There is a decades-old children’s song that goes like this – “Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry.” (Herbert the Snail, written by Sherry Saunders and Frank Fernandez)
There’s a powerful message in that song because anyone who deals with impatience knows what happens as a result. Your anger surfaces, you feel the muscles in your body tightening as your frustration grows. You start to worry you’re going to be late, you worry you’ll miss your deadline, worry consumes you all because you weren’t being patient.
Think about it – everyone wants everything instantly now. You can order something online and have it within a couple of hours. No one wants to wait for anything anymore. There are businesses revolving around making life as convenient as possible for us. All of this has resulted in less patience.
Why care about patience anyway?
Patience comes with benefits, from helping you make the right decision, to an increase in your intelligence, and ultimately, results in a more tranquil and hopeful life. Let’s build your patience.
1. Pay Attention
More importantly, start paying attention to when your patience wears thin and how that feels. When you pay attention to when you’re most likely to lose patience, then you may find a pattern emerging. For example, perhaps you lose your patience as the day goes on, and as the workday comes to an end you have a short fuse.
By identifying your triggers, you can prepare to meet them head-on. You know your patience is thin at a particular point, so it’s not the best time to tackle a serious conversation. Taking it further, why does your patience thin at that point? Is it because you’re low on energy, hungry for dinner?
Try having a late afternoon snack to help manage that impatience. You might not be able to completely overcome the feelings you have at that time, but you can soothe the irritation you experience.
The act of stopping is a mindfulness activity. You can use it to build your patience before you tackle a challenging situation. When you find your patience thinning, you can try this practice before moving ahead.
Stop what you are doing.
Take a moment to practice a breathing exercise.
Observe your emotions and thoughts.
Proceed. You took a moment to check-in, and this has allowed you to decide how to proceed. Sometimes you have to take a moment to reflect before you can take your next step.
The more you practice patience, the more patience you will have. Select at least three situations from your day to practice intentional patience. For example, let someone skip ahead of you in line at the grocery store or coffee shop, let a car merge ahead of you when you’re on your commute. There are plenty of opportunities throughout your day where you can mindfully choose to hang back and practice patience.
4. Take a Break
When you feel impatient or feel it brewing, sometimes the best thing to do is take a break. When you are faced with a challenging situation it’s easy to feel trapped and lose patience. Things escalate the more trapped you feel, because your body wants to escape. So, escape before returning to the issue. This is particularly helpful when you are impatient as a result of the behavior or actions of others.
You may be impatient about a delay, but often on reflection this can be beneficial. Think about it – have you ever been waiting for a job offer, a phone call, or something else that never came? You may have been angry or disappointed at the time, but then something better came along?
When you take a step back and reflect on a situation and look at the big picture, it’s a good lesson. Is this going to matter at all tomorrow? Is this going to matter at all this time next month? Is this going to matter at all next year? Probably not, and understanding that will help you become a more patient person.