How to be patient when chasing big dreams

How to be patient when chasing big dreams



It’s difficult to think of a life skill with more potential to transform your life - and the lives of those around you - than learning how to be patient. Take, for example, the pursuit of your big dreams.

Make no mistake, there is a group of us counting on you to have big dreams and to make plans to achieve them. Your ideas. Your words. Your art. Your music. Your research. Your analyses. They have tremendous power and potential to solve complex problems or to 'simply' make our world a more beautiful - or more bearable - place.

When you lose patience with your big dreams, we all lose.

It takes deep and sincere personal work to learn who you are, to discover your gifts, and to muster up the confidence to share them with a world in need. If you’ve summited that personal development peak, then you’ve discovered this: the air is thin at the top. 

Your next challenge is to learn how to breathe -  to summon the grit and grace it takes to persist when, despite so much work, your hopes and dreams aren’t unfolding at the pace you’d hoped for.

This post offers three habits – and one exercise – to help you become more patient and find more joy as you continue on the noblest of journeys - sharing your ideas and gifts with the world. Should you know just what you are looking for, you can quickly jump to any part of the article by clicking on the table of contents below.

Where impatience comes from + what's at-risk for dreamers who don't know how to be patient

Patient people can do THIS one thing. Impatient people cannot.

I really like The Mindtools Team’s definition of patience, which is this: Patience is the ability to stay calm while you are waiting for an outcome that you need or want.

This means we can define impatience like this: Impatience is the inability to stay calm while you are waiting for an outcome that you need or want.

Now, definitions are useful gaggles of words that make it easier for our brains to grasp concepts, i.e. patience means you can stay calm while waiting. But, patience is one of those concepts that is equal parts mind and heart, so it can help to describe how patience feels. So, side-by-side, let’s explore what life feels like with and without it.

What life feels like with and without impatience

Life without patience...
  • Time is an enemy
  • Restless, anxious
  • Snap judgments
  • Saying things we don’t mean to people we love or don’t even know
  • Increased in stress hormones and chronic inflammation
  • Charged
  • Scattered, inconsistent focus
  • Difficulty living in the moment
Life with patience...
  • Time is a resource
  • Relaxed
  • Thoughtful and rational
  • Maintaining respectful, loving communication with others
  • Reserves flight-or-fight response, for real threats
  • Calibrated
  • Prone to persist (and, eventually, succeed)
  • Able to enjoy the present moment

This post was created to help you raise your hand and say, “Yes! That’s for me!” to the life experience on the right side of our How Life Feels With and Without Patience table. Adopting a more patient lifestyle begins with a quick study of where your impatience comes from. When that is clear to you, you can begin to reevaluate unhealthy perspectives of time, purpose and achievement and rebuild healthier time, purpose and achievement constructs.


Where does YOUR impatience come from?

If it feels so much better to be patient, so isn’t patience our natural state? Where does our impatience come and what feeds it such that it’s so difficult for us to overcome?

Contagious impatience

Unfortunately, impatience is contagious.

When we are in the presence of someone who is visibly in a rush or restless, we can feel ourselves getting swept up in their energy. It is a physical thing. (Please note, if you are that rushed, restless person, you can pass it on too others, too.) If you have or have had someone in your life who is consistently impatient, whether it’s a parent, partner, boss, friend, your kids, etc. then you know how uneasy it feels to be around them…and how easy it is to become like them.

The solution here is to set clear, time-bound expectations with these individuals. And if you can’t offer a specific time, you tell them you can’t offer a specific time. Be prepared for these individuals to find the expectations you set to be unsatisfactory. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Again, all that matters is that you make the expectation clear. Examples:

  1. 1
    "I know you want grandkids, but we have not decided whether we want children."
  2. 2
    "I am not ready to move in with you."
  3. 3
    "I can have a thorough, fully QC'd report in your inbox by Friday."
  4. 4
    "I will have saved enough for the Hawaii trip by spring, not winter."
  5. 5
    "I know you want a cookie right now, but that's just not an option until dinner."

