Perhaps I can wait

We have probably heard the statement; patience is a virtue sometime in our lives.  Where does this observation come from, and what does it mean?

There was a study I recently completed where scientists tested children’s ability to delay instant gratification for greater rewards if patience was exhibited.  In this study, the scientist had young children sit at a table giving them one marshmallow.  They could eat the treat immediately if they desired or wait for fifteen minutes and be given more.  The children were left alone with this simple decision placed before them, with the scientist observing from a different room.

Some immediately picked up the marshmallow and began eating it, then sat waiting for someone to reenter the room.  Others sat fidgeting, moving restlessly and clearly debating with themselves the question placed before them; eat it now or wait and get more.  Often this second group of individuals refrained from eating the treat for, on average, half the fifteen-minute time frame.  After waiting a fair amount of time, many reached out, grabbed the marshmallow, and began eating the treat.  They would take bites, eating the treat slower than the first group.  The last group, clearly having made up their mind from the beginning, sat patiently waiting for the fifteen minutes to pass.  They knew the time would pass quickly, and they would enjoy their reward.  This last group exhibiting patience represented nearly thirty percent of the entire group.

This study didn’t prove anything other than to suggest some kids will wait while others don’t, perhaps expecting instant gratification.  They settle for having less now, while others clearly see the advantage in a short demonstration of endurance.

What the scientist learned later by following up on the kids who had participated was fascinating to them.  They found that those who had waited for the greater reward and exercised patience achieved more in life.  The waiting group had more college degrees, higher-paying jobs, and higher net worth than nearly all the other groups.  These new findings certainly meant more as a study than the original findings, which only suggested something about immediate gratification.

Can we better understand why an exercise of patience could give one access to a better life?  Patience could be defined as staying power, endurance, persistence, or even tolerance.

In ancient times, Aristotle, a Greek philosopher living nearly 2300 years ago, wrote what today is defined as “The seven heavenly virtues.”  They include chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.  Each of these is a character trait each of us should desire; I find it necessary that patience was included on the list.

Aristotle is not the only one I have found who expounded on the virtues of possessing patience, but he is one of the earliest.  Patience is also taught in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other Eastern religions.

Christianity teaches that Jesus displayed unlimited patience, serving as an example to His followers.  Patience is believed to be a fruit of the spirit and invaluable as a virtue of life.

Judaism identifies patience as better than being a warrior.  Patience shows good sense and dispels conflict.

Islam faith promotes that one can better understand Allah through patience.  They believe struggles in life will not bear reward if the individual does not maintain a good spirit and endure through patience.

Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, have emphasized meditation.  I believe this observance teaches patience.  In Buddhism, patience is one of the “perfections.”  This list is much like the list of heavenly virtues.  The ten perfections are generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolution, loving-kindness, and equanimity.

If I take patience to a personal level and think of the times when waiting has proven beneficial to me, I think of a couple of examples.

1)     When I come across an item being marketed, say a new technical device, I often have buyer’s remorse if I go to the store with money and buy it.  I think to myself after using the device for a short time, I really don’t need this and wish later I had the money.  On the other hand, if I see this same item and go to the store with the mindset of learning about my real needs first; committing I will only buy it on my second visit.  I have found that having patience in my purchases proves to save me money, but I never suffer from buyer’s remorse.  When I buy, I know what the need is.

2)     In making decisions, particularly ones with lasting effects.  I have learned if I make a decision quickly, I often have unintended consequences.  If I face the decision with the knowledge I need to weigh out the values of differing paths, I come to a better conclusion.  Oddly enough, patience gives me more time as I don’t have to retrace the steps of ill-conceived ideas.

Patience is the secret to a successful life full of true happiness.  It is realizing when faced with difficult situations; maturity suggests taking time and enduring self-inflicted pressures to decide.

When I think of what I treasure, I realize these gifts came through patience.  As I recognize traits in those I believe are successful in life, I see extraordinary patience in their character.  I know their mode is to calculate the reasons and rationale behind all choices methodically.  They are never provoked to make quick conclusions on long-term decisions.

I can’t say I have always been successful in exercising patience but believe I have learned the principles of its value in my life.  My hope is after sharing this with you. I will be more aware of how valuable patience is in navigating life.  I believe that if I am able to exhibit patience in life in decisions, I will live better.


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