible. Sure, sometimes, I lose a few seconds on my route. I’ve even had to drive passed my exit to take the next ramp, backtracking to my destination. But I gained an enormous amount of safety. I gained control over my emotions. And I gained a powerful tool that has applications in nearly all aspects of my life.
From a zenful perspective, waiting patiently is an experience far removed from waiting impatiently. The patient mindset lends itself neatly to a peaceful acceptance of stillness. We’re so inclined to move from activity to activity that a lull in between appointments can leave us frazzled and agitated. Instead of fidgeting or whipping out our phones when we’re unexpectedly forced to wait for a few minutes or even a couple hours (airports, anyone?) – upon discovery of a delay, instead opt to tell yourself, “Patience.” Sit. Smile. Relax. Observe. A trial is not what you must endure in these circumstances but a gift for you to appreciate, only if you accept it with a spirit of patience.
Wield the weapon of patience in these arenas
Patience can help unveil opportunities that you might’ve otherwise overlooked. Turning down a job offer that’s not quite right only to find better employment around the corner, humoring that annoying coworker who ends up being your boss down the road, or simply being kind to yourself when you’re stuck on a difficult problem: there are so many ways that a patient mindset can benefit you professionally if you adopt it as a habit.
In today’s economy, moving from job to job and company to company has proven to be the best way to boost your salary in the long term. However, when you find a company that takes care of you and pays you market rate or slightly above, sometimes it’s best to ride out the rough patches. Especially if your management is excellent, you can be rewarded for longevity with an employer. You’ll only be able to count the years at a single company if you approach your work and its drawbacks with patience.
Waiting for a sale can help you secure a substantial discount. I’ll often set a price alert on SlickDeals or CamelCamelCamel for an item that I covet. I’ve found that – given enough time – the price I want almost always arrives. Sometimes I’ll get an email from an alert I set a couple years ago, and I just chuckle, “I forgot I even wanted that!”
In fact, just putting a few days in between the urge to buy and the actual expenditure can eliminate a lot of unnecessary impulse buying. We have implemented Online Shopping Sundays in our household, partially to curtail costly clicking and partially so that our deliverymen stop hating us for our daily porchload.
Much like buying things, purchasing investments is an activity best approached with a motherlode of patience. If you’re the type of person to calculate the intrinsic value of a stock or bond, then trust your judgement and wait for the correct price point. Don’t rush in before the price dips below the your desired entry point. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s “Abominable No-man,” likes to say no to 99.99% of opportunities that cross his desk so that he’s flush with capital for the best opportunity that comes along. Then he says yes, yes, yes!
When you own investments that are repriced by the second, you’ll often find your holdings “underperforming” – losing money on your balance sheet. If you’ve done your homework and know the value of your asset, and the underlying economic engine hasn’t suffered some malady, just sit tight. Riding out the lows with years- or decades-long patience can be extremely rewarding. Some investments muddle along for years in a low band before skyrocketing when the market seems to suddenly wake up and double the price in short order.
Your spouse may have an irritable spell, seem to be on your case, or just be down in the dumps sometimes. Instead of burning a short fuse, have some compassion and apply patience to your relationship. Being combustible in these circumstances can do lasting damage to the person you love most and the feelings that you have for each other.
If you’re itching to see a friend, and he’s turned down the last few invitations, takes a long time to respond to texts if he does at all, or maybe you saw him on a group outing that excluded you: try being patient. Keep checking in every so often and continue extending invitations to connect. A brief respite in your friendship may be just that: temporary. But if you press too hard, seem too needy, or just plain give up, then you might just sever ties for good. Friends are hard to find, good friends are rare, and great friends are one of life’s most precious treasures. Keep them nearby by gifting them a bit of patience when they need it.
Just a meek little word
“Patience” isn’t the most robust word in the English language. It’s hard to say with gusto. You’d seem a little silly if you ever screamed it at someone, even an obstinate toddler. “PATIENCE!” It just doesn’t sound right. It’s a word best whispered or maybe said with assertiveness. Despite its plush surface, behind those two syllables is a deep well of power. The more you tap into patience, the more it rewards you. Next time you feel an aggressive impulse arise, try saying it to yourself: “Patience.”