Developing the Virtue of Patience

People who engage my services as a life coach do so because they want to be “successful” and happy—to live their lives to the fullest. As you can imagine, many of these people are already seen by their peers as “super achievers.”

Over the years, I have also noticed that many I work with face similar challenges, and one of those is patience—especially with themselves.

Just this week, I have discussed the topic of patience with three clients! One, the CEO of a large company, told me he has a list of 25 goals that all have to be completed “yesterday.” Another, who just earned an MBA, showed me his two-page list of current goals that included this gem, “Read all my books by year’s end.” (We obviously talked about that.) The third, a woman who is starting a business, expressed feelings of overwhelm with all that has to be done and, at the same time, impatience with the time it will take.

Nature provides us with wisdom when it comes to pursuing our dreams. A plot of fertile soil can grow many types of plants successfully—but not everything at once. Plants have differing spacing, watering, lighting, etc. requirements. Likewise, we humans are capable of accomplishing many wonderful things during our lives—but we can’t do everything (our lives are short), and the goals we do choose to pursue can’t be done all at once! As one wise person said, “I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.”

Anyone who has ever grown a garden knows that in order to obtain a bountiful harvest “patient persistence” is required in tending to the plants. In fact, patient persistence is how we achieve goals in any area of our lives.

It took Michelangelo (considered by many to be the greatest artist who has ever lived) five years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and three years to carve his statue of David. What did he say? “Genius is eternal patience.”

Speaking of genius, Sir Isaac Newton, author of “Principia Mathematica” (which describes the three laws of motion), co-creator of calculus, and inventor of the Newtonian Reflector (telescope), humbly said, “If I have done the public any service, it is due to my patient thought.”

I learned about patient persistence when I was a 14-year-old piano player. I was honored by an invitation to play Ernesto Lecuona’s original version of “Malaguena” on a grand piano in front of over a thousand people at a state function. It took me months to master that beautiful—but intricate—piece of music. My reward was the thunderous applause of the audience when I finished.

Having had the privilege of teaching and coaching thousands of people, I am convinced that every human being is born with greatness inside. I am also convinced that in order to discover, develop, and share that greatness with the world, patient persistence is required. We learn to be patient the same way we learn to be loving and kind—by first being patient with ourselves.