Have you ever had trouble taking your own advice?
Or better yet, have you ever had trouble admitting to that fact?
Maybe you’ve recently counseled a friend through a break up. But secretly, you have trouble letting go of your own past relationships. I bet you hide that shoebox full of stuffed animals and dried rose petals like it’s your job.
Or maybe you helped a friend navigate the corporate ladder. And yet, you remain mystified by the bureaucracy at your own work. I’m pretty sure your friend won’t be getting an invite to the office Christmas party any time soon.
Or maybe you write a blog in which you share stories and advice. But sometimes, you still feel like a complete mess in your own life. I’m sure you keep writing and pretending like you have it all together.
Or maybe that’s just me…
Either way, I’m always amazed at our ability to counsel others while remaining totally out of touch with our own lives. With our own needs. With our own advice.
Seriously, it’s incredible how blind we can (or choose to) be to ourselves!
This might come as a shock (or not), but I don’t have everything figured out. I fully maintain that you don’t have to be perfect to gift your advice with the world. And yet, my days of doubt still cause me to struggle.
Some Mondays I wake up questioning everything.
And on those days, like any Southern lady would do, I cover it up.
I layer on the smiles and the mantras and the platitudes.
I fake it ‘til I make it.
We do this all the time. We just aren’t always honest about it.
But today, I’m going to be honest.
Today, I'm going share the struggle.
As some of you may remember, last week I wrote about the five major insights I’ve received while practicing yoga for the past year. These included some real gems like “showing up is step number one” and “nothing is too small not to matter.” But the Mack Daddy of them all, you ask?
Things. Take. Time.
You. Must. Be. Patient.
Here’s the deal, y’all.
In fact, impatience is my tragic flaw.
Achilles had his heel. Hamlet had his indecisiveness. Oedipus had all kinds of crazy shit going on.
Tracy has impatience.
But did I ever, for one moment, want to wait for any of those things to happen?
Hells to the no!
I am the house that impatience built. I suck at waiting.
Right now, for instance, I’m waiting on a contract—my first contract as Tracy Timm, LLC.—to be finalized. I’ve been waiting on this contract for oh, I don’t know, two months or so. And when you read “two months,” you will probably laugh and think that’s nothing.
But when you live for two months in impatience purgatory, it’s like freaking forever!
Even Hamlet would be ready to make a decision by now.
And yet, I wait. Impatiently. Impulsively checking my email. Worrying late at night. Wondering everyday if and when it will finally be done.
So I figured, instead of hiding the struggle, instead of pretending to be perfect that I hope to be someday, I would share it with you guys. It’s my hope that vulnerability and authenticity can inspire more than any amount of smiles or mantras or platitudes.
And, most importantly, we must share it.
So, I give you, my struggle with patience.
I recently came across a great quote from a famous person that I immediately hated after reading it.
I’m looking at you, Leon Brown.
Leon said: “Impatience is the root of all your problems. You cannot force life to give you answers; you MUST let them to unfold before you.”
Dammit. He’s right.
In every facet of my life, I’ve found that forcing things to happen just doesn’t work and causes even more frustration. You can’t force someone to love you. You can’t force your way into a promotion. You can’t force blog posts to spring forth from your fingertips at a moment’s notice.
And you certainly can’t force yourself into Destroyer of the Universe pose.
Trust me, I tried. It hurt.
But if you’re like me, and you just read that, then you’re probably saying,
Ok great, but now what?
Sure, patience and “allowing things to happen” are great ideas, but how on Earth do I actually do that?
How do I make it real?
Great questions! If you care enough to ask, then you’re well on your way to “work” and “progress.” In moments like these, when I’m really struggling with a concept, idea, decision, or whatever, I like to fall back on a little struggle-bus process I call, The Three D’s.
Not the 3D’s. I hate those. Too much motion sickness.
The Three D’s.
The Three D’s is a process I developed that helps me get clear, get right, and most importantly, get unstuck. It’s the nickname of my struggle bus.
The Three D’s are:
Define your terms.
Determine the cost.
Decide to try.
I’ll explain in the current context of my miserable, lengthy battle with impatience.
Define your terms.
