Patience is Not Easy

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At the moment my time horizon is short, and the longer view is decidedly fluid. I feel that I am in a place where I just need to go step by step, and this can have a heavy and plodding feel.

At the moment I am in a place that I don’t find easy. I’m someone whose way of deciding is to work back from the future — not so much forecasting as backcasting. Knowing my preferred future I then want to start moving toward it.

This way of doing things has difficulties with a couple of situations: not having a sense of where I’ll be going in the future and not being able to start moving towards it. At the moment my time horizon is short, and the longer view is decidedly fluid. I feel that I am in a place where I just need to go step by step, and this can have a heavy and plodding feel.

In this situation it is easy to get frustrated, resentful and just plain grumpy. This is not pleasant either for myself or for those around me. While I don’t exactly enjoy this situation, I have found ways to live more happily with it.


It helps me to remind myself that the future probably isn’t entirely fluid, that it may not be certain but that it is a choice of options that I want to pursue, and also that I do have some control over the kind of choices I make and the future that I create.


Having a sense of my preferences is also helpful. If I know my preferences I at least have clarity and a sense of orientation. With a sense of our preferences, disorientation passes; it may be replaced by frustration or a centred peacefulness.

Countdown, Or, It’s Easier After Half Way

When I am in a plodding place it can help me to have a sense that each step gets me closer to the goal of the end of the journey. This can be as simple as crossing off days on the calendar (or on computer you can set up a counter that lets you know how long until something happens). One trick I have found useful is to realise that after half way it feels easier. This means that the more half ways you can organise, the better. If the date is a month away then two weeks is the half way point, but if you can set up weekly goals then the half way point is only ever three or four days away. It may sound silly, but it has made my life easier.

Nice Stuff: Rewards for Small Achievements

Pretending that we enjoy what we don’t usually doesn’t work. The cost is lots of energy used to stop us from being aware of what we dislike (which for something that probably won’t work isn’t a terribly good deal).
I have found it more helpful to give myself rewards for small successes. Just sitting still can be a great reward for getting through the day — as can a warm bath, a square of chocolate or phoning a friend. Little things can give us a little boost along; and over time little things can add up. Perhaps they won’t add up to our liking what we don’t like; but they can add up to our getting through stuff more easily.

It’s Not So Bad

Chris Edgar in a recent post talked about a question he uses to reduce stress. It is: Am I really in danger right now? Usually the answer is no, which helps him realise that the stress isn’t necessary. In reality if we don’t make this appointment or meet this goal, it won’t be a disaster: no one will die, and probably it won’t affect a valued relationship at all.

Often under stress we lose a sense of proportion — our fight or flight reaction kicks in as if our life were in danger. It can help to remind ourselves that usually this isn’t the case.

Focusing On the Physical Present

A lot of our problems with the future can be solved by focusing on the present. When we focus on what we are doing we often find that it is not painful in itself. Often we find that our problem with what we are doing isn’t the activity itself but that it is just not our preferred activity — I want to be getting on with living my preferred future already!

(At higher levels we can even apply this to contemplating our pain: finding where it is, what the sensation is and so on. This can be important for martial artists and others who may be in genuinely dangerous and painful situations).


Finally there is using the time between here and there to prepare for there. It may be that what we are doing in the future will be different to what we are doing now. It may require a different skill set or an expansion of our existing skills. In which case we may be able to prepare by learning these new skills. If it will mean living in a different place it may be useful to find out about that place. It is likely that we will be able to do something so that we are better prepared for when the future day arrives.

These are the ways I’ve found to deal with my impatience and finding a reasonably pleasant way to wait for my desired future. I would like to hear your ideas, too. You may be a much more patient person than I am. Whether you are someone who finds it easy to work slowly and steadily or someone who is rash and impulsive, I’d like to hear what you do to cope with those difficult times when patience is required.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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