My Mom has always tried to give me good advice. In being a relatively “normal” son, I’ve listened and followed her instructions at times, usually nodded my head in appeasement, occasionally tried to argue my own opinions, but mostly I heard what my mom said and then just did things my own way.
Doing things my own way has sometimes been a good choice, and sometimes not so much.
My Mom is now 90 and on some days she forgets as much as she remembers. Her advice giving is often redundant and repetitive. Sometimes she gets her sentences mixed up and has to stop midstream and start over.
In the midst of all of this, there is one piece of my Mom’s advice that has stuck with me. In fact, it’s actually much more than just advice. It’s closer to a universal life philosophy than it is to everyday commonsense advice.
Here it is:
Practice Patience, Persistence and Perseverance.
No rocket science, but stop, pause, think and reflect, and you’ll find some profound wisdom in these 4 Ps.
Here’s what I think my mom meant to convey with her 4 Ps of life.
Practice – It’d be easy to overlook this first P, as it seems to be only a verb directing the following 3 Ps. But without practice, what is there? Many people, perhaps even most people, seem to know what to do to improve the quality of their lives, but they don’t do it. Why? No good reasons in most cases, but many excuses, some of which are very compelling.
They do NOT practice what they know.
Without practice, consistent and continued practice, we don’t change. I don’t believe in “practice makes perfect” as that’s completely unrealistic, but “practice makes permanent” is the core of making change stick. And sometimes it’s a practice to practice practice (got that?!). When you practice something you are doing it consciously, deliberately and purposely. This means it’s often not automatic and may even feel a bit awkward, uncomfortable and vulnerable. And awkward, uncomfortable and vulnerable is where almost all growth and change takes place.
Patience – In these days of “bigger, better, faster, more, now,” it can be very challenging to practice patience. If it seems that most everyone else around you has forgotten patience or just doesn’t care about it, then that’s a great time to practice it. I have to admit that I have a long way to go as I often get caught up in my ego’s agenda of “ME, ME, ME and only ME!”
Practicing patience is very simple and extremely difficult. Although that may sound contradictory, it’s meant to remind you (and me) of the paradox of patience. To practice you literally do nothing. It’s a moment of “being” and non-doing. Perhaps we could even call it a patience meditation, where we let go of doing and having, and instead, just allow ourselves to be.
The difficult part of the patience paradox is to NOT do anything (at least initially) and just observe. Someone once suggested to me that I look at these moments as clouds in the sky, as the clouds have no right or wrong, no good or bad, they just are, and as the observer we just watch them with complete detachment. No agenda, no should or should not, no judgment or criticism.
I believe patience is the cornerstone of living an emotionally and relationally intelligent life. Stop – Pause – Think – Choose – Respond, are the five steps of what I’ve called the emotionally intelligent dance of success. And in practicing these five steps, I automatically practice more patience.
Yes. Patience. Practice Patience.
Which now brings us to persistence and perseverance, of which people sometimes ask, “Aren’t they the same?”
Kinda, sorta, maybe, but not really. Sorta.
But definitely not exactly the same to my Mom.
Persistence: According to our friends from Merriam-Webster the definition is:
- The quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people
- The state of occurring or existing beyond the usual, expected, or normal time
Perseverance: The definition from the same source:
- The quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult
But wait a darn minute here, they do look almost identical! Mom??!!
I’m now going to exercise deliberate, conscious and purposeful patience (rather than just emotionally react) and dig a little deeper.
But lets take a moment and look at the origins of these words.
Persistence comes from the Latin word persistere, which means to stand firm.
Persistence, therefore, means to stand firm on one’s values or convictions, regardless of circumstances and as a commitment to one’s self or others.
Sounds like persistence is a good idea. Thanks Mom.
Perseverance, on the other hand, originally comes from the Latin word perseverare, which is formed by per, which means through, and severus, which means severe.
Perseverance means going through whatever might be severe, no matter how severe.
Persistence, standing firm, and perseverance, going through, together are the essentials of commitment in action. Of course, true commitment isn’t commitment unless it’s in action.
So here’s Mom’s Simple Formula for Success:
Thanks Mom, as I think you’ve discovered a unique formula for success.
And to think that I thought I knew more than her at one point in my life.