Our journeys often seem very long. Whether you’re a little one in the back seat of the car thinking we should have made it to the pool by now, or a young person waiting for the end of high school, or an adult hoping for a breakthrough in your career, we can all get impatient. “Are we there yet?” we ask, because it feels like by now we should be.
We ask this question for all sorts of things. Journeys by foot, by car, by plane. Journeys of faith and personal growth. Relationship journeys, career journeys, learning journeys. We get impatient and we want to see how things will turn out.
Are we there yet?
Why aren’t we there yet?
When will we get there?
But are these really the right questions, especially for journeys of spiritual and personal growth? Maybe instead of impatiently pushing through the in-between times or abandoning one goal for another, we should focus on seeing what we can learn from the journey.
Impatience and The Cost of Growth
In his excellent article “The 7 Laws of Impatience,” Jim Stone, PhD, states that “Impatience is triggered when we have a goal, and realize it’s going to cost us more than we thought to reach it.” Here are some examples:
- You’re trying to get a new type of job, and you realize you need additional schooling to qualify for the position(s) you want. You realize that achieving this goal will cost more than you expected in terms of time and money.
- You’re working on a creative project, but get distracted by some other project. Achieving your first goal is going to cost putting the other goal on the back-burner.
- You start a personal growth journey toward a goal such as reducing anxiety, improving your social skills, or to stop procrastinating. As you work on this goal, you realize this issue goes deeper than you expected, is going to take longer to work through, and/or might require counseling. Now achieving that goal will cost more in terms of time, vulnerability, and emotional resources.
When something like this happens, we get impatient. To quote Dr. Stone again, “Impatience motivates us to reduce the costs of reaching our goal, or to switch goals.” In some situations that can be a good thing, such as when we’re working on a project that’s going nowhere and it would be more efficient to switch goals. But in other cases it’s not helpful.
Since I like to focus on personal growth, let’s just take a look at how this could affect the last example on our list. When you become impatient during personal growth, it can prompt you to stop too early. You might decide this is too much work so you’ll abandon it altogether. Or you might try to reduce the cost and settle for going far enough to “feel better” instead of pursuing real, lasting healing.
Settling For Relief
I recently read a book about spiritual transformation called What Does Your Soul Love? (click here to read my review). One of the ways that I know a book like this is good is if I keep thinking about what I learned when reading it for weeks and months afterwards. This quote popped into my mind while working on today’s blog post:
“Most people do not want healing. They are willing to settle for relief. Most people end their inner work after they reach the first flutters of liberation. I’m all better, they believe. But this is premature. Relief is simply the first layer. There is so much more. How much truth are you willing to wade through to come to complete healing? This is a longer and likely more painful process. So ask yourself, do you want relief or do you want healing?” — Gem and Alan Fadling, What Does Your Soul Love?
Of course most of us would say we want healing. But I also know that it’s very tempting to stop counseling as soon as you start to feel better, or to decide you don’t have the time to keep working on a problem that’s gotten better enough that you can live with it now. Sometimes this happens because we get discouraged. Other times impatience is what prompts us us to shift our goals and decide we’re okay settling for relief instead of moving on to deeper healing.
Cycles of Growth
I don’t mean to down-play the importance of relief, however. Getting to a point in your personal growth journey where things are better than they were before is a good thing! We can celebrate those little victories. But we should see them as steps in the journey, not a reason to abandon the journey because we got close enough to our goal that we felt some relief.
A few months ago, I wrote a post talking about personal growth journeys happening in cycles. We often want to pick a growth goal, work on it, and then achieve it within a fairly predictable time-table. We also want growth to move in one direction — forward. But sometimes growth happens in cycles. Spiritual and personal growth doesn’t happen all at once or in a steady direction. Sometimes a thing that you thought you dealt with comes back and you need to work through it again. Sometimes you have to keep going back over the same ground in order to make progress.
With this mindset, questions like “Are we there yet?” aren’t really productive. There’s no value in spending our time consumed with impatience that we haven’t yet achieved a goal we’ve set for spiritual or personal growth. There are far better uses for that time and energy. Instead of looking just at the end-goal and wishing we could get there faster, we can learn, heal, and celebrate little steps toward a larger goal.
Saying, “it’s about the journey, not the destination” is terribly cliche but in many ways it’s true. It’s rare that we can achieve goals simply by waiting. We have to work toward our goals. You can’t reach a goal without doing the hard work of soul-searching, healing, and growth. So instead of expending our energy on impatience, it’s far better to channel that into active participation in our personal journeys.
Come back on Wednesday for a follow-up post about practical tips for cultivating active patience in your personal and spiritual growth journeys!
Featured image credit: Lorri Lang via Pixabay