When you make a clear statement about what someone can and cannot expect from you, you politely decline the invitation to their impatience party. (Trust me, you don’t wanna go, it’s gonna blow.) With your “No, but thank you” RSVP, they get to decide what to do next. How they react to your clear and sincere communication is entirely up to them. Something they own. Something you do not.

Self-imposed impatience

That antsy-pants person in your life? It could also be you.

Maybe you are the one who is telling yourself that you are late in the family-creating game. That you need a mother-loving cookie and you need it now.

Maybe you have been pouring your heart into finding a partner, writing a book, getting healthier physically, starting a business, [insert your heart’s desire here], but you don’t have much to show for it (yet).

Maybe, you aren’t meeting the clear, time-bound expectations you’ve set for yourself.

Self-imposed impatience is a common affliction for those of us who have put in the soul-stretching hours it takes to uncover a dream worth having and starting to build. There are, of course, fewer situations in which patience is more paramount than in the pursuit of a big dream because: If you cannot learn how to be patient with your big dream, you might give up on it.

If self-imposed impatience is your issue, then you need to learn how to be patience with your dream and yourself.

What’s the secret to learning how to be patient? It lies in your relationship with...


Where does your personal impatience come from? Part 2.

We’ve just talked about two different sources of impatience: one is a time-bound pressure fever we “catch” from others and the other is time-bound pressure we squeeze ourselves with. Either way, the issue here is time. Impatience is the result of someone’s less-than-healthy relationship with time. Think about it this way -

If time were unlimited, others would probably be more patient with us. But, time is not limited.

If time were unlimited, we would probably be more patient with ourselves. But, again, it’s not

The unfortunate news is that, you cannot change how someone else relates to time. Again, you can only set those clear, time-bound expectations. The wonderful news is that your relationship with time is in your control you can change your relationship with time.

How can you improve your relationship with time?

There are three things that you can do to create a happier, healthier relationship with time:

  1. 1
    start thinking about time as a resource, not a threat
  2. 2
    choose the right pursuit
  3. 3
    reimagine the concept of legacy

Below we introduce three habits and one exercise that are based on these three principles. They are designed to help you learn how to be patient and rebuild a beautiful relationship with time.

The 3 things you can do to create a happier, healthier relationship with time

Treat time - and yourself - better by thinking about time as a resource and not a threat.

We lose patience when we feel time isn’t moving at our pace of preference. When we are waiting to hear back from a job interview, time is moving too slow. When we have a deadline looming, time is moving too fast.

We have grown to perceive time as a threat. Our relationship with time is so tense that it can trigger our body’s flight-or-fight response. We actually present with the same physical, mental, and emotional responses of being attacked. Our breath shortens. Our muscles tense up. Our heart begins to race to pump oxygen through our bodies so we can run. But there is no real physical threat.  We are one of the few animals on the planet that does this. (Extra credit reading: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Stanford University biologist, Robert M. Sapolsky.)

This first habit is designed to help us in these moments. It will help us catch ourselves when our bodies are preparing to high-tail it across the savannah even though we live in the zoo. It comes to us from Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and poet who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s called Hello, Habit Energy and, in practice, it looks like a gentle, non-judgmental acknowledgment that there’s no chase afoot. It requires both awareness and acceptance of an impatient moment. Awareness is required of course because you the only way you can stop an unhealthy train of thought is to recognize that you’re on it in the first place. Acceptance is needed because the last thing you need in a moment when you are feeling physical symptoms of anxiety is to be hard on yourself.

Here’s Thich Nhat Hanh’s explanation of how Hello, Habit Energy works:



Our way of acting depends on our way of thinking, and our way of thinking depends on our habit energies. When we recognize this, we only need to say, “Hello, habit energy”, and make good friends with our habitual patterns of thinking and acting. When we can accept these ingrained thoughts and not feel guilty about them, they will lose much of their power over us.

(From The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching).

So, when you do feel the physical, mental and emotional swell of impatience taking over, smile and say out loud to yourself: “Hello, impatience. I see you there.”

