Patience is a recurring melody of my life. I’m either whispering the word to my toddler, praying for some myself, admiring it in other people, or wondering how we’ve become such a culture of criticism, arguing that no one knows how to wait anymore. I’m certain I’m not alone in singing the song of patience. Contrary to what the media constantly circulates, I really don’t believe that we all just live for instant gratification all the time.
Sure, there are times when no amount of logic can get us to hold on a minute. My one-year-old broke out in tears this morning because he spotted the playground—the very one we were walking to—and he had to wait until we reached the entrance gate. We’re talking giant tears, kicking legs, desperate cries.
I stopped the stroller and squatted beside my son. “Niklas,” I said. “I know you’re eager to get to the playground. We have to practice our patience. We will get there soon, but maybe there are things that you will miss if you cry the whole way to the gate.”
My most prolific moments of wisdom always come when speaking to this little person who can’t understand a word I’m saying, it seems. But what he can understand is the tone of my voice. So I speak gently for him, and I also try to really listen for myself. I’ve had plenty of silent kicking fits in my head. A good knock of insight on restraint is often warranted.
I realized that part of why patience is so hard is this: we tell ourselves that something much greater than what we already have is waiting for us just beyond that gate. And if we’re not telling ourselves, something else in society is. Why can’t we just be there in the playground now? I realize you and I have a lot to do, and there are plenty of temptations and advertisements telling us to hurry along.
I continuously see myself in moments where patience would actually pay off, both in little, everyday things and in big picture ideas. Especially in those big picture dreams.
During our first semester of college, a couple of my new friends were given an assignment to write a list of things they wanted to accomplish or have happen in their lives. In other words, they were supposed to write a bucket list. But to me, the phrase “bucket list” is jammed with often unrealistic I’m-going-to-do-this items that center around big adventures and travel destinations. I believe a better list focuses more on the type of person you want to be and the sort of values you want to live by.
This sort of intention-based project is exactly the sort of thing I want to have in my journal. (I keep my list on the back page of this introspective journal that I offer at Gadanke.) I wrote my first list that college weekend. (It sounded like way more fun than the homework I was actually assigned for macroeconomics!) My list included things like:
- Write regular letters to my grandmas
- Read the entire Bible cover to cover
- Live abroad
- Live in a big city
- Live in the country or a small town
- Fall in love and get married
- Teach my future kids how to swim
- Write a book that helps people
It also had some weird things like “learn to play the banjo” and “paddle 20 Montana rivers” … things I probably won’t be getting to because over the years, other items were added to my list (like give a TedxTalk, which I got to do!). That’s the beauty of a life list!
Write your life list.
I invite you to write your life list in your journal today. A journal is such an intimate, private space where you’re more likely to feel comfortable opening up about yourself and your wishes than you would be on a computer or pad of paper. I find that the intimate space within my journal makes me truer to myself, instead of trying to sound impressive or cool to other people. There are plenty of amazing things that we could put on our life lists. But as you prepare to write, as yourself: are they things you want to spend your precious time on and practice your patience preparing?
Turn to the last page of your journal and record today’s date. Think of this list as a sampling of things you’d like to do and values you’d like to foster. You’re only going to write twelve items. That way your list feels achievable and exciting, not overwhelming. A short list holds more intention, because you think about what you really want to say, and thereby experience. And this list is always subject to change. Know that it’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s preferred!
Here’s a guideline I always try to loosely follow in my life list. Tweak it to work for you:
1. Jot down these categories and think of two different things you want to experience or share with other people in each category:
- Education (includes both formal and fun—especially the fun things you want to try!)
- Home and Family
- Faith and/or Conscience
2. Make sure your list includes at least one goal that:
- Doesn’t seem possible
- You really want
- Will take some hard work and incredible patience
- Betters your health (even if it’s not “fun” for you)
As you watch your list grow, shrink, and change over the years, it’s beautiful to see how experiences and preferences change you. It’s impossible to know where life will take us. We can’t know what’s on the other side of every gate. All we can do is be patient. We’ll walk through when it’s time.
* * *
To help with my newly revised Life List, I started using a German-made backpack from Kauffman Mercantile. The company believes in pouring their hears into curating beautiful, quality products. Not clutter. Not stuff. As I craft my life list, one thing is consistent for me: I want to be outside and with my family as much as possible. If I can have comfortable, beautiful gear, I feel more at peace with myself on the outside. Then I can be more intentional about what I’m doing, who I’m with, and where I’m at. In other words, my attention goes inward. I’m not aware of how I look on the outside, and my gear isn’t irritating my shoulders, for example. It’s kind of the reason why I urge you to add something to your list that betters your health. When you’re not specifically exercising or picking carrots instead of crackers, you just feel better all day long. It enriches you indirectly.
Sebastian Kaufmann, the CEO, explains, “There’s a sense of clarity and groundedness that comes from slowing down and engaging in a meaningful process. Our hope is that by helping people fill their homes with meaningful products, products that have a clear sense of place and provenance, we’re able to bring them a moment of rootedness in their everyday lives.”
Disclosure: I acknowledge that Kauffman Mercantile is partnering with me to participate in a marketing program. As a part of the program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products for the purpose of promoting Kauffman Mercantile. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words.
* * *
Each month, I write an essay about intentional living and storycatching. If you’d like to join me and receive these essays by email, securely sign up here.