I know you’ve either heard it or you’ve said it (or both!). You’re on a long road trip, driving for hours, and inevitably out pops the question, “Are we there yet?” You can hear the whiny voice, can’t you? When I used to fly a lot for work I had a love-hate relationship with that map. You know the one. It has your origin and your destination with a line connecting them and a little symbol of an airplane showing you how far you’ve come on the trip and how far you still have to go. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked that, especially on long flights, with the follow up question running through my mind, “How much longer?”
The obvious missing element in the above scenarios is patience. We get impatient with so many things, traffic, in grocery store lines, in lines anywhere! But, we also get impatient with people, loved ones, co-workers, perfect strangers (and imperfect strangers!). Being impatient with situations is bad for us. It effects our blood pressure, heart rate, stomach, etc. Being impatient with people is also bad for us for the same reasons, but it’s bad for the other person as well. It can effect their body like effects ours. But it can also effect them mentally and emotionally to the point of inhibiting their growth.
Patience – Word Nerd Alert
So, what is patience? The English word comes from a Latin root that means “suffering.” One Greek word for “Patience” comes from two words, one meaning long and the other, temper, so it means taking a long time to get angry. Other words mean to bear a load for a long time or to endure hardship. One of my favorites is a Chinese expression. The characters for this “Patience” include one made up of the characters for “knife” and “heart” and one made up of characters for “and yet” and “small.” It seems to mean that patience is taking a knife to the heart and yet considering it a small thing. Wow!
Another, very simple definition of patience is “showing self control.” That seems appropriate when we consider some of phrases we use to express our impatience. “I lost my patience.” “I lost it.” “I went off.” Those expressions mean “I didn’t control myself.”
Patience is a Virtue
Whichever definition we choose, patience is good for everyone. That’s why the saying, “Patience is a virtue.” It keeps us calm which is healthier. But, and I would argue more important, it gives people room to grow. Patience allows people freedom to try things, experiment, make mistakes, fail, and ultimately succeed. Without it people become timid and fearful. With it they become creative and courageous.
Where does impatience come from? If you type that question into the Google search bar you’ll find some good articles on impatience from a psychological perspective. The depth of those articles is beyond my scope. I can say, though, that impatience comes largely from a belief that people and circumstances should align to my goals and timelines. When they don’t, I experience frustration which is akin to anger which is very similar to impatience.
How Do We Do It?
So, how do I become patient? It starts by remembering that the people around me are as interested in their goals and timelines as I am in mine. Are mine more important just because they’re mine? Hmmm, perhaps not. With that in mind, here are a couple things we can do to re-gain self control when we feel our patience running out:
- Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
- Identify the source of your frustration, what goal is being threatened or what timeline might not be met?
- Think about the actual worst that could happen in this situation.
- If we can’t change the situation without showing impatience then find a way to make the best of it. We might check emails on your phone if you’re in a long line, for example. Be creative.
Showing patience makes for healthier, more productive relationships at home, at work, anywhere. Think about the last time you showed impatience. How did that go? What might you have done differently? Now, plan for the next time a situation like that may come up. How can you show patience?