“I am learning the art of patience…it has taken me 49 years to figure out that things don’t always happen on the one year plan.”
I am amazed at how a simple reflection, realized only in the past couple of weeks but emerging in my consciousness over the past few years, has become one of the most significant aha moments of my life. The power of patience, I’ve come to understand, is part of transition, a significant by-product of what we do to transform our lives and ourselves when we know we are on the threshold of change.
This is quite a realization for someone who’s been a less-than-patient type-A since birth.
I went back to graduate school in my mid-40s and juggled work, parenting and studies to earn my M.F.A. in Creative & Professional Writing. My writing skills had served me well in the professional world and helped me grow a successful career in corporate communications. But there were other things to write about. I had a voice I wanted heard.
I also wanted more time with my family. I worked long hours and traveled. My work brought me satisfaction, but I was often stressed and exhausted.
My vision was clear. I would get my degree and become a widely published, wildly successful writer by the age of 50. I was so committed to achieving this goal that I left the corporate world to pursue my dream. I started a business to pay the bills and give me time to write. I founded a retreat to help other women realize their goals. And I began to submit my work.
But life got in the way. First, the recession forced me to spend more time marketing my business than writing. Second, my oldest sister, who was a breast cancer survivor, lost her eight-year battle with melanoma. Third, and most unexpectedly, I was diagnosed with a rare but benign breast disease called granulomatous lobular mastitis. I lost most of my breast. The recovery was slow, long and painful.
That didn’t stop this overachiever. I published an anthology of women’s stories about life transitions and pushed myself to complete the book in 15 months. I was proud of the book but felt I should be farther along. I got down on myself about my health and how it was slowing my progress.
I was anything but patient.
What I learned, however, is that success is sweet when it is earned, and being scared and vulnerable can teach us things about ourselves we didn’t know. Slowing down didn’t keep me from achieving my goals. In fact, it forced me to realize how much my aspirations meant to me and how much I was willing to put out.
If you’re tackling a transition in your life, here’s how you, too, can practice patience:
-Create a vision and plan. Timelines can be adjusted, but knowing where you’re going keeps you on track. Without a plan, unexpected events would have derailed me quickly.
-Remove self-imposed blinders. While it’s important to focus on the end goal, the more valuable prize is the learning. Publishing knowledge I acquired will serve me well on future projects.
-Practice acceptance. Not everything will go according to plan. I couldn’t control what happened to me but learned to accept victories and defeats and use them to move me forward.
-Write in a journal. Documenting your words helps process your thinking and capture lessons learned. I kept a notebook on my nightstand within easy reach.
-Put your health & well-being first. Your wellness is your greatest asset. A healthy mind, body and spirit build endurance and resilience. Restorative yoga helped me relax and slow down. Walking generated some of my clearest thinking.
Next year I turn 50. Perhaps I won’t yet be as widely published and wildly successful as I envisioned when I graduated. But I continue to work toward that goal.
As long as I’m happy and healthy the victories will come. I’m a more patient person. Not yet perfect at it. But I know I’ll get there in time.