A couple of days ago, I stopped by Dunkin Donuts after finishing my grocery shopping. I parked my cart on one side and went around the corner where the counter was. Two steps in, I realized three people were in front of me. I whispered, “bullshit,” and made a beeline back to my cart. Why? Why couldn’t I wait those two minutes? Was it too much? What was it? That event haunted me for the rest of the day, and I kept thinking about the concept of patience and what it means to be patient. Is it good or bad? Is it helpful, and if so, how? What separates patient people from inpatient ones, and is there a way to train and improve your patience?
What Is Patience?
“Patience, my friend, patience! You will find in time that it has everything to do with it,” wrote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, giving the famous quote to his equally renowned detective Sherlock Holmes. Beautifully said, yet somewhat ironic coming from a character with a known short fuse.
The dictionary defines patience dryly as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
The definition misses one crucial aspect of it: interest or attention. It’s easy to have patience about something you don’t care about or if you can occupy yourself with something else. The former is apathy; the latter is a distraction.
True patience means that you can withstand a situation involving something you care about or have some expectations about, and it does not develop in the way you’d expect it.
The culprits could be multiple, but the crucial dimension common to all situations is time.
Patience is often associated with waiting for something to happen while expecting it to happen sooner. The waiting could be combined with some form of pain or delayed pleasure or not.
For example, having the patience to enter the bathroom depends on whether you’re waiting to pee or to wash your hands.
Another dimension of patience has to do with understanding. Here, time is also of the essence. When you have an idea and present it to someone else, and they have difficulty comprehending it, you need the patience to keep going. On top of that, besides waiting for the person to understand what you’re saying, you must also figure out ways to present the information differently to increase the chances of it being understood.
So, patience always fills a gap between an expectation related to time and reality. During that time, a patient person can remain clear-minded, calm, and composed and continue to think and speak clearly. On the other hand, an impatient person will lose their ability to think clearly; they might raise their voice or resort to other mechanisms to allow that impatience to burst outwardly.
The question that we have to ask then is this: is patience good or bad? Yes, it sounds good because everybody talks about it that way, but is it helping us or holding us back?
Is Patience Beneficial?
It indeed takes a second to become a multi-millionaire when you win the lottery, but it might take a lifetime of buying lottery tickets until you get there. The point here is that the good things take a long time, whereas mediocre and bad things usually don’t.
That’s probably why there’s no fast food restaurant with a Michelin star.
In the folk’s wisdom, “good things come to those who wait.” It sounds like a cliche, and it is, but it’s as accurate today as when whoever said it when they said it.
Patience is closely related to perseverance and self-discipline. When things take a long time to show results, you need to be diligent enough to keep going at it.
In this case, patience doesn’t imply simply waiting but putting a concentrated effort into the process.
For example, losing weight is a mental endurance exercise much more than a physical one. Although the willpower to say no to bad foods and reject the sedentary life are the driving forces, patience is not far behind.
It takes patience to understand that those results are not going to be immediate, and they could take months, sometimes years, to turn to reality.
Therefore, patient people can persevere in their endeavors and achieve their long-term goals.
The Perils of Impatience
There are many ways in which impatience affects your life and also the life of those around you.
1. Impatience effects on you
When you can’t keep your cool when things don’t go your way fast enough, you increase the anxiety and frustration in your life. Both are uncomfortable emotions that we have to accept but are unnecessarily exacerbated by impatience.
In addition to the general effects of impatience on how we feel, impatience can also trigger us to abandon projects faster than we should.
That’s the case of giving up because the results don’t show up quick enough or at the right level of intensity.
That is a significant problem because, as we established earlier, most good things take a prolonged time to materialize. If you cannot have the patience to wait for the results while effectively putting efforts behind them, you might quit way too early and miss out on reaping the benefits.
2. Impatience effects on others
If you are a parent, you are not a stranger to impatience. Kids will do that to you; they’ll drill you with one gazillion questions per minute until you lose your cool and snap.
Or, maybe you have a different type of experience at work where you have to train new hires in your department. Of course, the new people with little to no experience (let’s say) may have difficulty grasping the concepts that come so easy to you.
In any of those situations, you might find yourself losing your temper due to your inability to control your patience.
That can cause a breakdown in relationships and paint you as not helpful. The reality is you could be helpful; you just don’t have the patience for it.
