5 - Perception Change Creates Patience!

The stressful pace of life in the present day has led to a general loss of patience - which itself is the "quiet perseverance" in the face of stressful situations. We recognize the need to be patient with others in society, and we recognize the need to be patient with the situations that arise in the course of a given day, but find it very difficult to achieve.

Switch to the negative quality of impatience - it is a negative emotion that arises when we are unable to get what we want. It should be immediately obvious that an impatient person is not coping very well with the here-and-now because their mind is on some future moment when they will achieve what they presently desire. And, as usual, they are ignoring the reality of the present moment and what they must do (if only to endure the delay) to get to where they eventually want to be.

The author observes the manner in which his own mind wanders, from one thing to another with no connection between them, and seems to be everywhere but where he really is. (EN: I've heard different people describe their minds as being noisy or quiet in idle moments. Browsing forward, it seems that the author, like many noisy-minded people, seems to think that everyone else is the same way, and I don't see any advice for the quiet-minded individual.)

With this in mind, the first step is to become aware of your internal dialogue, and the moments in which it tends to run wild and drag you behind. Simply stated, you must recognize this and rein it in. A second step is to understand you will not always be able to do this - but to remain persistent in attempting to do so.

Another key practice for patience is understanding that you will never achieve true perfection in anything, and accept that perfection is entirely unnecessary. Perfection is the perspective of others. You can watch a ship sail to the horizon from the shore, but you will never see this when you're standing on the deck - the horizon is unreachable. Striving for perfection is the same - you will never reach it and will sap your morale by expecting that you will. The best you can do is to attend to the business of sailing - following the wind, tending the wheel, and keeping the boat moving forward.

He also mentions the human tendency to daydream of the "perfect life" - people always want more money no matter how wealthy they get. And when people get the things they wanted, they are seldom contented with them for very long. Life is endless and you never will achieve the point where it has achieved perfection.

This is why those who seek happiness in the result are never as contented as those who seek happiness in the process. They are forever frustrated, impatient, and exhausted. Happiness belongs to those who take satisfaction at getting better at something rather than insisting on becoming "the best ever" at anything. It enables them to be happy while they are working toward it.

The author shares a story about taking lessons from a very talented pianist who felt he needed to work harder or he would "never get really good on the piano." While his teacher was quite accomplished compared to the novice, he still had the mindset of a student who could always be better at his craft. In addition to coaching him to be better, the teacher gave him the ability to witness his own progress and take satisfaction in the process of learning to play.

He also mentions in his own music study that he lays out long-term plans. When he is frustrated with a bad practice session and feels hopeless, he is able to review the plans he made long before and recognize how far along he had come. Things always seem very hard until we've done them, and if you think back to the way you felt overwhelmed at the start of something you have already finished, you will be astounded by the progress you have made.

The notion that perfection is impossible should not be discouraging. What it means is that you will never run out of room to grow. "We have seriously missed the boat with this whole concept in our culture."

Stirner considers the "self-playing organ," a product that was designed for people who wanted to learn to play, but also wanted to make music right away. Pressing a few keys would play part or all of a popular song - it could play the left-hand part so you could play the right, or vice versa, or both at once so you didn't have to do anything. The organs sold very well, but people didn't use them much. He mentions seeing a few gathering dust in peoples' homes, but he never saw anyone actually play one.

Said another way, cheating discipline doesn't work. You might fool a few people into thinking you have a skill, but you'll feel all the worse for being a sham on top of being a failure. And your own sense of accomplishment at faking the results is sapped by the knowledge that you did not actually achieve them.

He also mentions credit cards as a form of instant gratification - which is to say they offer short-term gratification and long-term disappointment. They are the way to have the end results without making the effort, so that you have a chance to be disappointed by something before you have earned it. Many people get into deep trouble with debt in this way, and take little satisfaction from it. Just as with the self-playing organ, it is a way to cheat yourself from the necessity of earning it.

To the author, the joy and pride in accomplishment is that the "thing" you now possess is the result of a longer process of earning it. Rewards that come at no cost are worth their price in terms of the satisfaction earned: next to nothing.

The advice he offers is to pick a goal that you wish to achieve, mark the steps of the journey to get there, and review your plan periodically to gain the satisfaction of having made progress toward that goal. Of particular importance is to focus on the process and not the goal.

By so doing you will free yourself of the frustration of your constant failure to achieve the end, and feel empowered at your constant success in getting incrementally closer to it. This is very empowering.