Hurrying Along the Path of Patience

'How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?'

William Shakespeare

In a world that seems to be moving ever faster, patience is becoming more and more of a challenge for many people. Many of us are now so used to having immediate access to information and resources that we become easily frustrated when we lose this to a technological or other breakdown. The problem with this is not only that it increases the level of stress in our lives, but also that we, perhaps without even realising it, expect the same immediate progress in others and get annoyed with them when they aren't 'operating' to our standards.

As we discussed in a previous blog (see here), being patient means allowing others to be imperfect, to make mistakes and to not always get it right. It's accepting that they will have 'breakdowns' and 'failures', just as we do. It's knowing that they're different from us and won't always respond to and/or do things the same way we do. Many dictionary definitions also highlight the fact that being patient means enduring delay, trials and suffering without getting angry or upset, and therein lays the benefit for us. Why get frustrated about things we can't change? Anyone can be tolerate bad behaviour, difficult circumstances and/or challenging people - many times we don't get a choice - but it's how we tolerate these things that says something about who we are as a person.

When it comes to others, the more impatient we are with them, the more strain we put on the relationship. To start with, they begin to feel inadequate and judged, and perhaps even anxious about making a mistake or disappointing us. They may respond passively (i.e., let us walk all over them), or aggressively (i.e., get angry with us in turn), and neither fosters good communication or harmony. On our part, by being impatient we condemn ourselves to a constant state of frustration, upset and anger, which isn't good for our health, our everyday happiness or our relationships. Being patient, however, means we love the person where they’re at without becoming annoyed or condemning.

To get started on the path to patience, here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Why am I in such a hurry?

What is motivating you to always be on the go and/or frustrated with delays? Do you have too much to do, and need to rethink your schedule? Are you putting too much pressure on yourself to be everything to everyone? We are all in control of how we spend our time, and sometimes reorganising our priorities is the place to start.

2. Why am I getting so frustrated with others?

Do you need more time to yourself, or do you need to work on accepting people as they are? Try and identify what's at the root of your impatience, while remembering that we can't change people, but we can change our response to them.

3. What triggers me to lose my patience?

Is it a build up of things, or something specific like someone letting your down or not being there for you when they said they would be? Understanding the triggers behind your loss of patience can also give you power over them.

4. What do I do to stay calm?

Do you take time to relax, to slow down? Without conciously making the effort to relax, it becomes easier and easier for us to lose our patience, even over little things.

5. Am I focusing on what matters?

Are you making a big deal out of nothing? Sometimes when we're stressed, we lose perspective on what is really important.

As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. It helps us to endure difficult times without living in exasperation, and to love people as they are. Patience can only be learnt by going through trials, and it can be difficult to adapt to especially if we're used to living life in a hurry and with high expectations of others, but by conciously slowing down and learning to take life as it comes, it become a virtue that we no longer want to live without.

To find out more about your level of patience, try this test: