“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
— Arnold H. Glasow
Recently, I was inspired by a question from one of my students and posted a video response on Facebook. His question was, “How can I be more patient on the path?”
It’s a question that many people ask.
The ancient Hawaiians believed that aho nui —patient perseverance—was one of basics if you want to live a healthy life. Yet when I look around, the vast majority of people these days don’t seem to have much patience, much less perseverance. They want immediate gratification, instant health, microwave-fast achievement in whatever goals they have. But life and nature aren’t designed that way. As Hal Borland wrote years ago, “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”
Patient perseverance doesn’t mean that you just hang out and wait passively. Aho nui is an active process where you need to be fully present and alive in the current moment. But many folks seem to live either in the past or the future rather than their placing attention on now.
People who get caught up focusing only on the future have trouble with the patience part of aho nui. They dream about what they could do or have or be as soon as that shiny new job, new relationship, new car, new whatever shows up. Happiness, fulfillment, and even feeling good about themselves is always “out there” somewhere. “Someday” becomes more important than today. (Have you noticed that you can never get to “someday?” It’s always out of reach and one step ahead.)
If you’re always waiting for the good stuff of the future and not appreciating what’s right in front of you, of course you’re impatient!
People stuck in the past often have trouble with the perseverance part of aho nui. They constantly re-hash prior events, especially failures and disappointments. They give those events meaning that is often negative and create stories around those events. These stories then form into rock solid beliefs, and those beliefs color current experience and shape actions and reactions. Rather than experiencing each new event as fresh and new, these folks just re-live and recycle old events. Their “Now” is more like “Then 2.0.”
When your mind is full of the limitations and failures of the past, it’s hard to keep up enthusiasm and forward momentum that perseverance requires.
So how can we develop patient perseverance, aho nui?
One of the first things to understand is that life is the journey, not the destination. That moment in the past when you made a mess of things isn’t half as important as what you chose to do next: Did you learn from it? Grow from it? And that sparkling goal in the future isn’t nearly as important as who you become on the way to it.
In my Empower Your Life workshops, one of the first things we tackle is releasing the past and its limiting beliefs and negative emotions using techniques like the Mental and Emotional Release® process. With this work, we’re letting past events stay in the past while retaining the learnings and valuable insights from those experiences.
Next, we have students develop a version of their future selves. Without their negative prior beliefs steering the ship, they now get to determine just what kind of life they want for themselves. We help them focus in on their core values and what makes them feel alive and aligned.
Once they’ve developed a clear vision of that future self, we zero in on “What can you do and who can you be today to support that future self?” In other words, with that vision in mind, where are you on your journey and what are your next steps? How can you do each step to the best of your ability? How can you be your best self on this journey today?
Think of planting a crop. You don’t just throw the seed in the ground and expect to harvest the next day. No, you first make sure that you have the right seed then you prepare the proper soil for that seed. You pay attention to what it needs to keep growing every day—water, sun, nutrients—and you provide that. You don’t yank up the seedlings every other day but stay patient and attentive until the plant is ready. This is aho nui.
“Patience doesn’t mean making a pact with the devil of denial, ignoring our emotions and aspirations. It means being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that’s unfolding, rather than ripping open a budding flower or demanding a caterpillar hurry up and get that chrysalis stage over with.”
— Sharon Salzberg
To your TOTAL empowerment!