Picked up a book recently on the history of Europe from 1648 to 1815 (“Pursuit of Glory,” by Tim Blanning). It is a thick tome—more than 700 pages—and I cheerfully confess I did more skimming than aught else. Nonetheless I gleaned some interesting impressions.
First and foremost is a deep appreciation for how much easier life has gotten for human beings. On an intellectual level we all know this. Reading this level of detail about the everyday facets of life creates that awareness on an emotional level.
I never understood the extreme difficulties, dangers, and expense of travel (thus trade and communication) and its impact on daily life: One reason famines were so common was the difficulty of moving grain from areas of availability to areas of need. This difficulty was compounded by the slowness of communication (you had to know about it first before you could act), as well as the frequent lack of a central government with the power or ability to act. And in some of the most reprehensible cases, the lack of motivation to act.
I used to think of patience as a passive thing, something like raw intelligence, that you either were born with or you weren’t. I thought that someone was a patient person just as I thought he was tall or short. Patience just was. You either had patience or you didn’t.
With time and age has come experience and insight, and I now realize that patience can be learned, that I am capable of becoming much more patient (oh boy, more responsibility for my actions and the resulting consequences!).
Amazingly enough, just the realization that I had control, much more than I realized, and that I could achieve even more, resulted in a major increase in my patience. I started paying attention to what set me off, started anticipating, thus preventing. I came up with alternatives in advance, escape routes and pre-problem solutions. I worked out conversational scripts (internal and external) to steer me away from hot spots and critical issues. I became self aware enough to talk things out before they blew, to see the challenge developing and put out the sparks before they became a wildfire in my mind.
About 6 o’clock one recent Saturday morning I went downstairs and did a few reps on a Nautlius machine. The longer I live, the more important it is for me to add weight training to my routine physical activity, which currently is mainly aerobic. (Can we say racquetball? Love the game! Play 4 to 5 times a week.)
I did not push any memorable amount of iron, but I know that whatever I did that morning, I was capable of doing at least 50% more within a few months IF I decided to go for it, to set and follow a regular program of weight lifting.
I also know that if I choose not to continue that program, after a while I would revert to where I am now. Oh, there would be some residual benefit, but nothing like what would be gained by a regular maintenance level of weight training.
Your mind is no different. Your mind, your emotions, can be trained, focused, and directed. You are capable of feats of discipline, motivation, enthusiasm, patience, love, friendship, and achievement that would astound you, your friends, and co-workers.