On Practicing Patience...

We've all heard the old expression, "patience is a virtue". Seems pretty straightforward and to-the-point -- simply wait for goodness to occur, and we can then enjoy it. However, so many of us have a very difficult time being patient, and certainly have little patience with ourselves. Why is that, and what can we do to build patience within us? Let's have a look together...

Patience is so very important because it is a reflection of our mindfulness and self-discipline. We are able to be present and in the moment through a process or exercise, not allowing time or perceived inconvenience hamper our intention. Impatience, on the other hand, is exacerbated by expectation, and preys upon our base instinct to avoid situations we deem to be 'painful'.

For some, entitlement may be an issue when impatience is considered; for the majority of us, however, the perception of a painful state is what brings it about. When we are me with 'inconvenience' or 'frustration' in some way, our base brain perceives it as a moment of pain; instead of working to solve the perceived issue in a mutually beneficial manner, we let our base reactions take over. We lash out in anger, annoyance, and irritation as we seek to end that painful state as swiftly as possible. But how often does this reaction actually solve the situation? I mean -- do you really get your food any faster by losing your temper on the waiter?

Things become even more difficult when we are impatient with ourselves. Whether it be learning a new skill or making a mistake, we often give ourselves little room for error. Expectation rears its head here, as we expect 'more' or 'better' of ourselves, and feel it necessary to punish perceived failures. Expecting greatness of ourselves is not a bad thing; it becomes negative when we do not allow the time necessary to achieve that greatness. Pairing patience with expectation can create a blend far closer to intention, as it incorporates the mindfulness and presence to explore the path towards a goal, and not immediately demand that the results be achieved.

So, given that we all possess the potential for impatience, how do we go about building resilience, and the strength to be patient? In a word: practice. I know -- that's not really what you wanted to hear. Because practice requires patience. We're in a bit of a loop now... Ok, let's break out of it. As with any skill, it must be developed over time in order to reach its full potential; that doesn't mean that there aren't ways to help foster patience in ourselves that do not involve purposefully standing in the long line for coffee everyday. Here's a few ways that patience can be built up, empowering you along the way:

Flip the script

Pain often surfaces as a means of identifying a problem. We're pushed outside of our comfort zones, and find ourselves decidedly uncomfortable. Those are the moments where impatience boils to the surface, and we explode with frustration and annoyance. Instead of letting reaction take over, respond instead. Responding requires active thought and intention, as opposed to automatic reaction. Assess the painful situation, and look for possible solutions -- positive ones! Is this a moment where I can work to make things better by simply taking the time to do so? Or perhaps all I can do is appreciate the time the process takes, being more present and in the moment rather than focusing purely on the ends. Either way, you're exercising patience within yourself.

Slow things down

We live in a generally fast-paced society, where everything is accessible nigh-instantaneously. It's become habit for us to have things now, so making a concerted effort to slow things down can help to build patience. That does not mean that you cannot enjoy instant gratification, but when that is taken for granted, our shift to impatience is incredibly swift. Appreciate the time it can take for things to happen, instead of rushing to the point of immediate gratification.

Take up a hobby that requires patience

When our free time and pleasure-seeking is interrupted or delayed, that jump to impatience is almost immediate. Tell a golfer that their tee-time has been pushed, and you'll see what I mean. When we choose to spend our time with an activity that requires patience, there's less likelihood that we will find ourselves living in impatience. Practice gardening; take up cross-stitch; learn how to play chess. There are numerous activities that are incredibly enjoyable that do not have an immediate payoff; when you can attach pleasure to increasing your patience, it is much easier to do so.

Be mindful

We've spoken about mindfulness, intention, and being present before, so I won't go into great length. However, I encourage you to pay attention to what causes you to become impatient. Impatience can be likened to a habit, and when you understand what cues the routine of impatience, you can work to change things around. Perhaps you cannot alter the cue, but when the link has been made, you'll have a much better ability to change the routine.