“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” – James 1:4
More and more often it feels as though we’re all in a rush, whether it’s just that we’re in a hurry to get to wherever our next destination is, tick things off our to-do lists or move onto the next thing we have planned, yet we rarely appreciate the work we put in or the journey that we experience along the way.
The fact that I’ve been in education for most of my life means that the plans I have for my future are just stacking up. Some are definitely more likely to be achievable than others, but they’re plans nonetheless. I make a habit of writing everything down, even the smallest of goals, so that I can keep track of the things I’ve planned for, prayed for and worked towards. Yet the list seems to be getting longer and longer, meanwhile it seems to take twice as long for anything to actually get crossed off.
Seeing the people around me pursue their dreams and achieve their goals has motivated me to work hard, yet sometimes I can’t help but find myself questioning why I’m not getting immediate results. After a few conversations with some friends that also shared my thoughts, I’ve finally understood that as a generation, we lack patience. We’re living in what is sometimes referred to as a ‘microwave society’, where we have the mindset of wanting and getting everything right now.
When we were younger, we rarely experienced the struggle of waiting for something we wanted and the ever increasing use of technology has made it even easier to gather, send and receive information faster than we even need it. Our access to music/television is ‘on demand’, we’re able to track our friends’ whereabouts and every move through our phones and we don’t even need to wait for another human to scan our shopping anymore. We expect everything to be available instantly and often limit ourselves to seeing only the immediate rewards that are available to us, rather than what we could potentially gain if we were just patient.
Psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a study on nursery school children, aged four to six, with the aim of understanding and explaining when the control of delayed gratification, the ability to wait to obtain something that one would want, rather than wanting it immediately, develops in children. The study offered the children the choice of just one marshmallow that they could eat straight away, or two marshmallows if they could wait just fifteen minutes in a room with no distractions, just the temptation of the marshmallows in front of them. Although this may seem a simple task, it can be applied to so many aspects of our lives as adults, whether this is staying in education to get a degree which will help with finding employment in the future as opposed to going out and earning right away, or forfeiting holidays in order to save money to buy a bigger house. It’s important to see what we could have if we’re only willing to give up the first marshmallow and wait for two instead.
A few years ago, I found myself waiting an extra year to go to university, while most of my friends left London and set off for the next three years of their lives. Although university was my goal, this extra year somehow became the most productive year of my life to date and looking back I’m thankful that I trusted in God’s plan to make me wait for what I wanted, because I ended up with better opportunities than I could have ever imagined. Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar once said “Be careful not to compromise what you want most for what you want now”. Settling for an average university just because I wanted to go right away would have meant missing out on Warwick and the opportunities I’ve been blessed with by going there, as well as the lessons and success that I achieved during the year I took out.
My friends could tell you that I’m always looking to see the bigger picture when it comes to making decisions and to understand that just because I want something and may even have the means to it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it needs to happen right now. Also, although it’s something that I continue to struggle with, I’m learning to enjoy the process. It’s almost a skill to be able to enjoy making mistakes or working on yourself to a point where you never seem to be content, yet always striving to be bigger and better. However this is such a valuable asset, as you’re able to continuously improve and eventually achieve things greater than you had ever planned.
Instead of hurriedly trying to tick things off my seemingly endless to-do list, I’m learning to place value on the process/journey leading up to achieving these things. For example, with each blog post, the writing and planning that involves asking myself and others around me difficult questions, is more important than the final result. Similarly, the opportunities and experience that university offers is on the whole more valuable than the piece of paper obtained at the end of the three years.
Sure enough, you can achieve all that you set out to do, but are you paying attention to the person you’ve become and the things that you’ve learnt in the process?