“He that can have patience, can have what he will.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

Patience provides us with great inner balance, a strong sense of mental-emotional endurance, of focus upon our goals and priorities in life and so much more.

As we have explored before on DaveUrsillo.com, an over-reliance upon patience threatens to turn the valued virtue into a crutch of indifference: a reason to hesitate, a reluctance to act.

If we depend too highly upon the old adage “patience is a virtue” to provide us with what we want in life, we forget that we possess the power of choice — that, no matter what amount of patienceis required to endure the time that must pass before our goals and dreams are realized, it is ultimately only by our choosing that we will ever get there.

A simple and practical way to nurture a stronger sense of patience is to realize that ordinary moments in our lives that cause us difficulty, inconvenience, anger, disappointment, and so on, function as real-life opportunities to practice patience. And, what we realize through these experiences is that most of our impatience is rooted in a lack of perspective on the events or people that are causing our feelings of angst.

Shift Perspective, Achieve Patience

Oftentimes, the natural cause of our impatience is derived from a limited perspective. Having a limited perspective is understandable. We see the world from a limited viewpoint, with only two eyes and one brain. Our natural perspective is a singular one. Thus, the enemy that causes our narrow vantage-point of life is less willful ignorance, and more one of naivete.

But as we begin to realize that our instinctive perspective on life situations is limited, we can begin to force the workings of our mind to consider interactions with others in different ways, from alternative perspectives. This method of shifting perspective is no different than “putting yourself into someone else’s shoes.” The idea is to get outside of our own heads and try to look at situations and interactions from a different angle, outside of our own heads. Shift perspective, achieve greater patience. Life provides us with ample opportunities to work on developing a stronger sense of patience. It is up to us to shift our natural and limited perspective of life’s situations to nurture greater patience. I caught myself growing impatient one day and sought to put the theory to the test…

The Story of a Green Ball

I found on that familiar park bench at the beach one weekend afternoon. In between looking down at the pages of my book, I looked up and saw a couple of young teenage boys playing with a green inflatable ball in the ocean. A few minutes later, the lifeguards tried to gain their attention, presumably trying to prevent the toy from being taken by the current and floating off into the bay.

Soon enough… there it went. The green ball began to float away, drifting with the current outside of the line of orange buoys that mark swimmers’ limits. One of the boys looked up to notice the ball, but neglected to do anything but yell to the other boy, “Oh no, there it goes!” “Really?” I thought to myself, “You’re just going to let the ball float away and end up becoming another piece of litter in the ocean. And on my favorite beach?!” My heart began to pace with frustration.

Miraculously, a short while later the current dragged the green ball back towards the buoy markers. This time, the father of the boys was within reaching distance of the green ball. He yelled in their direction, remarking that the ball was within reach and someone should get it. He didn’t. “Really…” I said to myself again. Moments later, the green ball was taken with the current away from the beach and deep out into the bay, becoming just a green speck in an ocean of deep blue.

As astounded as I was by the inability of the family to retrieve the green ball, I forced myself to attempt to shift perspective on the situation and nurture my sense of patience. It wasn’t easy. In this situation, I couldn’t “put myself into someone else’s shoes” because the folly of the event was less a matter of personal perspective than it was, objectively, an easy dilemma to solve: Grab the green ball, take it to shore.

As the green speck floated into the bay, I thought, maybe a family on their boat will stop to pick up the ball. Maybe it will be some minor consolation, or an absolute thrill, to some child in need of a boost. Maybe one of Rhode Island’s hardest working fishermen or quahogers will cut the engine to scoop the green ball from the ocean and present it as a surprise gift to their child, whom due to their grueling work hours they seldom see…

Diffuse the Ticking Bomb Within

I think I had reason to be frustrated by the blatant lack of competence exhibited by the boys who chose not to retrieve the ball, as well as their father (who apparently had set the example for them). It was a perfect example of indifference over action: how such a small effort could prevent more pollution from littering a majestic bay for hundreds or even thousands of years. As my imaginary thoughts raced, the shift in my perspective on the situation was not a matter of any of the scenarios being a realistic possibility. Rather, it was a simple and practical exercise in shifting perspective. A simple shift in perspective can do wonders for nurturing our sense of patience. Soon, with each “what if” thought that passed through my mind, my frustration towards the indifferent family and their polluting “my” bay lessened and lessened before fading away.

Often, the natural root of our impatience with others is a lack of perspective. Thus, practicing and nurturing a greater sense of patience will come from obliging ourselves to shift our initial perspective of a situation — to view it from a different angle, through an alternate mindset. Thankfully, life is rich with chances to nurture patience. Simply by living, we are provided with opportunities every day.