Never pray for patience. When you pray for patience bad things happen. Bad things do not happen because you are praying for patience, they happen because if you want patience you need to practice patience. You can only practice patience when things are happening that require you to practice patience. Usually difficult things. Things you do not want to happen.
It’s called hyperfocusing. I learned this lesson studying Japanese sword. Every time I practiced, I’d slice my foot or get bashed across the hand with a wooden bokken. I’d end up with hands that looked grotesque. I earned a couple of nice scars.
I resolved that I’d work harder, practice harder, study harder. I would no longer get hit in the hand. And then, BASH, it’d happen again. Still, I studied. I considered every nuance of every angle possible. Every eventuality, every possibility. I made a plan. A plan that didn’t include me getting bashed. Ironic for someone who can’t plot a mere two moves ahead in chess.
Except when someone’s swinging a wooden stick at you really fast, it’s a different sense of urgency then when you move a bunch of two-inch wooden guys on a board for fun. Planning ahead was more than just winning a game–it was self-preservation.
Still, I kept getting hit. A lot.
If I wasn’t getting hit, I was being thrown. I got thrown farther than anyone else I knew. Probably because I don’t weigh enough, but also because I’m not very good. You’d have thought it was opening week of spring training and I was the ball or that there was a casting call for bad guys in a Jackie Chan movie–who can play dead the best? Oh, me!
I kept studying the art of avoiding getting hit, looking for the secret to dodge the blows. I meditated. I contemplated. Should I be faster? Develop better timing? Learn mind reading? I’d try anything…
Finally, Michael, my instructor, told me the secret. “Listen. As long as you think about not getting hit, you’re going to get hit. You have to think of what you’re going to do.”
Sure enough, he was right. One day, I was exhausted. My mind was empty. It was clear. I was not making a plan. And a magical thing happened–a reaction. I didn’t get hit.
This is true for Japanese sword, but it’s also true for life, work, patience, and problems. Ducking and covering isn’t a very effective strategy. We spend a lot of time planning for the worst. And then what happens? The worst. A result of hyperfocusing. Planning for the bad puts it in our minds. It puts the energy in the exact place we didn’t want it to go. Energy doesn’t know whether it’s good bad or indifferent. It just goes where the focus is. It’s our job to take that negative focus away and just do. And let the energy go where it’s supposed to go, to creating magic.