Over time, the thought habit of time as a threat will fade. It will lose its strength and crumble apart. And this creates a clean foundation on which to rebuild a though habit of time an investment in joy and growth.

Find more joy by choosing the right pursuits.

Time is something that you invest in places, not something that slips out of your hands. If you feel time is slipping away without any returns in the form of joy or growth it is possible that you are not investing in the right places***, i.e. Choosing the Right Pursuits. 

In a previous post, we discuss the self-love creating habit of keeping promises to yourself. One of the three secrets to keeping promises to yourself is to make the right promise. This includes two important elements:

  1. 1
    making sure the promises you are choosing are self-willed and not avenues to impress or earn the acceptance of anyone else
  2. 2
    to choose a promise that you enjoy the nitty gritty pursuit of

In that post about keeping promises to yourself, I also mentioned the work of James Clear, author of New York Times bestseller Atomic HabitsClear has written an incredibly interesting piece on goal setting.  In it, there’s a particular concept of that I think is just brilliant. It’s called Rudders and Oars.

Clear explains that all a goal does is point us in a direction, like a rudder does for a boat. But, the rudder only steers, it doesn’t move the boat. That work is done by the oars. Clears point is that, when setting goals, most people only take the time to envision the “glamorous outcome” of achieving the goal, but not the actual grunt work of paddling. 

For those who are good at making promises, the paddling itself is a joy. When the paddling is a joy, patience is easier to come by. When paddling is a joy, there is nothing to be patient or impatient about because the journey is as worthy and enjoyable as the outcome.

The gist of choosing the right pursuits.
Getting into the habit of Choosing the Right Pursuits has everything to do with discovering which nooks and crannies of life’s possibilities mean the most to you. After that, it’s about learning how to focus your time and energy into those places. Below, you will find two iterative exercises that can help you do both of those things. Eventually, these exercises will become how you do life. They will help you become an excellent decision maker, a smarter risk taker, and an all-around more joyful individual.

*** This statement above about what it means if you experience time slipping away isn’t totally true. Some of us genuinely have “slippier” hours than others. Stick with me for a moment here - this is an important reality to acknowledge about ourselves and others. Not all of us start from the same places.

Not all of us have the same opportunities. Some of our parents paid our college tuition. Others of us still work a second – or third – job to help us pay off our student loans. Some of us have full-time jobs and a serve as primary caregivers to our grandparents, nieces, nephews, etc. Some of our time investment is not for joy or for growth, but for our personal survival or for the survival of the people we love. I plan to write more on that in the future. At the very least, I felt it should be acknowledged here.

Feel less stress and urgency with the concept of Continuation.

The third thing you can do to become more patient and to create a happy, healthy relationship with time is to reimagine the concept of legacy.

Legacy is the part of us that lives on after we have moved on to whatever lies on the other side. A lot of us want to leave a mark. To be known for something or remembered for something. On its face, legacy is a lovely concept.

We endanger our own legacy in two ways. First, we envision legacies as these looming, hulking things. They must be these fabulous, award-winning, news-worthy things. And, two, we make them time-bound. If we don’t achieve them by thirty, forty, fifty, etc., then we are failures.

The Concept of Continuation is the solution to this mindset and, in my opinion, it is one of the most effective exercises in learning how to be patient when chasing big dreams. It’s totally wild. It’s completely freeing.

Are you ready for it?

Continuation encourages you to consider that your work is already “done”.

Yes. Continuation asks you to accept that your work is already done. Thankfully, it is simpler and far less abstract than it sounds. Practicing Continuation consists of trying to get better at recognizing three pretty beautiful things:

  1. 1
    As you are right now, you are a product - a Continuation - of your ancestors and of anyone else who has impacted you throughout your life.
  2. 2
    Each day, with your words and actions, you impact others, passing your legacy on via Continuation.
  3. 3
    You have a morning legacy. An afternoon legacy. An evening legacy.

An important clarification before we go any further: Continuation does not ask that you to tell yourself that your dream has already come true or to stop pursuing it. It does ask you to tell yourself that, through your daily work, you have already succeeded at giving your dream life.

