What do you do when you want to look up a random fact, see what your friends are up to, or find a delicious recipe? I’m going to guess you check your phone, computer, kindle, or iPad and quickly get whatever answer it is you were looking for. The internet gives us multiple means of getting what we want as soon as we want it. For the most part, the ability to obtain information immediately is amazing. The problem is that people have become accustomed to getting what they want so quickly that many of us have forgotten what it means to be patient.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, quit smoking, perfect your piano playing skills, meet the right “one”, or be happier overall, chances are you want immediate gratification. I’m not blaming you; I can get impatient too. However, this is problematic because big changes can’t and don’t happen instantly. The truth is that we’re often left feeling stuck in limbo. Limbo doesn’t mean you’ve lost all control but it does mean you’re not yet where you want to be. Nobody wants to hear that long-term sustainable change takes time but knowing that that’s the truth will help make the waiting period easier.
When someone doesn’t see results instantly it is that much harder to keep holding onto confidence that they will get to where they want to be. Losing faith in reaching your end goal will most likely lead to giving up. This is when it is most important to have patience and remind yourself that results take time. You didn’t become addicted to cigarettes overnight or gain ten pounds over the course of two days so how can you expect to change those habits in a matter of minutes? If you’re unhappy or anxious it will take time to figure out how long you’ve truly felt that way and who or what is causing your pain. There may be things you can do in the moment to start to feel better but long term change takes more time than a few short weeks.
One of my favorite sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother, is airing its series finale tonight. For those of you who are not familiar with the show the premise is that Ted, the main character, is telling his kids the story of how he met their mother. The series is 9 seasons long and the audience didn’t even find out who the mother was until the last episode of season 8. During the series as Ted searches for the love of his life he spends time with friends, begins and ends romantic relationships, changes jobs, and learns various lessons about life. Even though he feels desperate to meet his wife he doesn’t stop enjoying life as he looks for her. The show teaches people that getting to where you want to be not only takes time and patience but also can and should be fun. Throughout the series, everything that Ted experienced, both happy and sad, were ultimately leading him to what he wanted all along.
I’m a big proponent of having patience but I’m also someone who wants to help you tolerate the in between time, the time from knowing what you want to actually getting what you want. The best way to get through a period of waiting is to try and look at the process as an adventure of its own. Find fun along the way to achieving your goals. If you want to lose weight consider finding a friend to go walking around town with or try a fun new dance class at your gym on your own. When you’re looking to meet that special person do things that you enjoy while being open to talking to whoever you meet along the way. If you’re trying to quit smoking maybe pick up a fun hobby that relaxes you in a healthier way than a cigarette does.
Another way to gain patience is through compassion. Whenever we’re trying to learn new habits or break old ones it is imperative that we find compassion for ourselves throughout the process. If you can hold onto the belief that change takes time you will be better able to manage the period where you feel in limbo. On the other hand, criticizing yourself for not being perfect right away simply harms or altogether stops the process of change that you’re working towards obtaining. Think about how you can be kind to yourself and then let yourself relax a little.
I’m not suggesting that it’s easy to gain patience or compassion but I do believe that it gets easier if you can have fun while simultaneously working towards getting what you want. Enjoying the in between stage is ultimately what will keep you going.