In this day and age most of us are used to instant results. Everything has to be done yesterday. Additionally, many of us lead such stressful lives that the slightest hindrance provokes annoyance and frustration. Since I am the product of my age, I too have struggled with impatience. The 4 minute wait for the next train or long queues at cinemas used to irritate me years ago.
But over time, I have learned to be a little more patient. Being patient allows me to maintain my clarity of mind. It also enables me to see into the heart of the matter, thus finding the best solution or rising above it. Thankfully, patience, like all things, is an art which anybody can learn. The following are some ways that I have used to become more patient:
The Art of Patience
1. How keeping a record helped me: The first thing I did was to keep a record of the times I lost my patience and why. Whenever I am unaware of my actions, it makes it easier for me to make the same mistakes repeatedly. From my records, I could see a pattern in my behaviour and therefore make the necessary adjustments.
2. Understanding the causes of my impatience: The next step was to figure out the incidents that made me lose my patience. I carefully noted the behaviours of people that caused me to become frustrated. Then I observed the things that people said which could set me off. Finally I looked at the situations that made me impatient. For me it was what people said and their behaviours which affected my patience the most. And so these were the areas I focused on to become more patient.
3. The importance of empathy: One way that consistently helps me to maintain my cool is empathy. In any encounter, I make it a point to place myself in the other person’s shoes early on. By seeing things from their point of view, it takes a lot more to affect my composure. I hardly feel minor irritations as a result and hence it is easier for me to overlook them. As for the bigger issues, once I understand their motivations, I can take the steps to resolve matters.
4. Delaying my response in the heat of the moment: Admittedly, there are times when empathy fails. This is when I try to shift my focus from the irritation to something else. I generally take 5 deep breaths by breathing in and out slowly. When this fails to be sufficient, I count slowly to 10. Finally, when all else fails, I walk away from the situation for a few minutes to let things cool down. I have learned that to engage in a battle of egos to establish who is right or wrong will only make the situation worse. Instead I use this time to regain my composure and to focus on the solution, not the problem. Only when I have thought of the best way to handle matters, do I return to resolve the issue. The purpose of all these actions is to delay my response to avoid doing or saying something regrettable.
5. Becoming more tolerant: Part of my quest to be more patient involved increasing my level of tolerance. To accomplish this, I began with the minor irritations from my records. By selecting the easy irritations that I could manage, I avoided being overwhelmed. Through repeated exposure, I slowly got used to the irritations, thus increasing my level of tolerance. Naturally, it was easier to be patient for the minor irritations. The major irritations required more stringent measures.
6. Focus on the solutions, not the problem: As I mentioned earlier, it is important to focus on the solutions, not the problem. Whenever I am about to lose my cool, I try to consider how I can change situation to resolve the point of contention. What can I do? Is there any way to reach a compromise? If it is possible to resolve the issue, I take immediate action to do so. By solving the problem, the source of my irritation disappears.
7. Create opportunities: Sometimes I have no choice but to endure a situation and wait. During these moments, I always try to change the waiting into a productive opportunity. From adjusting my schedule to fixing appointments to calling an old friend to catch up; these are some ways I use to pass the time. Alternatively, I can also take the time to slow down and appreciate my surroundings. Watching the birds or the stray cats at play reminds me that my frustrations are all in my mind. Turning frustrations into opportunities is better than losing my patience or wasting time.
8. Remember the big picture: Ah the big picture; one of my favourite techniques for being patient. In the heat of the moment, when my emotions clouds my judgement and objectivity, I tend to develop tunnel vision. This makes it very easy for me to lose my patience. Nowadays, I try to remember the big picture. I try to see everything as part of a bigger process. I make it a point to consider the causes and effects that have led to this situation. Additionally, I remind myself that short cuts may not be beneficial in the long run. This is especially so when the situation is important. The more important a situation is, the more patient I try to be to get it done right once and for all; step by step.
9. The pros and cons of losing our patience: Maintaining my objectivity and detachment in the heat of the moment is always difficult. Losing my objectivity makes me lose my patience. Therefore I make it a point to ask myself what the pros and cons of losing my patience are. Will it help matters? Or is it merely to feel good by letting out my frustration on the other person? What will I achieve if I lose my patience? Will it make things better or worse? When I realize that losing my patience is detrimental to my cause, it becomes easier for me to maintain my cool.
10. Practice makes perfect: To be good at anything, we have to keep practicing at it. Olympic athletes spend years practicing and perfecting their sport to become the best in the world. Similarly, although I have followed the techniques above carefully, I still have to work at maintaining my patience. I still have to put in the necessary effort and practice. With this awareness in mind, I treat every opportunity that comes my way as a chance to practice my patience.
11. Be patient to develop patience: Rome was not built in a day. Similarly, learning patience requires time and effort. Because the goal may seem far off, I focus on making progress on a daily basis. Trying to be more patient today compared to yesterday is a more manageable goal than expecting to be patient immediately. Soon the days will become weeks, months and years. In this manner, I will patiently become patient without realizing it.
12. Create healthy outlets for frustrations: Whenever I allow my frustrations to build, I find myself becoming shorter tempered than usual. Therefore I try to keep my frustration levels low by burning the energy caused by stress. There are many healthy alternatives such as sports, punching a pillow or shouting when you are alone. My preferred form is working out in a gym. Once I have let the frustration out of my system, I naturally become more patient.
13. Spiritual nourishment: Read books or listen to audiotapes about spirituality. This is where I first learned to find my inner harmony and patience. By constantly nourishing my mind with such influences I naturally became calmer. And the calmer I was, the more patience I had. Over time, I have found that my perspective has shifted. The things that used to irritate me no longer do so anymore.
14. Meditation: Meditation is a great way to help you become more patient. Constant meditation enables me to maintain my composure even under trying circumstances. By having greater control over my thoughts and emotions, patience becomes easier for me.
As we go about our day to day lives, we are bound to encounter countless things that will make us lose our patience. But this is not a bad thing. Since you cannot run away from the irritations of life, this means you will have countless opportunities to practice patience. With constant practice, you will find your patience growing day by day. There is no mystery or secret to this; you reap what you sow. You may forget yourself and lose your patience from time to time, but that’s alright. Just keep practicing. The art of patience, like life, is a journey, not a destination. If I can do it, so can you.