Stress gets a bad rap, and deservedly so. Most of the stress we experience in our lives is immensely counterproductive. It’s distracting, limiting, and usually leads us to make bone-head decisions. Stress clouds our judgment and muddles our interactions. It tends to take over, become pervasive and all-consuming.
Much of the stress in our lives is rooted in impatience. We want things to happen immediately and get frustrated by delays. We want to see change and results right now, and become discouraged by the effort change requires. We over-commit because we want to get things done, and then we wonder why we’re frazzled and enjoying none of our tasks.
If we want to pursue a life well-lived, we need to fight back against our impatient natures. Patience is an antidote to stress, and it’s a virtue and skill we sorely need.
Patience Is A Skill
Undoubtedly some of us are born with a greater natural reservoir of patience than others. But no one is born with Zen-like wisdom; we’re human beings, and both things and people will bother us. Patience is not an either/or scenario (you’re patient or you’re not); the key is to approach patience as something that can increase in capacity in our lives.
When someone says, “ I’m not a very patient person.”, what they’re admitting is that they do not value patience enough to cultivate it in their personality and life. They are okay with living an impatient life. But we can change and become a more patient person over time. Patience is a character trait, but it’s also a skill that can be worked, fostered, and strengthened.
Part of A Toolbox
You have tools for different situations and applications. There are skills tailored for a particular application, while other skills are universal. Patience is universally helpful. Since impatience, stress, and haste dictate much of our days, we need a tool always at the ready to fix the problem.
We have other tools and skills in our toolbox such as hospitality, humility, charity, or wisdom; when we pair them up with patience we have a potent mix to approach situations and relationships.
And like any tool in the hands of a master craftsman, the tool eventually becomes an extension of the wielder, a part of their movements. After enough diligent practice and focused attempts, the craftsman does not need to concentrate so wholly on using a skill or tool; it becomes second-nature to them.
Authentic Is Key
For patience to be useful in your life, it must be authentic. You can’t fake patience in a given situation and then turn around and gnash your teeth in vexation and rage. That’s called lying about your reactions and relationship.
The goal is that your patience is genuine; it cannot be mere window dressing for a civil society. Only if it’s authentic will it take root and start to effect positive change in your life. Like any skill, you can’t fake it; you either have it or you don’t. And for it to be real, you have to work at it.
Building patience requires practice. It’s learned and increased over time. We can improve, edit, and shape it to our purposes. Here are a few practical ways we can work on patience in our daily routines.
Deferring is a great way to practice patience. Postponing a decision or commitment until we have time for a thorough reflection and review will make us more comfortable waiting. We love action and getting things crossed off our list.
Deferring focuses instead on the reality of most situations, which can typically afford to wait.
We don’t need that “thing” immediately; we can wait to purchase it.
No requirement says you have to sign on the dotted line today.
Rarely is anything as urgent as we think it is.
By deferring, we take time to approach a decision patiently and deliberately. We wait for a better outcome.
Mainly if a situation is stressful or heated, it’s best to walk away. Do it respectfully, not in a huff or consternation. No one is demanding that you express your opinion immediately (if someone is, they can be patient). Walking away provides time for you to control your spirit and words before reengaging the situation or individual.
The situation will likely still be there until you resolve it. Always, if you exercise patience, you give yourself time to approach the problem more effectively and productively. You can develop a plan instead of merely a reaction.
It’s Not About You
We naturally assume that everything in our world revolves around us. After all, we’re experiencing life on an individual level. But a simple mantra will help us remember a simple truth:
“This is not about me.”
Most people speak out of perspectives, experiences, fears, and motivations that have little to do with us in particular. In the big scheme of the world, we’re relatively anonymous. We equip ourselves to deal patiently (and objectively) with many situations when we recognize that it’s not all about us.
Am I Getting More Patient?
How can you know if you’re gaining ground, that you’re becoming a more patient person?
You’re practicing waiting.
You’re working on postponing decisions and reactions.
You’re striving for maturity and reflection instead of childishness.
How can you tell if any of these areas are taking root in your life? Step back and review your reactions and behaviors: are you less annoyed and slower to anger? Do you feel more in control of your day and reactions? Are you more content each day, even when things don’t go according to plan?
If you can answer “ Yes.” to these questions, you’re seeing progress. Keep up your efforts, it’s a lifelong endeavor but worth it. Not only will your stress levels come down, but you will enjoy your tasks, obligations, and interactions more. Your life will be fuller because of the effort you put into pursuing patience.
What areas of your life are you the most impatient with? Or what people in your life?
Start the change today: plan to practice patience in a particular situation or relationship. Watch how it changes your interactions and stress levels.
Originally published at https://fjwriting.com on September 9, 2020.