The Virtue of Impatience

The Virtue of Impatience

Several years ago, I argued against waiting for the right moment. With anything in life.

There is a voice speaking to me. It doesn’t want me to start writing. It never wants me to start doing anything.

At the time of writing, I was bound to the belief that thinking is the answer to all of life’s problems, but sometimes we have moments of transcendence and I argued, clumsily, that impatience is a virtue.

The idea was introduced owing to a YouTube advert from the fad phone era. You might remember those. The LG Chocolate, the Motorola Razr (not to dish out disrespect on the hall-of-fame worthy Sony Ericsson CyberShot). The Samsung Jet and the actor selling the product, suggested that impatience is “in first, on time”.

Of course, we know that time waits for no one. If you wait long enough, opportunities pass you by. To know a thing though, is not always to live it. The ubiquitous dramatic arc structure of television and film supports unknowingly the concept of a “perfect time”, but in truth most people do not even know what that looks like.

They expect the planets to align, but they are not looking up at the stars. In other words, they do not recognise the nature of a vision unless it is formulated into a plan, but life cannot be planned for.

The Journey of a Thousand

Starting isn’t easy. Going in blind is scary. With no frame of reference, it’s fight or flight. We either retreat and reinforce the behaviour of avoiding our concerns, or we battle against the voice. The voice that is so intent on sabotaging us.

The voice of self-doubt, (if it even is a voice) is often a result of errant hypothesising, of pondering the permutations of a situation. In a world tending to disorder, it is all too simple to expect you, a lone meatbag, to be more than making up the numbers. You’re fatefully bound to the same decaying matter, as everything else. That’s at least the mental trap.

This want to consider is a useful faculty if oriented for self-kindness. Think about what can go right at least in the sense of what you assume is best, instead of wrong, and that will set you straight – so the self-improvement advocates assert. It is not a bad place to start at all, but I invite to you think of something else that goes a little further than the ties to consequence (the new-age Stoics have a lot to answer for).

A journey of a thousand li starts beneath one’s feet.

Lao Tzu

The point is not to arrive, but to walk. That is hard. There is almost a trust in aimlessness attached to the idea that seems circumspect. Surely it is the domain of man (or woman, Monty Python fans) to build and progress. You want to reach somewhere, so if someone asks you where you are, in Alan Watts style, there you have an answer. That holds as an equitable stance, at least for the last decade or so, but where we are going as a collective has no map, even though we are sure we are familiar with the land.

Therefore the impatient simply advance into the unknown. To take steps towards the uncharted, in the deployment of urgency. Not its unfinished cousin, haste. There is no wisdom found in rushing a process that cannot be escalated, but there is in leaping into something when fear is the uncertain doorstop. Why do we not start that thing we desire, when we are made of stars? The question is almost alchemical.

Take the first step, even if the market is saturated. Newsflash, unless you are first it always is. All you see is competition, until you are a customer. Then nothing is good enough. That is how we evolve new markets within existing ones. The market decides if you are good enough, and you decide if its good enough for yourself. Some people have written tomes that will never see public consumption. A few steps later, who knows what we might create for ourselves.

Life on Pause

Over the last eighteen months, tangible health concerns aside, the willingness to live is recognisably muted, save for those labelled as rebellious upstarts in politicised terms. The grains of sand, perilously slipping through our fingers, as we congratulate ourselves for being obedient.

How would historical figures evaluate the times? Perhaps they would see impiety where we see prudence—one so heavily cultivated as a manufactured response to a news cycle. I am not to make light of genuine risk, but there is an unseen plight, an inwardness uncommon to the outgoing, a malaise unencumbered in the ambitious. How many of us have been too patient?

Time operates in our collective perception in cycles. Whether we stay the course, or seize the wheel is not merely an act of our will, but our willingness to coincide with these cycles. The start of the spring brings forth a burst of initiating energy. Last year, this sprouting impetus was snuffed out before it hit stride, but not this time.

The world starts to open up; shops and businesses go through the motions, emerging from a protracted twilight. These periods are the time to act, to be decisive. It is within our power to disregard this moment, to act later, but why work against the grain? Why do we not hold in subtle reverence the seasonality of life, as it might carry with it its own terms of patience.

We have to know forbearance when progress feels like wading through tar, or people have conspicuously decided to conspire against us (work environments are often lightning rods for these periods – a sense of ‘shared disharmony’). When we run into a smooth, easy flow of decision-making it is best to hold on for dear life and ride it right into the future. How many summer holidays are still on the backburner?

A Clash of Styles

“Darling, you got to let me know  Should I stay or should I go?” 

The confounding dichotomy is echoed in punk songs and among gambling tables. The croupier asks if we’ll stick or twist. In the face of our best predictions, we do not know if the next card will be the six we are after or a picture card. Then of course, we are thinking about the outcome, not the essence of the moment. The experience.

The iterative delight of impatience is that I would not be writing this had I not written that initial post on the subject. Our first steps seem uncertain until we realise, we have already progressed, however minor, from the starting point. A thirty-day challenge kickstarted my online writing career, and even after those thirty days I was illuminated with the notion there are indeed things to write about.

In consulting the Cambridge Dictionary, impatience is “the feeling of being annoyed by someone’s mistakes or because you have to wait”. Therein lies a salient, emotional core. The will towards a desire is embedded, and in channelling this desire, we can move mountains before the cause emerges. The petulance is found when it is directed towards others, but in applying the focus internally there is a sense of great zeal to be found.

Patience as I once said “acknowledges that things worth waiting for take time”, but impatience puts you in the shop window for patience to take its hold. You can be patient in the face of waiting for a call-back, but if you did not seize the moment when you first saw the application would that experience have risen from the potential? It is at least uncertain. Impatience offers clear benefits if harnessed correctly:

“On the other hand, impatience can serve us well at times.  Impatience is in our emotional-behavioral repertoire for a reason: When hunter-gatherers spent two days pursuing game and found nothing, it was good to grow impatient.”

Psychology Today

It is the principal of acting before our minds step in to assault us with doubt. The moment a man sees a woman he wants to talk to, he should. In doing so he will espouse a natural social nous, and in thinking about it, she’ll likely know he has and all efforts towards an organic conversation fail paradoxically.

Impatience holds its virtue in a restless desire for self-direction, something to embody. A nagging zeal upon waking where you want to get up as fast as you can just so you can see where the day takes you. Patience rules all that we have no control over. When the question is “should I stay or should I go”, impatience suggests that you already know.

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