Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Personal Strength of Patience - Peace of Mind in an Unpredictable World

I don't just talk about it and write about it. I also do it. Over the years, I've worked on improving specific personal strengths. Not because I'm some kind of saint, but because I've been the recipient of relentless feedback from my wife and business partners.

One of my biggest success stories has to do with patience.

I remember the time I was on the way to the grocery store when I got stuck behind a car going 30 mph in a 45 mph zone. I looked in the rear-view mirror, and the car behind me was uncomfortably close. I could have honked or flashed my lights. Or I could have tried passing, but there was a lot of traffic and it seemed unsafe. The store was only three miles away, so I just followed along.

Going down a row in the store parking lot, I saw that the car ahead of me had stopped completely. I waited for him to move, but I quickly realized that instead of finding a spot in a less crowded area, he was camped out, waiting for someone to return to his car. I had no idea how long he would do this. I could have risked backing up against the flow of traffic, or I could have honked my horn. I waited four or five minutes until a spot opened up and I was able to park.

Inside the store, I wheeled my cart along the dairy aisle. An old lady was standing next to her cart in the middle of the aisle, making it impossible to pass. I stopped my cart short of hers, but she didn't seem to notice me. I waited a minute while she gazed up at the shelves. She appeared bewildered by all the choices. I said in my gentlest voice, "Excuse me, may I pass?" She seemed surprised. I smiled and thanked her as she maneuvered her cart to one side.

On my list was "candied ginger." I wouldn't know candied ginger if I saw it, but I knew that if I could find some and bring it home, my wife would use it to make something wonderful. I asked the first employee I saw, a young man: "Can you tell me where I can find candied ginger?" We made the tour of the store. "Well, it should be over here..." Finally I suggested that if he didn't know where it was, perhaps someone else might know. So he found his supervisor, who took me right to it. Maybe the young man should have done that in the first place, but he seemed new and he was eager to please.

At the cash register, a customer seemed to be having trouble making payment. Maybe it was an equipment malfunction or maybe his card wasn't reading properly. I couldn't tell. The lady in front of me rolled her eyes and turned away with a sour look. This trip to the store was taking a lot longer than I thought it would. Standing by my cart, I began thinking about my outline for an article I was writing.

By the time I left the store with my purchases, it was pouring down rain. Great. I didn't know rain was in the forecast, so I hadn't brought an umbrella. I looked at the sky; I guessed (hoped) it was a passing shower. I was right. In a few minutes, only very light rain was falling and I walked to my car.

On the way home, I thought to myself: I'm getting better at this patience stuff.  

There are many dimensions to patience: waiting for the right time to act, knowing when not to do or say anything, and tolerating behavior that might otherwise be irritating. In my own struggles with patience, I’ve learned something important. When somebody falls short of my needs and expectations, I could easily get upset. 

But if I'm truly honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that in almost every case, at some point in my life I’ve done practically the same thing. I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else. Even with good intentions, people sometimes do weird things. When it’s my turn to be weird, I hope people will understand, forgive and be patient.

This humbling thought has brought me peace of mind and steered me clear of conflict in more situations than I can remember.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Ryan said...

Great timing for your post Denny.

I had one of my moments today. 95% of the time I'm Mister Patient, either following my breath, doing affirmations, or planning out a blog post when I'm in wait mode.

On a trip to the gas station I began to feel anxious. Instead of sitting in my car like I normally do I walked up to the tank to begin pumping my own gas. Maybe it was the impending snow storm and my poor-handling BMW, but I know it was probably a form or resistance...a moment.

Any how the attendent told me not to touch the pump. I said OK, but I'd been waiting 15 minutes (of course I wasn't ;)....he said it was five minutes. And he was right. I could choose to continue to be agitated and engage, or agree. I let it go instantly and said, 'Yeah, you're right', with a wink. I handed him the money after he finished and wished him the best. You go get better at this stuff the more you practice.

A funny thing happened after. A gentlemen who I saw at at the gas station showed up at the bank after we were at the gas station. We had a pleasant conversation about the snowfall, jobs, etc. An all-around great contact which the universe set up due to my non-resistance.

Thanks for sharing your story my friend.

Waqas Ali said...

Hi Denny,

Indeed very true, you know when you try to be patience and succeed in it. Then you start loving yourself and it is the peace of mind.

Thanks for writing such a good post. I'll keep visiting your blog.

Cheers from Pakistan,


PsychedinSF said...

Its nice to be reminded that we are all human and we all make mistakes. Patience is not letting someone elses inconvenience be the end all be all of that moment. Taking a deep breath and remembering its not worth getting worked up over becomes easier the more we practice. Great Read!-PsychedinSF