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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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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna August 2, 2012 at 6:47 am

I also had to re learn patience.. I was a very relaxed carefree child with
A definately trust that things unfold naturally like the seasons and the weather and
You must go with the flow of that; but my family and up bringing was surrounded by people told me to hurry up and take action, from choosing food to the way I walked. Eventually I stopped trusting my instinct what was right for me – this I believe is the key to why we need patience ; eg you cannot rush, act and force a relationship ; it kills it !

Reply

Stuart - Limitless Believing August 3, 2012 at 1:18 am

Hi Joanna,

Thank you for the valuable input. It’s a shame that your family’s pressure and your surroundings eventually forced you to change your natural ways, but sometimes we have to depart from what we’re used to in order to gain an appreciation of what we have. You have a wonderful ability for being ‘in the flow’, and by moving away from it, you’ve gained a better understanding of it.

Thanks for commenting Joanna!
Stuart – Limitless Believing recently posted..How Do You Know When You Have Enough?

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judy August 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

Thanks for the great article. It got me thinking. While I’ve been patient to build my business of bookcoaching online for 12 years to get to the high success I’m at now, it did take all of those years to do it. But, not waiting for things to happen, but by being strategic-connecting with influencial people and taking the actions (marketing and promoting) to atract more of my audience. Now every day 150 unique visitors come to my site and get all the valuable free resources I offer and some pay for my coaching and products too.
Patience + Srategy + Action = Success

Reply

Stuart - Limitless Believing August 3, 2012 at 1:22 am

Hi Judy,

I agree, it’s about finding the right balance. It’s not wise to continually ‘do, do, do’, and not take a step back. Similarly, it’s also not wise to sit back and do nothing whilst opportunities pass you by.

Congratulations on your success with your bookcoaching business, and I hope your success formula continues to work out for you!

Thanks for commenting Judy!
Stuart – Limitless Believing recently posted..How Do You Know When You Have Enough?

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Chu Nam August 3, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I like your word “Patience, like action, is a vital component of a successful and fulfilled life”
I know that I will get anything if I do that.
With someone else, What stop you do something?
Thank you

Reply

Stuart - Limitless Believing August 4, 2012 at 3:47 am

Hi Chu Nam,

Thank you for your kind words! Keep practicing patience as much as action, and learning to wait with moving forward. Neither should be sacrificed for the other.

Take care 🙂
Stuart – Limitless Believing recently posted..Why Self-Reflection Is So Important For You

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Phil D. Malmstrom August 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm

This was a wonderful article Christopher.

You’ve given a beautifully balanced view of this I think; Many times in our “rush to market” society, we push through the ever-important need to exercise patience in favor of simply forging ahead. Unfortunately, more often than not we sacrifice a vital piece of the process by doing so; the gaining of wisdom and perspective. While we certainly learn by doing, in many situations we learn just as much or more by knowing when to be still, and trying to find God’s schedule in our lives.

Thank you for sharing this my dear friend!

Have a Blessed Day!

~Phil
Phil D. Malmstrom recently posted..One Brick at a Time

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Stuart - Limitless Believing August 9, 2012 at 8:35 am

Hi Phil,

Thank you for your kind words, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

Wisdom is a vital part of life, and it’s apparent everywhere we look. When we learn from mistakes, that’s wisdom. When we trust our hearts, that’s wisdom. When we comfort our partner or child, that’s wisdom. It’s important to use wisdom consciously, and practice it regularly.

Take care!
Stuart – Limitless Believing recently posted..Why Self-Reflection Is So Important For You

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Phil D. Malmstrom August 9, 2012 at 8:45 am

Thank you Stuart, and my apologies for not realizing this was in fact a guest post and not one of Christopher’s pieces.

And I agree, wisdom is certainly an important part of our lives and is obtained in many ways. As we acquire wisdom, I believe it leads us to draw closer to a “living balance” within ourselves, and helps us draw closer to God’s plan for us as well.

Have a Blessed Day!

~Phil
Phil D. Malmstrom recently posted..One Brick at a Time

Paulina June 25, 2013 at 11:47 am

naturally like your web site but you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very troublesome to tell the reality on the other hand I’ll surely come back again.

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