Speaking kindly to a customer service representative that had nothing to do with the error in your bill is legacy. Smiling at a shy child is legacy. The bravery you demonstrate to others when you muster up enough courage to develop your first sellable product is legacy. Encouraging someone else to follow their dream is legacy.

This concept also comes to us from Thich Nhat Hanh. Since it’s his concept and he does such a lovely job articulating it, I’ve included an excerpt from The Art of Living (Harper Collins, 2017) here:



It is possible for each of us to see our continuation right away. This is something we have to remind ourselves to do every day. When I look at my friends, students, and the more than one thousand monks and nuns I have ordained, who are practicing mindfulness and leading retreats around the world, I see my continuation body.

Can you see how you are continued in your parents, in your brothers and sisters, in your teachers and friends? Can you see the continuation body of your parents and loved ones [in you]?

Each one of us should train ourselves to see our continuation body while we’re still alive, we’ll know how to cultivate it to ensure a beautiful continuation in the future.

If you are struggling with the term “continuation”, try going back and re-reading the excerpt again, this time replacing the word “continuation” with the word "work" each time. Ultimately, what’s being said is this:

Your interactions with family, friends, co-workers and strangers have already left imprints.

Your words have soothed. Your efforts have inspired. Your ideas have ignited the imagination of others. Your products, services, and solutions have enabled and empowered.

And that good work will never die. And you’ve given tiny seeds to others for growing good work of their own. Every day you have done work that will live on. It will CONTINUE for all time. If you never do another thing, you will have left a legacy of good work.

One last helpful perspective.

Finally, another perspective that I find fits well with Continuation and just feels really good to carry with you every day come from author and yoga instructor Mark Stephens.



It is possible for each of us to see our continuation right away. This is something we have to remind ourselves to do every day. When I look at my friends, students, and the more than one thousand monks and nuns I have ordained, who are practicing mindfulness and leading retreats around the world, I see my continuation body.

Can you see how you are continued in your parents, in your brothers and sisters, in your teachers and friends? Can you see the continuation body of your parents and loved ones [in you]?

Each one of us should train ourselves to see our continuation body while we’re still alive, we’ll know how to cultivate it to ensure a beautiful continuation in the future.

That is what Continuation is – a recognition and acceptance of life as an ongoing, never-ending process of learning, growing and evolving that we get to be a part of for ourselves and for each other. If we can think about ourselves and our lives that way, self-acceptance and patience are much, much easier.

Wondering how in the world you could ever convince yourself that your work is done and your dream is alive? I made you something to that will help you try. Enter your details below to receive a free copy of the "How to Be Patient While Chasing Big Dreams" worksheet. It's a four step exercise designed to help you identify your existing legacy, your body of “work”. You can return to this worksheet whenever you feel yourself beginning to crumble under the weight of your dreams.


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Recap: How to be patient when chasing big dreams

Imagine the pointlessness and cruelty of telling a flower that it is not blooming fast enough. Chasing a big dream is a blooming process.

As you continue on the noblest of journeys - sharing your ideas and gifts with the world - there are three things that you can do to create a happier, healthier relationship with time:

  • step-by-step guidance on choosing a promise and developing a promise-keeping plan
  • prompts and fill-in-the-blank spaces for you to create your plan
  • examples of promises, resource inventories, issues and obstacles

To make this collection of calming principles the way you do life, you’ve learned to rescue yourself from an impatient moment with Hello, Habit Energy, how to find joy in the journey with Choose the Right Pursuits, and how to rest easy knowing that legacies are left daily with The Concept of Continuation.

Ready to get started now? If you have not already requested to receive the How to Be Patient While Chasing Big Dreams Worksheet, .

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Hello! I'm a recovered Type-A+ people-pleaser and praise-seeker. Through Neon Soul Supply Co., I share the same habits, exercises, projects and tools that I used to start self-defining success and happiness so that you can do the same.

Copyright 2021 Morgan Greenwood Yoga