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Patience, Persistence and the Wisdom of Cats


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This morning I woke up (was awakened by the cats) wondering about the difference between being patient and being persistent.

When Rocket starts talking to me half an hour before dinnertime, I tell her to “Be patient (as in, be quiet and leave me alone).”

In the morning, when Abby and Rocket start trying to get my attention, I try to ignore them for as long as I can. They progress from licking my hands to Walking Across Me with a Purpose to doing acrobatics from one side of the bed to the other. With me as trampoline in middle, like an act from Chat du Soleil.

I eventually surrender and get up and feed them although I try not to give in immediately after they bounce across me. I try to avoid any possibility of them assigning a cause-and-effect relationship to their antics and my feeding them. In other words, I try to preserve the illusion that getting up now is entirely my own idea and that I am a Human Being with Free Will.

One morning I got up in huff and started to tell Rocket that she was a real Pain in the Ass. I stopped myself, remembering how my siblings and their friends are very careful about how they speak to and around my niece and nephews. They don’t say, “I hate that” or “Shut up!” and they gently took me to task when I said something of that nature when visiting.

So when I started to tell Rocket that she was a Pain in the Ass, I stopped myself. Language is important and, while I don’t think that Rocket is in much danger of my words affecting her self image, I don’t want to start seeing her as a Pain in the Ass. She is also very loving, smart, protective, and entertaining. (Besides, she and Abby do understand every word I say, even though they pretend not to.) So instead I paused and reframed.

“You were particularly persistent this morning,” I told her, “and I don’t appreciate it.” And that felt better.

So this morning I laid in bed as they persistently walked and bounced with purpose across me, thinking about that and remembering how someone I know speaks of “gentle persistence relentlessly applied.” That describes my cats.

It also applies to what I think of as some of my best and most effective efforts.

But it occurred to me as I was lying there pretending to be asleep (“Oomph,” I said as Abby landed on my back and took off again) that this was very different from the way I think of Being Patient.

Patience, I thought as I put cat food in their dishes, is more passive than persistence. While waiting patiently and watching for the right opportunity to act can be Active, I realized that I do see persistence as more active than patience.

I wonder, when is Patience rewarded rather than Persistence?

“Good things come to those who wait,” as the saying goes. But another saying says, “Energy and persistence conquer all things (Benjamin Franklin).”

When we ask someone to be patient, are we asking them to alertly wait? Or are we really asking them to just go away and stop bothering us? When I tell myself to be patient, am I really just giving myself an excuse to do nothing? When do we punish others’ persistence? When do we reward it? When does persistence go over the edge into stubbornness?

I wonder.

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success,” according to Napoleon Hill.

How do you define patience and persistence? Do you see yourself as being more patient or persistent? Which more often gets you what you want – patience, or gentle persistence relentlessly applied?

Do you like what you’ve read here? If so, please tell someone about it! And please leave a comment!

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6 Responses to Patience, Persistence and the Wisdom of Cats

  1. Yolanda January 18, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    I try to do both and consider both actions. They both can result in goal achievement so therefore seem active to me. Each provides a different way to achieve.

    BTW this morning Sparky aka The Ol’ Lady got me up at 2:am, 4:am and 6:am. Snak, snak, breakfast. And unlike my partner, I never moan or complain, I just get up and get what the dogs need. I figure they can’t do it for themselves and they are my snuggle slaves so it’s a trade off! 🙂

  2. Susan January 18, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Hi Yolanda! It sounds like you agree with that quote from Napoleon HIll, then, about the importance of patience AND persistence. Thanks for stopping by, and regards to the Snuggle Slaves!

  3. Michael Broom January 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Patience, persistence, and passion are mentioned in Power, The Infinite Game as certain path to being powerful in the world!

    Excellent work! What would it look like if patience and persistence were practice together?

  4. Beverly Mederios January 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    as the girls feed me sitter when mom is not around….I know what persistence is to Rocket and Abby…..meowing, reaching out with their paws and rolling around on the floor while I am getting the food ready for them….and patience from Rocket as I open the door for Abby to come out after eating, so she can check out Abby’s dishes and try to see if there is more food….I also know patience in my own day to day life of a retired person, and how I pray for it when it comes to some of the short comings of other people…..but I always thank God for the patience he bestows on me…

  5. Susan January 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Thanks, Michael! It occurred to me after publishing the post that persistence requires a certain amount of patience in order to be effective. Not the kind of patience that is about idly waiting, but the kind of patience that says “Don’t give up.”

    I also think that persistence with patience runs little risk of becoming Stubbornness. It has that gentle relentlessness to which I referred.

  6. Susan January 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    Hi Bev! Would you say more about patience in your day to day life as a retired person?

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