Patience has never been my strong suit.
In fact, right now I’m impatiently waiting for the sun to reappear in winter-dreary Minnesota. But my lack of patience isn’t going to get me very far.
While I know intellectually that impatience won’t alter most situations, except to negatively affect my own state of mind, emotionally I often find it difficult to be patient. Hardly surprising considering that in the Everything DiSC® world, I’m the solid “D” on our team.
Having a busy work and home life doesn’t help, of course. But it’s the digital age that has really supercharged my—and many others’—impatience. We’ve gotten so used to instant gratification that a 30-second wait now seems interminable.
With everything else moving so quickly though, why should we invest time in relearning the art of patience?
Research suggests several reasons we benefit from practicing patience:
- We enjoy better physical and mental health. The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley notes several studies that link patience to more effective coping mechanisms and fewer health issues, as well as greater life satisfaction. (I know I feel better when my blood pressure isn’t spiking!)
- It encourages better interpersonal and civic relationships. Patient people have been shown to be “more cooperative, more empathetic, more equitable, and more forgiving.” And “interpersonally patient people” also tend to be less lonely. Scratch the surface of any thriving, happy neighborhood and you’re bound to find a passel of reasonably patient neighbors.
- Patient people tend to make more progress on their goals. Research shows it takes an average of 66 days to fully establish a new habit. And it’s a rare goal that doesn’t require new habits. Tangible results take patience.
- Decision-making can be more effective. Although there are obviously times when we must act quickly (patience is not synonymous with indecision), anyone who has hit Send on an inflammatory email knows there are also plenty of decisions that could benefit from due consideration.
We all know intuitively that equanimity in the face of stress, conflict, traffic jams, and snarky customer service representatives is generally beneficial to us—and those around us. But how do we relearn the art of patience?
Here are some suggestions:
- Know your emotional triggers. I find excessive traffic and bad drivers maddening. And if a customer service representative doesn’t acknowledge me, I am beside myself. An audiobook or an engaging radio show can work wonders in the first instance. For the second, the best thing I can do is consciously try to regulate my own emotions. This is how we “train our self-control muscles.”
- Monitor your perspective. For example, try not to think of it as being stuck in traffic so much as an opportunity to listen to that book you’ve been meaning to read. And ask yourself what’s going to happen if things don’t go the way you imagined. Is being in such a hurry really going to affect the outcome in a positive way?
- Be mindful and grateful. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude helps us become less impulsive and more adept at delaying gratification. Practice contentment for what you have in the moment.
- Take enough time for what matters to you. I must spend a certain amount of quality time with my family or my patience fuse shortens considerably. And getting out in nature is key to maintaining my emotional equilibrium. De-stress in the healthy ways that work for you, whether it’s meditation, social time with friends, or a long walk in the snow.
- Breathe. It sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s truly helpful. Stop and take a deep breath to center yourself. It could save you and the person (or car) in front of you a lot of unpleasantness.
Patience may seem like a lost art in our hectic world, but we can keep it from becoming extinct. The benefits of patience, and its impact on us personally and on our social environment, make it an art worth relearning.
Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)