How To Be More Patient
Below are ten time-tested techniques to help you become more patient over time. Since patience itself is a skill that is inherently linked to your emotions, it’s not something that will happen overnight. You must practice these techniques time and time again. I understand the paradox of asking yourself to be patient while practicing being more patient, but there’s no other way to put it.
If you do realize that your patience or lack thereof is a problem in your life, you will at least be able to tap into your willpower for a short time and force yourself to practice. As you keep at it and do not give up, some of these practices will slowly morph into habits, and they’ll establish as lifelong routines.
Identify the reasons for your impatience
When you feel impatience, there is usually a reason behind it. Sometimes that reason is not apparent, and you need to dig a little deeper to understand it.
For instance, if you are behind a bathroom door and you really need to go, and the person inside is taking their sweet time, that’s a valid reason to feel a little on edge.
Every time you experience impatience, ask yourself why. More often than not, you’ll be able to connect it with something you could learn how to do better. For example, if you feel impatient while driving, is it because you are always late? If you are always late, is it because you cannot be effective in the morning? Are you ineffective in the morning because you go too late to bed at night?
No matter the most profound reason, do your best to observe yourself getting impatient and try to figure out the cause. The better you are at identifying those reasons, the better you’ll be at managing your impatience.
Apply short-term distractions
Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in situations where impatience is almost a given. Think about going to the DMV and being stuck in a line for one hour just to take an updated picture and sign a paper. The frustration is justified to some extent.
We all wish places like the DMV would be better organized. But since they’re not and it is not up to you how they manage their business, you can’t change anything about it–it’s not in your control.
In those types of situations, it’s helpful to come prepared with several healthy distractions. For example, I always have my e-reader with me. In cases where I have to wait for long periods, I pull it up and read.
You can figure out similar things such as making phone calls (if possible), listening to audiobooks, music, or even playing a simple game on your phone.
These little distractions will take your focus away from a situation outside of your control.
Be more empathetic
Very often, we all get frustrated because of other people. They either do things the wrong way, at the wrong time, in the wrong order or with a bad attitude. Some move too fast, some move too slow. Some don’t get us; others seem to say things we don’t comprehend.
Either way, people are often the apparent cause of our impatience.
That is the best time to practice empathy. In moments like that, you need to tell yourself and accept that all people have independent thoughts, ideas, and those manifest in different ways. Everyone is different, and they are all entitled to be that way.
In addition, assume that people do their best to navigate their lives. Unless you have some specific reason to believe that a person is purposely trying to irritate you—most are not—give people the benefit of the doubt.
There are many situations where tables are reversed–when you cause impatience in others. How do you feel when you see them react? Put yourself in their shoes and shift your mindset.
Practicing empathy toward others is one of the best ways to train your patience.
Practice meditation often
Patience and slowing things down are at the core of meditation and mindfulness. When life runs in the fast lane, it’s hard to stop and focus on one thing. Meditation helps you train that muscle by forcing you to eliminate all inputs and distractions and focus on your feelings and emotions.
Meditation takes you out of your past and keeps you away from the future. Instead, it teaches you to focus on the present moment and acknowledge how you feel without any judgment.
It’s a magnificent way to train your patience. When I started meditation, I remember I could barely do three minutes before my entire body would get jittery. It took me months to barely get to ten minutes. During those times, I finally realized the massive extent of my impatience. The fact that I couldn’t lie still for more than three minutes before thoughts inundated my brain was inconceivable.
There are many apps available that can guide you through the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Most of them are available on your portable devices, and you can use them on the run. When I started a new job and had a lot of stress on my mind, I used to do five to ten minutes of meditation before getting out of my car. That forced me to start my day by practicing patience before getting hit by the avalanche of tasks and requests for the day.
Understand the reaction in your body
You can understand the triggers, as I mentioned above in point one, but it’s also very critical to become self-aware of what impatience does to your body. That’s critical because when you start to recognize those signals, you can apply some deterring mechanisms before it’s too late.
Notice what happens to you when you feel impatience crawl up in your body. Do you feel jittery, sweaty? Is your jaw clenching and your heart racing?
What happens in your body is an excellent indicator that you can use as a red flag because your body will react faster than your mind. That will give you the necessary time to implement the appropriate calming techniques.
