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The Art of Patience


We’ve probably all heard the axiom “patience is a virtue”. It’s first origins date back to a poem call Piers Plowman, created sometime between 1360-1387 by William Langland. It is similar to the Latin expression, maxima enim, patientia virtus (patience is the greatest virtue). Throughout history, adopting the value of patience has been equated to an almost divine quality.


I like to say that patience is an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Those with patience are able to remain calm and avoid impulsive action when faced with challenges.


Being impatient has little to offer.


The line at the store or the morning rush hour gridlock is impervious to your thoughts and emotions. If you’re stuck, you may as well enjoy yourself. Being impatient will get you an increased cortisol level, heartburn, frustration, and a negative attitude.


Patience is beneficial to your health, happiness, relationships, and goals. Impatience is costly. That’s why mastering the art of patience is so rewarding.


Benefits of Patience


Consider these important benefits to having patience:


1. It’s easier to be happy when you’re patient. Impatient people are not experiencing positive feelings. Having patience reduces stress and anxiety. Challenging situations are more manageable when the situation can be approached with patience. Ask yourself these questions if you think impatience is an acceptable quality...


  • Has being impatient ever benefitted you?


  • How do you feel when you’re impatient? Are you stressed? Happy? Uncomfortable?


  • Are the patient people you know more or less happy than the impatient people you know?

2. Patient people are healthier. The stress that impatient people feel is hard on the mind and body. Those that feel less stress suffer from fewer medical issues. Heart conditions, ulcers, and many other health conditions are made more serious by stress. You can potentially live longer and enjoy yourself more if you’re patient.


3. You can accomplish larger goals. Big goals require time. Time requires patience. Big goals are impossible without some measure of patience. Consider how your impatience has short-circuited your success in the past.


4. Some things are outside your control and patience smooths the journey. Overcoming an illness or injury can’t be sped up by sheer will or impatience. A pregnancy requires a certain amount of time. Getting over a personal loss or tragedy takes time. Losing several pounds can’t happen overnight. When dealing with stressful situations, it’s important to remember a simple 3-step process:


  • Can I control it? If there are aspects of the situation within your direct control, what small but significant steps can you take to get the desired outcome? With a little extra patience and perseverance you’ll get better results.


  • Can I influence it? If you don’t have direct control over all or some of the situation, can you exert positive influence on those who do to help get the desired outcome? It’s much better to come to people with an attitude of gratitude and a willingness to cooperate. Impatience creates loss of respect and loss of concern with others.


  • How do I let it go? If there are aspects of the situation that you simply have no control over, it’s important to recognize this and let go. No matter how impatient you become, it’s not going to change when something simply isn’t in your control.


5. You’ll make better decisions. Impatient people don’t take the necessary time to make wise decisions. Impatient people are stressed, and stressed people tend to be impulsive. Patience provides the time and space to contemplate the situation and make a wise decision.


  • Make a list of the times when impatience has cost you. Consider your personal relationships, work, and finances. Impatience leads to poor decisions. Remind yourself of those times you’ve made your life more challenging by being impatient.


  • Remember always to refocus on your values. If you’re feeling impatient, it’s usually because of a conflict in values, which evoke a negative response. Perhaps the conflict is internal (within you), or perhaps its external (with another person or event). Remembering your core values and staying true to them will go much further than losing your patience. When you’re impatient, you’re working from a set of anti-values, and often the outcome will be less than gratifying.

Developing Patience


It’s possible for anyone to develop patience. Follow these steps:


1. Set short goals. For example, attempt to spend the next hour being the most patient person you’ve ever known. Avoid letting anything bother you during this period of time. Extend the time as you’re able.


2. Pause before everything you say and do. Do you want to get off the couch and raid the refrigerator? Make yourself wait 15 minutes. Are you ready to interrupt a conversation to make yourself heard? Wait until the conversation has concluded before speaking. Slow down and practice patience at every opportunity. The average day will provide plenty of practice!


3. Determine when you’re least patient. When do you find yourself unable to control yourself as well as you’d like? Focus your attention on these trouble spots. Aim for slow, steady progress. Avoid expecting perfection or making too many demands on yourself. Slow and steady wins the race.


4. Notice your thoughts when you’re impatient. What do you think about when you’re feeling impatient? Notice your thoughts and change them. You can choose to think about anything you’d like, so think about something that encourages you to be patient.


Patience is a character trait worthy of cultivation. Many confuse patience with weakness or passivity. But patience is an intelligent reaction to a situation that’s outside the realm of control. Impatience can be unhealthy, create additional challenges, and make you (and everyone else) miserable in the process. Which do you choose?

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