Learning to Be Patient

In my last piece, I wrote about the role of friction in our everyday lives and how we can reduce it in order to live and work better. We are so used to always getting what we want when we want that when things get even slightly delayed for whatever reason, we get impatient and anxious. Our package may not arrive on time, or we may not get our food served promptly at a restaurant.

It’s easy to get impatient sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, when our internet service is down, when our flight gets delayed, during checkout at the grocery store, or when a track/video takes too long to stream, etc.

Other examples include being empathic with those who are closest to us and are having a difficult time managing their emotions or listening to a loved one at the end of the day when you lack the energy or space and all you want to do is retire to solitude.

Contrary to what we might believe, being patient is less about waiting and has more to do with our response when things don’t turn out the way we expect. I was reminded of this when waiting for one of my packages from a shipping company. They were having a difficult time locating it, and even after locating the package, they needed some documents to clear customs. After providing the necessary documents and receiving no update on the shipment for a few days, it would have been easy for me to react and get anxious about it, but I chose not to. This is not to say that there weren’t moments when I felt a bit frustrated, but then I quickly realigned myself. I knew that it wasn’t in my control anyway, and there was little I could do. So the best thing for me was to be patient, continue following up with the shipping company for updates, and hope to get the package soon without feeling stressed. This goes back to proaction — we are not hurt by the situations or circumstances in our life, but how we respond to them. In other words, we can only be upset by the choices we make, since that is totally in our control.

Patience is defined in the dictionary as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

There are many benefits of practicing patience as a virtue in our everyday lives. We can learn to be more empathic, generous, and compassionate — all of which can contribute significantly to our well-being. Being patient can help us reduce depression and other negative emotions. We can be more at peace with ourselves. We can resolve things with others in a calmer, better way. We can listen to others better, which will also help us understand them. We have the ability to distinguish between the things that are in our control and those that aren’t without getting worked up about the latter.

For me personally, learning to becoming more patient has been a continuous process that has taken me years and continues to remain an ongoing challenge. I say this because if you’re the kind of person who gets irritated easily, I just want you to know that you’re not going to change overnight, and that’s okay. That said, here are some steps you can take towards becoming more patient:

It starts with being aware of when you need to be patient. Are there certain situations that set you off more than others? What are the cues behind it? Observe the way you talk to yourself in those situations. Remind yourself that you always have a choice. Take a deep breath and relax. Always strive to see the positive side in any situation.

For me personally, I know that when I am tired, hungry, or sleepy, I tend to be less patient and more irritable than I would be otherwise. That’s not to mean that I would be “aggressive” in any way — far from it. If anything, I’ll have less energy to listen and might not be able to give my undivided attention. For me, those are signs that I need to renew myself in one of those ways before interacting with others.

You can have/use the power of daily affirmation to cultivate patience in your life. So, if you want to be more patient, you can write down an affirmation statement such as, “I am the kind of person who is patient and always keeps my emotions in check in difficult situations”.

We need to learn to pause more, especially in situations where we have made impulsive decisions before. We need to slow down. Doing exercise and Yoga can help, and you can also practice mindfulness and be grateful for what you have (rather than complain about what you don’t).

We need to seek to understand others before we can expect them to be understood. We can do that by listening to what they have to say and trying to understand their perspective without agreeing or disagreeing with them or judging them in any way.

Listening to others and trying to understand their perspective might take more of your time than you had planned for. It’s likely that you will need to spend that extra time listening to them as you can’t rush the conversation even though you had scheduled time for it. The point is that being “efficient” doesn’t work in relationships.

Accept that things will often take their own time, which may not be in your control. This was certainly true in the package example I shared at the beginning of the draft. The best thing to do in this case is be patient and keep your emotions in check. This is as true for your work as it is for your life.

It can be easy for us to expect results from our work quickly and to even feel entitled about it, but the truth is we are only entitled to our work and not to the results of our work (paraphrased from The Gita). When it comes to getting results at work, we need to be patient about it, but we need to be impatient when it comes to doing the everyday work.

It can be frustrating trying to solve a pesky problem involving others. The question then becomes if you’re being part of the problem or actually looking to solve it. Focus on doing things that will help you rather than complain about things that won’t.

It can be challenging to treat others with kindness and respect (and especially those who can do you no good) when you’re having a bad day and when things are generally not going your way. How you treat others on your worst days truly determines your character and separates you from others.

In our rush to get everything done and to be everywhere, we need to slow the heck down. We need to understand there is only so much we can do in the time we have. It’s better to do fewer things better. Moreover, it’s not about having more time. If you had more time, it wouldn’t help. You would put those hours right back into your work.

We need to be patient while driving. It can often be frustrating to drive behind a slow car in the fast lane. When someone cuts us off in our lane, instead of reacting to it by cursing and honking at them, why not let them go and be okay with it? There might be a genuine reason they are speeding. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt? Why not enjoy the slow ride to our home/work?

In other cases, we might be stuck in traffic. We can either choose to complain about it or make the most of the “extra” time we have by listening to the radio or a podcast, calling a loved one, or doing something productive with our time. It’s all a matter of choice, really. Things are just things until we label them as good or bad.

Being patient can help us be slower, calmer, happier, and non-reactive. It can help us make better decisions. We can learn to listen and understand others better, be empathic to their challenges, and learn to be more compassionate beings. There is no downside to it. At least, that’s the way I see it.

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