In certain circles, people think that the path to accomplishment is to put something on a vision board, look at it every day, and wait. There are coaches who want to teach you exactly how to create your intention so that it will happen.
In other circles, the belief is that to accomplish something you must take massive action and push hard, and if you do that for a certain amount of time you’ll see your result. There are coaches in this group who promise you’ll get results in a short time if you simply do the things every day.
The end result is that in both groups, people are suffering.
As in most areas, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
The Distinction Between Patience and Persistence
JK Rowling had an idea for a story. A series of events — getting fired, divorced — left her destitute and on government assistance, and needing to support her young daughter.
Despite her circumstances, she showed up every day to sit in a coffee shop and write.
When she finished the book, she submitted it to publishers. Every publisher rejected her.
A literary agent took a chance on her, and Harry Potter became a runaway hit.
I recently heard this story as an example of patience.
This is where its helpful to clarify the distinction between patience and persistence.
Patience is a State of Mind
JK Rowling’s story illustrates the importance of persistence, not patience.
It may also illustrate patience, but we don’t know that. Only Rowling knows if she was patient.
Patience is a mindset. It isn’t always perceptible to outsiders.
Rowling may have been showing up to write while also agonizing over the futility of her efforts. She may have been filled with doubts, questioning daily when it’s going to happen?
This doubting and questioning is how we create our own suffering.
We would find patience much easier if we knew when things would happen.
I’ve had moments where I’ve said things like
I am being patient, but when is it going to happen?
Of course, we don’t know when it’s going to happen, because we don’t control the result. We control only our actions.
Persistence is About Action
The action we take is evidence of our persistence. Persistence is about doing the things you need to do while you’re waiting.
JK Rowling showed up to write every day, no matter what. She nurtured the story and her dreams and ideas. She didn’t just fold and take another job.
She demonstrated persistence.
Persistence and Patience Don’t Always Come Together
Over time, a steady trickle of water can hollow a stone. Without the persistent dripping of the water, no hole will form in the stone — no matter how much trust or patience you have.
Some people have a lot of patience. They put things on their vision board or set an intention and wait. And wait. And wait.
Other people have a lot of persistence. They push hard, doing all the things. But when nothing happens immediately, or in a short time frame, they are filled with doubt.
Ideally you want both.
Patience – Persistence = Laziness
Patience without persistence is passive waiting.
This is often mistaken for manifesting: seeding an intention and waiting for things to happen but not doing anything to help the cause.
It’s blind trust without action to support it.
Eventually this leads to suffering when the vision doesn’t turn to reality.
Persistence – Patience = Suffering
Persistence without patience is action without trust.
You’re doing the things you need to do, but constantly asking when will the tide turn in my favor?
The constant doubting and questioning is how we put ourselves in a state of suffering.
Part of my journey has been about cultivating trust that the universe is working in my favor — even in the face of rejections and disappointments.
I’ve learned that the path of trust is not about waiting for things to suddenly turn in my favor, or even believing that they will turn, but about recognizing that things are already working in my favor — even when it doesn’t seem like it.
Persistence + Patience = Participating
Patience with persistence is about trusting that the universe will deliver, and, while you’re waiting, taking action aligned with what you desire.
Patience and persistence together is what my mentor Loren Slocum would call “participating in your own rescue.”
This shows the universe that you’re ready. And then the universe knows to deliver.
My friend and mentor Margaret Nichols has written often about how she prepared her body, mind, and soul for the baby she wanted to have for over a year before she conceived — and before she even knew who the baby’s father would be. While she took action, she also was patient in her mindset, trusting that the Universe would deliver when the time was right.
You clear your clutter to make room for your soulmate to move in, even though you’ve not yet found your soulmate.
You create space in your schedule for your ideal clients even before you meet them.
Achievement Requires Patience and Persistence
When you take the steps necessary to bring your dream to life, you show the universe that you’re serious about what you want. That’s the persistence.
The hard part is the patience: to then sit back and remember that you don’t control the timing of things.
Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience. The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. — Leo Tolstoy