סבלנות/Patience: It sometimes happens that we have so much to do that we feel overwhelmed. This happens when our plate is very full – say papers, projects, tests, a theater show, a sports game, and on top of that, finals around the corner – ALL AT THE SAME TIME! AHHHHHHH! Other times, we choose to disengage rather than try a little harder. Teachers notice this when students say things such as “I don’t do math” or “I don’t get it” before they have given the task a fair shot. The latest studies on education suggest that one’s MINDSET (I can learn this but it will take effort) is a better predictor for future success than IQ. So how can we grow in patience?
Author Anne Lamott shares this advice with her writing students:
E.L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.
Lamott is likely correct. When we feel overwhelmed we can gain savlanut, the ability to be patient despite feeling the burden of our the task , by narrowing our gaze to smaller and smaller tasks.
Lamott continues her advice to writers:
So after I’ve completely exhausted myself thinking about the people I most resent in the world, and my more arresting financial problems, and, of course, the orthodontia, I remember to pick up the one-inch picture frame and to figure out a one-inch piece of my story to tell, one small scene, one memory, one exchange. I also remember a story that I know I’ve told elsewhere but that over and over helps me to get a grip: thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” –Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamotte
Think about it/מחשבה- This week, notice where you might be able to use a little more savlanut, patience – the ability to stick with something even though it is uncomfortable. We might notice such occasions when we put off doing something, give up on pursuing something we thought was worthwhile, or when you choose to disengage. At such moments we might feel a tightness in our chests or in our jaw. Our breathing might become shorter or we might feel a pressure in our gut. Noticing these physical sensations clue us in to an area of our life we might choose to bring greater savlanut.
Try it/מעשה- This week, when things get difficult, when you find yourself ‘tuning out’, choose to lisbol – to bear with the difficult feeling a bit longer. For example, if you are doing a difficult math problem and you hear yourself say ‘I don’t get it’ – CHOOSE to keep working on the problem despite its difficulty. Learning something, or improving on a skill we already have, is naturally frustrating. Savlanut, being patient and nevertheless willing to live with the frustration is a life skill that contributes to human flourishing. The best part is that building frustration tolerance is like lifting weights, it gets easier and easier.