Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lesson #24: Patience Is Your Best Friend

I was asked recently what I perceived as some of the larger cultural shifts of the past twenty years.  There are certainly obvious external changes, such as the advent of the Internet and an exceedingly democratic access to global information.  But the biggest psychological changes I have seen have to do with the social reduction in patience. As a culture we are no longer willing to wait for what we want and have faith that rewards will follow.  From my perspective, this has resulted in an increase of anxiety, frustration, and resentment that people experience when they are not instantly gratified.

I started learning the value of patience when I began attending the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1989.  During my first lengthy stay away from home I experienced a fairly anxious meltdown, and for the first time (but not the last) sought psychological help.  I was paired up with an incredibly wise and comforting therapist who not only helped me make sense of confusing issues, but also recommended I try being "patient" around making friends and feeling comfortable in these new surroundings.

To be honest, I think "patience" is the last word any 18-year-old ever wants to hear.  I did not want to wait, I wanted to feel confident and secure NOW! However,  what I came to understand over the next decade is that peace does not come from getting what you want, it comes from having patience while you pursue getting what you want.  It comes from having faith that things will ultimately work out the way they are meant to work out, even if they are not "perfect." There is no need to rush something, because I can choose to experience peace at any time.

This lesson has been of incredible value.  It has allowed me to be present in relationships and make mindful choices about whom I spend time with.  It has enabled me to stay in jobs which ultimately led to promotions and satisfying opportunities.  Essentially, patience has taught me that I have no idea how anything "should" look, so I may as well relax and just be present.

I fear that in the current culture of instant communication, texts, cell phones, email chats, that the value of patience and waiting may be falling by the wayside.  I recommend to people of all ages to consider examining how they can bring a little more patience and stillness into their personal and professional interactions.  Doing so opens up one to experience much more enriching and joyful lives.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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