When you’re looking at something huge like impatience, surrender, or letting go, I like to simplify. I try to define the most basic terms that I’m working with, so I’m not overwhelmed by the concept itself.
Yes, David did manage to slay Goliath, but not everyone can be a David. I personally prefer my Goliaths in tiny bite-sized pieces, thankyouverymuch. All the easier to slay.
So, patience. What does it really mean to be patient?
But that’s not what patience really means.
Patience is actually a state of endurance.
It means persevering despite delay. It means remaining steadfast despite setback. It means showing forbearance despite strain.
Clearly, it’s a virtue for a reason.
It is the epitome of empowerment.
But what about impatience?
I used to think of impatience as a fancy word for drive. For ambition. For caring. For trying.
But that’s not what impatience really means.
Impatience is a state of irritability and restlessness. It means allowing delay to derail. It means allowing setbacks to be road blocks. It means allowing strain to become stress.
Clearly, not a virtue.
So, who do you want to be? Which definition do you prefer?
Every time you’re presented with a lesson, you get to decide what the terms really mean.
So, step one: Define your terms.
Determine the cost.
When I’m really stuck on something, usually a life lesson or a major peanut butter decision, I like to get systematic. I usually do some sort of cost-benefit analysis or pro-con list to get all the crazy in my head out on paper.
Once again, it is a lofty and noble goal to slay your dragons in one go, but why not break down the costs to see where you really stand. Maybe the mythical dragon in your head is actually a pet iguana in real life.
Only a CBA will tell!
So, patience. What are the costs and benefits of patience?
Impatience has a few specific benefits for me. Most of them are mental. If I remain restless and diligent, I know that I haven’t given up. I know that I haven’t forgotten about my goals or dreams. I know that I haven’t given in to the average or the ordinary.
With impatience, I feel as though there’s still a chance. And if I remain impatient enough, I feel as though I can make something happen. In fact, without it, I feel as though nothing would happen.
Those are the real or perceived benefits.
But what about the costs?
For me, impatience costs me of all kinds of wonderful things. If I choose impatience, my costs are almost infinite. I miss out on the present moment. I waste valuable energy on worrying. I exacerbate latent anxiety and unrest.
Take a look at whether or not something is serving you—I mean really serving you—and be honest about it.
You might just find that costs really do outweigh the benefits.
In every moment, you can decide if it’s worth it.
So, step two: Determine the cost.
Decide to try
When I’m knee deep in introspection, I like to shake things up. Sometimes I figure that the best way to get out of your head is get on your feet.
Just try it!
Yes, there is such a thing as “try.” Yoda wasn’t right about everything.
Sure, you can sit around and wait until you’re “ready,” but when will that be? What entrepreneur, new parent, or novice American Ninja Warrior ever said, Yes, I’m ready for this!
Umm, that would be nobody. Ever.
You’ll never really be ready!
You’ve done all the work you can. You’ve defined your terms. You’ve determined your costs.
Now, you have to decide to try.
Trying patience on for size has been, and will continue to be, a life-long battle for me. My Type-A, only-child, uber-controlling nature just does not like stillness. It doesn’t like surrender. It certainly doesn’t like “going with the flow.”
But I’ve found that trying and getting results are the cure for what ails the impatient soul.
Meeting my friend Cori and having her teach me surrender. Going with the flow and meeting my web designer. Waiting until the very last minute in trip-planning only to be gifted with a flight home with an all-expenses-paid layover in Costa Rica.
All of those were gifts. All of those were moments of allowing the answers to be revealed to me. All of those were proof that many of my problems could be solved with patience.
In every moment, you have the choice to try or not to try. Which will you choose?
That is the only question.
The Big Picture
So there you have it, The Three D’s.
Define your terms.
Determine the cost.
Decide to try.
Continue to work. Continue to progress. Continue to try.
And, most importantly, continue to share the struggle.
Trust me, you’ve got this.
Have you ever struggled with patience? Or is there another piece of life advice you give but so badly need to receive?
Share your story or your reaction in the comments below.
Did this story resonate with you? Or did it make you think of a story of your own?
I believe that stories unite us. These stories can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.
If you do believe this, then share it with your friends! Because sharing stories an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.