Confession: I’ll be the first to admit that patience is not a virtue I possess in any great quantity, though it’s not much of a secret. Anyone who knows me would also readily agree.
Patience is defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.” I’m out two for two on this one. Neither am I particularly great at tolerating delay, nor do I do so without becoming irritated by it.
Waiting for things is not my strongest suit. I suspect that on the day I came off the human assembly line, making my way down the buffet of qualities available to make a human life easier, the tray of patience had just run out by the time I got to it, and since I didn’t have any yet, I couldn’t be bothered to wait for a fresh tray.
Patience is a great quality to have, or so I’ve been told. I imagine it makes life a lot more pleasant and a lot less frustrating. I know the times I’ve been able to actively choose and empower patience, I have a much more enjoyable experience of just about everything, including myself.
It’s a quality I need—and more importantly, I choose—to work on developing in the face of my driven nature. It’s like training a muscle. I literally have to breathe and convince my brain that it’s okay to slow down and give it a minute, while my central nervous system is screaming, “PANIC AT THE DISCO, EVERYBODY RUN!”
I might be exaggerating—which is another thing I’ve been told I do—but not by much.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking of times that it looks like I’m being patient, when that’s not really what’s going on.
You can fake patience. True story. You can make it look like you’re being patient, when what you’re really being is complacent.
Go ahead. Ask me how I know.
Here’s a great example: as you may know, I’ve been writing a book for about three years now. I will say that the duration has actually been a good thing in hindsight, because it’s a very different book today than it was in 2018. It’s a better book. I’ve had periods of writing steadily, and other periods of writing a lot and then taking some space.
UPDATE: I just checked my notebook and I started writing this book in 2016. Sooo, I guess it’s been 5 years. That explains a few things…
Aaand, a lot of the space I’ve taken from the book hasn’t been intentional. It certainly hasn’t been empowered. I’ve just put the book up on a shelf, telling myself after the fact that I needed a break. I suspect that I actually did need a break, but by not actually deciding up front, I just acquiesced into a prolonged state of not taking action but feeling guilty and ashamed about it.
That is not patience.
Complacence is defined as “a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.”
For the record, complacence doesn’t necessarily mean that you think you’re the bee’s knees and there’s no growth available to one so advanced and enlightened, but simply that you’ve stopped letting yourself care about the goal or thing in question.
Not giving a damn is a great strategy to release the discomfort of desire: if you don’t care about it, then you won’t want it anymore, which means you can stop striving and instead convince yourself that you’re satisfied with the status quo.
Patience means you can wait; complacence means you’ve given up waiting and you’ve given up wanting. You’re not waiting anymore, because you’ve given up hope, which likely means you’ve given up taking any action, too.
Do you know what the difference between being patient and being complacent looks like for you? Maybe a better question is whether you know how it feels.
I can tell you that when I’m practicing patience, I’m on purpose. I’m clear on my goals and aware of the milestones I’ve set to achieve them. I’m clear on the time it will take, even if I’m frustrated by how long that will be.
When I’m practicing patience, I’m at cause for what I’m creating, doing and experiencing.
When I’ve gotten tired of waiting, however, I can slip and slide my way into complacency. This is a great reflex for self preservation, because it will make the discomfort of waiting go away. But it’s kind of like hypothermia: when you start to feel comfortable, you might be headed for trouble. You stop caring and you just kind of fall asleep.
Same goes for your goals and dreams, if you’ve let them go stale.
When I start to become complacent, I become a victim to whatever is happening, or more accurately, not happening. When I’m complacent about my life or projects, I am at the effect of my circumstances and especially my feelings about them. I feel frustrated, but instead of being frustrated with my progress, I’m more likely to complain about my circumstances or my character, which has never changed much of anything in my world, especially my circumstances or my character.
Complacence convinces you that there’s nothing that you can do. Complacence persuades you to give up. Complacence makes it harder to locate your desire, or to feel much at all, because it numbs longing and anaesthetizes action.
Patience allows you to push through discomfort, instead of paralyzing you. Patience is what allows you to create a timeline, with enough milestones and small enough steps that you can actually make progress. Patience enables you to improve your relationships, your well-being, your career and your overall experience of life, without convincing you to settle for good enough, especially when it really isn’t.
Patience and complacence might sound similar, but rhyming is all they have in common.
The good news is that once you can identify complacency in yourself, then you have some options. All you need to do to step out of complacency is remind yourself of your WHY, and then take any action.
What is something for you that you know you’re being complacent about? Look in all the areas of your life: relationships, well-being, career, adventure.
Where are the places that you are settling for how it is, when you want something different?
What’s one tiny step you could take to get out of the rut of complacency in parts of your life that matter to you?