Regaining Your Sense of Patience

For those of us who have hectic lifestyles, patience is probably not one of our top virtues. We often find ourselves rolling along from one activity to another with little time to spare. And, when we hit that inevitable snag, it often strikes a nerve and shatters what little patience we have on hand. Even people who might rank as VERY patient have triggers that cause them to react impatiently.

Signs of Being Impatient

Let’s take Mary for example.
Mary is driving to work. She allowed herself just the right amount of time to get to work with 5 minutes to spare. Suddenly, the cars in front of her start to back up, and she notices a bright orange “Road Work Ahead” sign to the side. Within a few minutes, she is stuck in traffic, and no cars are moving. She can feel herself getting angry. She starts to sweat, her muscles tense up, her breathing becomes shallow, she fidgets, and her heart begins to race. All sorts of negative thoughts enter Mary’s mind from “I can’t believe this” to worse. The longer her car inches along in the traffic congestion, the more agitated Mary gets. She hits the car horn several times and starts to swerve in and out of traffic. In all, Mary is displaying the classic signs of being impatient.

How do you know when you are becoming impatient? What are some of your physical and mental indicators?

Being Patient Versus Impatient
We are patient when we can accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Conversely, we are impatient when we become provoked, intolerant, irritated, restless and/or anxious when experiencing identical conditions.

Identifying the Root Causes for Impatience
If we can drill down to the root causes for our impatience, we can learn how best to maintain our patience in the future.

Focus on when you are feeling impatient and start identifying the underlying causes. In each situation, ask yourself, “Why am I feeling impatient?”

Your impatience often stems from a fundamental difference between your expectations and what you perceive to be the reality. In both cases, they may not be realistic or even reasonable.

What might trigger your impatience?

  • Your environment fails to align with your expectations. **This might include the feelings of anger and frustration when you discover your car doesn’t start in the morning or your favorite coffee shop is closed for renovation.
  • You don’t receive a quick resolution to your problem. ** For instance, you may become irritated after spending hours consulting with Tech Support and your computer still doesn’t work.
  • You are unable to master a skill within the expected timeframe. **This might include the feeling of being annoyed because you can’t speak Italian fluently within the advertised six months.
  • Other people fail to behave in a way that fits with your expectations. **As an example, becoming provoked when someone cuts in front of you in line or irritated that your first date was a no show.
  • You spend invaluable time waiting…and waiting…and waiting. **For instance, being restless and annoyed because you are stuck in the airport and your flight has been delayed for hours.
  • You fail to reach your own expectations. **This might include the frustration of breaking down to smoke a cigarette when you are trying to quit or missing an important meeting because you forgot to put it into your calendar.

Regaining a Sense of Patience
When you start to feel impatient, use these strategies to immediately adjust your frame of mind to reclaim your patience.

(1)  Acknowledge that you are losing or have lost your patience.

(2)  Focus on relaxing your body and letting go of the tension in your muscles.

(3)  Refocus your emotions by using the following breathing technique: keep your mouth closed and very slowly inhale, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and slowly exhale through your nose. Repeat this exercise until you feel less tense.

(4)  Use self-talk to pull yourself out of your impatient frame of mind. Encourage yourself to remain calm. Remind yourself that nothing good will come out of your reacting this way. Tell yourself that this too will pass.

(5)  Understand you usually can’t control the actual situation, but you can always control your attitude and response.

(6)  Find the positive. Even though your expectations were unmet, how can you make the best of your situation? If you are stuck in the airport, what fun or productive things can you do to pass the time?

When we are impatient, our emotions can often take control, causing us to do or say things that we will later regret. Be proactive. Work on maintaining your patience to live a better day.

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A.  in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University  and on the Board for LEARN Idaho.  Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging.  As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.