Keep track of your impatience
When you don’t measure something, it’s hard, if not impossible, to change it and even understand the problem’s extent. If you’ve identified a genuine problem with patience, you need to start documenting your impatience.
You can do so during your daily or weekly reviews. I recommend daily because those emotions are still raw and easy to connect with.
Probably the best way to do it is by journaling your thoughts at the end of the day. Write down those moments when you felt impatient. What was the reason behind it, and how did you react? Then, envision a different way you could’ve behaved.
By acknowledging your feelings and reactions at the moment and deliberately being thoughtful about alternative ways, you’re teaching your brain to pay attention. Those instinctual moments won’t be a cue-reaction chain anymore. Your mind will jump in and recognize the patterns.
You will soon be able to catch yourself in the act of becoming impatient and change your attitude toward it.
Keeping track brings those moments to light versus letting them disappear as if they did not exist, which is nothing but avoidance behavior.
Breathing is probably one of the oldest techniques in the book, and it appears almost as a panacea these days, no matter what the problem is. From giving birth to reducing stress, people tell you to breathe. It sounds so cliche that you’re almost tempted to ignore it, especially since you’re breathing all day long anyway! But, please, don’t.
Applying specific breathing techniques to reduce the stress imposed by your impatience is an invaluable tool. The best thing about it: you don’t need tools. After all, as I said, you’re always breathing. To develop a breathing technique that works for you, I recommend researching and experimentation. To get you started, here’s an excellent tutorial from Greatist that describes six breathing techniques you can use to relax in ten minutes or less.
Put things in perspective
Every time you feel impatience is because your focus is inward. Your brain is subconsciously asking: what do I need right now? How do I need it at this moment? You inadvertently become momentarily selfish and focused exclusively on what you want or need when that happens.
When your body signals you that you’re about to get impatient, try to change the perspective to get out of that mindset. Look at things from an objective point, as though you could observe the situation from above. What is the case from the perspective of the other people? What are they dealing with right now?
If the barista at Starbucks is taking too long to make the coffee, what could be the issue in her life today? Think of that with empathy in mind, and soon you’ll teach yourself to pull away from that momentary selfish mood and change the perspective, which, in turn, will chase your impatience away.
Only focus on what you can control
If you’ve ever driven in standing traffic, clenched the wheel, and shouted, “Just moooooove!” realize that you’re not alone. Most people have done it; I know I’ve done it more than once. It happens when you want something (to get somewhere or simply not be here), and you feel helpless about the situation. It’s a horrible feeling of losing control.
The truth is, you are helpless in the sense that there are a lot of moving pieces, and very few of them are in your control.
When you focus or allow your mind to dwell on those things you can’t control, your impatience exacerbates and morphs into more anxiety and frustration.
If you find yourself in a situation where you become impatient, ask yourself: what do I control here? How can I positively contribute to this, and what things are totally out of my control, and I need to accept them for what they are?
Teach patience to others
They say that the best form of learning is teaching. Once you get a hold of your impatience and start to figure out ways to apply calming methods, it’s time to pay it forward. Teach your kids, your friends, or anyone else who’d listen. Impart your knowledge about how you could curb your impatience and become a more patient person.
When you do so, not only will you help others, but you will also cement your knowledge about it even better.
Practice Being More Patient With Yourself
Roman playwright Plautus once wrote that “patience is the best remedy for every trouble.” It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it doesn’t seem so off anymore if you think about how much impatience aggravates all troubles.
The bottom line is that patience is an excellent skill to have in any context. The great thing is that once you learn how to practice patience in one area, it will be much easier to apply it somewhere else.
Therefore, you should strive to train your practice every day. I’m sure there are plenty of opportunities–driving, waiting in a line, listening to your child tell a story, and so on. Everywhere around you, there are chances for you to become impatient.
The more you fight them, the better you become at being patient.
Other Resources on How To Be More Patient
- 22 Simple Yet Effective Ways To Be More Patient
- Easily Agitated? Here Are 6 Tips for Cultivating Patience!
- 15 Tips for Becoming as Patient as Job
- How to train yourself to be more patient
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- What is your general default state – patient or impatient?
- Have you ever reflected upon the reasons behind your impatience, if any?
- What are some methods you use to train your patience in difficult situations?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!