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Is Being Patient As Useful As Taking Action?

My sincere thanks to all those wonderful people who offered suggestions for a title for my new book. Your interest and support is heart-warming. I’ll have more to say about the book soon. The following guest post is from Stuart Mills of Limitless Believing.  

Throughout our entire lives, we’re repeatedly faced with a choice – we can take action, or we can be patient.

Whether it’s making major life decisions such as ‘what career to pursue’ or ‘whether to have children’, to the simpler decisions such as ‘what to have for dinner tonight’, we must either take action or be patient. But when should we act, and when should we wait?

Despite the common consensus that we should always take action, symbolised by advertising slogans such as “Just do it” and “Hunger? Why wait?” there is good reason for being patient. I don’t believe we must always ‘do it now’.

To illustrate this, allow me to share my experience.

Feeling Guilty For Being Patient

When I was younger, I loved to stare out of windows.

I wasn’t expecting to see anything in particular, but I loved the very act of ‘looking’. I used to watch people go by, or look out at fields and trees when I was on holiday. I didn’t need to do anything else but ‘look’ – that’s where the thrill lay.

I got told off by my teachers or my parents for not doing what I was supposed to be doing. Teachers thought I was being lazy, and said I would fall behind if I didn’t keep up with my studying, and my parents implied that I needed to take the initiative more often if I wanted to succeed in life.

Both groups of people thought that I wouldn’t get very far if I continued to be idle and avoid taking action.

I was repeatedly fed the message that inaction is bad and action is good, and so I developed a guilt trip whenever I started contemplating or looking out of the window. I began to force myself to take action even when I was unsure it was the right decision. Instead of practicing patience, I rushed into courses and jobs that weren’t right for me.

I had begun to sacrifice the side of myself that enjoyed contemplation for the side that took action. In other words, I was unbalanced.

Gradually over the years, I have begun to gain a better understanding of patience, and when to take action. Most of the time, my instincts are better tuned to ‘know’ when to think about something and when to do it, but some people aren’t even aware of the values of patience. So how do we know when we should act, and when we should be patient?

When Should We Act?

There’s no disguising the fact that taking action is ‘crucial’ to a successful life, otherwise we’d be forever waiting for the universe, or God, to give us what we desire. So when should we act?

• When we have to act – when we feel compelled to act, such as in emergencies, or when there is no other option. These are the extreme situations of action, where being patient could be fatal.

• When we’re confident in our choice – when we have weighed up all of the alternatives, and have decided that we will be making the right decision if we act. For example, when we are choosing a car insurance provider, or when we are choosing a new supermarket to shop at.

• When we are practicing for an event – when we have to take repeated action in order to better our skills at something. This could be training for a sporting event such as a tennis event or a marathon, or it could be working on your website building abilities in order to create new websites.

When Should We Be Patient?

Although many people in today’s society dislike ‘patience’, it plays an important role in our society. Before famous architects and inventors created their products and designs, they had to wait for the details of their design to come to them. Before entrepreneurs created their businesses, they had to wait for the results they needed to show up before they could progress. So when should we practice patience?

• When we’re unsure – when we aren’t sure which decision to take is best, or which direction to move in. This usually involves being patient and avoiding taking any action that may lead to errors or mistakes.

• When we want to learn more – when we wish to discover more about our options before we choose one. This could when we’re choosing a course or degree and wish to learn which is best for us, or when we simply want to learn more about a hobby or subject for our own interest and information.

• When we want to think – when we want to reflect, contemplate, or simply think. This could when we have a problem and we need time to work it out internally, or it could be when we take stock of our lives and see whether it’s where we want to be or not. We could even just wish to stare out of the window, like I used to do.

Patience, like action, is a vital component of a successful and fulfilled life – by cultivating it, we can learn to listen and wait before we move. But how do we choose between taking action, and being patient? Is there a set situation when we should take action and another when we should wait?

I don’t think there is.

Each Individual Is Different

There are those who are action-orientated, those who prefer to ensure everything is in place before they move, and those who are somewhere in between. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to behave in each situation, but only what seems right to the individual.

What decides whether action or patience is needed for each situation is the choice of the individual, rather than the situation itself. Each individual will make their choices from their own personalities and beliefs, rather than the situation they’re faced with. For me, I know I can choose to be patient just as easily as I can choose to act – I’ll decide at the time which is best.

I believe that patience should be regarded with as much importance as taking action. The two are both useful, and to sacrifice one for the other is to lose out on a complete way of thinking.

What do you think? Do you prefer to be an individual of action or do you prefer the virtues of patience? If you prefer action, have you ever found yourself choosing to wait before moving? If you prefer patience, have you ever found yourself taking action before you’ve thought things through?

Limiting beliefs affect what you believe in, and what you think you’re capable of. If you want to learn more about them and how to break them, visit Stuart Mills at Limitless Believing.

Picture credit: shesnuckinfuts


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