Developing the ability to have patience is an overlooked area of focus in achieving health and fitness goals. Your body will not radically change in any direction overnight, so having a reserve of patience you can tap into will come in handy on the weeks or months or years it takes to achieve your goal.
For most of my life, I was on the ‘dangerously low’ end of the spectrum of “available patience.” And after the millionth joke by my friends that I have zero patience, it got uncomfortable. I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should raise my patience reserve level a bit. In fact, one little tease from a friend led me to use dark chocolate as a tool to do a major evolve on my patience level.
“Don’t chew dark chocolate.”, he said.
To which I said, “not possible.”
And in response he simply sent the hashtag #impatient. That stuck with me. So, one night, I sat down with a few squares of dark chocolate to see if I could eat it without chewing it. Apparently, you can let the dark chocolate melt in your mouth and it’s wonderfully flavorful that way. I wouldn’t know of such things. I always chewed dark chocolate.
So I said to myself, ‘Enjoy this chocolate until it melts. No chewing it to tiny pieces.’
Old Me always ate quickly. I did everything fairly speedily. I was of the mind that I would rather have it all right now in one big rush, than delay it out and savor it for a long time.
By always chomping on dark chocolate, and mints, and my lunch, as fast as I could – I was supporting a habit I had of being impatient elsewhere in my life.
The dark chocolate test was highly uncomfortable for me. Several times I almost bit it without even realizing what I was doing!
It sounds like such a simple, unimportant thing, but the simplest things often foretell of bigger things.
Successfully consuming the chocolate without biting it was an eye opening moment for me. I was uncomfortable, but, I was letting things just be. I was slowing down and able to be aware of the present moment. I was practicing patience!
Fast forward to yesterday: The Universe tested me to see if I really had gained patience.
I was taking the train downtown for dinner. I touched up my makeup in the parking lot of the train station before leaving the car to head up to the platform. My day-to-day makeup, including some new not-cheap make-up, my toothbrush, my makeup brushes gifted to me by my mom, etc. were in that bag.
I clearly recall zipping the case up, and putting it in the seat behind me.
Seven hours and a plate of blood sausage and beef heart later, my pal Jen and I walk into the house – and I couldn’t find my makeup bag. Like, ‘it grew legs and walked away because we’ve looked everywhere’ can’t find it.
Old Me would have had instant panic and anxiety set in during a situation like this. Old Me would have turned the house upside down and struggled with sleep as my mind wouldn’t want to let go of the ‘where the F$&# is my bag?? How the hell could I have lost it?? I’m so dumb.’ type of thinking.
Yesterday, I chose a different path.
I allowed myself to calmly walk back through all the places it might be, and when it wasn’t in any of those places, I let myself rationally walk through my steps of the last seven hours, and when that didn’t enlighten me to the bag’s whereabouts, I chose to detach myself fully from the bag and its contents.
Make-up bag gone, I went to sleep and got a fantastic night of sleep. I woke up the next morning with curiosity about how in the world I lost it, but without any judgement about the current state of affairs. Rather than throw judgement and hostility out into the world, I put patience and detachment out there.
I went out to buy a new makeup bag and a few essentials for the bag, and went on about my work day. In the past, I’d have let myself be attached to that particular stuff, despite the fact that I really could get the exact same stuff tomorrow at the store. Old Me would have been angry that that stuff was gone and thought that no other stuff would be as good.
A few hours later, I was cleaning up the basement and right there on the floor – where we’d looked several times last night…was my makeup bag! I couldn’t believe my eyes – we’d absolutely looked right there last night. How did it get there? How was this possible?!
I didn’t know, and didn’t care. I was happier than a first-grader who got a gold star on their solar system diorama. I had gotten to test out my patience reserve levels I’d been working to build, and lo and behold, more patience was useful.
I had acted differently when given the chance to either repeat an old pattern or test out a new one.
I happily went to the store to return all my purchases, and felt so rich, partially for now having that money back in my wallet, but more so for the value of my newly tested (and proved) patience reserves. It feels good to be sensing a shift in my ability to express patience.
Maybe it’s not patience levels for you. But why not take a look at your most common reactions to situations and see if anything sticks out at you as ‘possibly not ideal for creating your most awesome self’, and consider addressing it in some way. Maybe with a piece of dark chocolate?