- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

Harnessing the Virtue of Patience

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned running this blog is the value of patience. And for a 19-year old, this hasn’t been an easy lesson to learn. I think it’s fairly common for people in their twenties to get impatient. If you set a target for 5 years, that means you’ll need to wait another 25% of your entire life before it happens.

Because of this, I’m not surprised by people my age who drop out of University because they can’t invest the extra 2-3 years to get a degree. When opportunities seem to be racing by and life is going at 100 mph, it’s hard to slow down and stick to a long-term plan.

How I’m Learning Patience

I have a bias towards getting stuff done. The upside is that it lets me work like a maniac if I care about something. The downside is that I hate waiting. Being able to work hard is great, but if you lack patience you’re not going to last, believe me.

From an outside perspective, this blog’s growth seems fairly rapid. In two years I went from 0 visitors to a medium-sized blog that might be able to supply full-time income soon.

But from the inside perspective, growth can often feel painfully slow. I’ve had stretches of months where nothing changed. And when you’re writing several thousand words a week of content, trying everything you can to improve, getting through plateaus can be difficult.

Add to this the rapid growth of other blogs, and your patience starts to shake. I’m not a jealous person, so I was thrilled when many of my blogging friends made it big. But, when you’ve hit a plateau and people around you are riding on a wave of improvement, it takes a great deal of discipline to stick to your strategy.

I’m relating my experiences with patience because I feel most people have been in similar situations. We’ve all had bursts of success that feel like they will never end. And also plateaus where you put out a gallon of sweat and get nowhere. Riding the waves of success is easy. It’s having the patience to make it through plateaus that is hard.

How to Harness Your Patience

Learning the value of patience hasn’t been easy, but I’ve found a few different perspectives that make it easier to harness. By taking on one of these viewpoints, it makes it easier to wait:

1) Don’t Benchmark

I’ve noticed in my own life that success usually comes in spurts, even when the effort you put in is constant. I’ll get a huge traffic boost one week and nothing the next three, even though I put the same amount of work in the entire time. I’ll increase my strength at the gym in a month, even though I go regularly all year.

Benchmarking can be useful for setting goals, but don’t compare the rate of improvement. Improvement comes in spurts, so if you hit a plateau, it doesn’t mean you’re failing. When the spurts happen is mostly a matter of luck, so you should focus on being prepared when they come.

2) If You Don’t Enjoy What You Do, Stop.

You can hate your job and still love a promotion. But if you hate your job, can you make it through the plateaus? Don’t let the small bursts of success become your reason for being. If you care about the process, you can still enjoy yourself when the improvement stops.

Enjoyment also helps you focus in the present moment. Being focused on the now is the best way to be patient.

3) Set Your Plans, Then Stop Worrying About Them

The biggest saboteur of patience is doubt. It isn’t the waiting, but the fear that you are doing everything wrong, that causes most people to give up. If you knew with a 100% probability that success would happen, patience wouldn’t be a problem. But if you honestly believe with 100% certainty, you’re deluding yourself.

Instead of trying to delude myself into believing success is inevitable, I take a different approach. This is the “set it and forget it” method:

  1. When you hit a rut, brainstorm a list of your options. This will give you the resources to come up with a plan.
  2. Once you’ve come up with a large enough list, pick one of those options and go with it.
  3. Unless you get new information, focus on your existing plan.

Make the best decision you can, then get to work. Of course, if new information comes up, you can change your strategy. But this prevents the 90% of worries that aren’t caused by new information, but by failing to decide on the old information.

Is Patience Always a Virtue?

There are definitely times when quitting early can help. Getting out of a bad relationship instead of waiting it through. Quitting a bad job when you aren’t working your passion. Leaving an overcrowded industry to do something original. Being stubborn isn’t helpful.

But once you’ve made a decision, patience helps you see it through.