Patience is one of those character traits, which can immensely help us to lead a more balanced life. The problem is, patience is hardly seen as a desirable quality in our society anymore. Therefore, it needs to be practiced. A lot. Let’s be honest: We don’t like to wait for things. Whether it is in the supermarket queue, for our dinner at a restaurant, at an appointment or, on the bigger scale, for certain life events to happen. As far as we are concerned, the sooner the better. It is how we have been raised. In public, the impatient people usually get all the attention. We used to wait for several days for a letter from a friend to arrive. Nowadays, text messages and emails are instant and we even tend to get angry if the other person has not replied within a few hours. But there can be a lot of beauty and joy in waiting if we appreciate it for what it is: an important and valuable stage in between.
Keeping Track and Showing Gratitude
So what can you do to increase your patience? First of all, you should keep track of what you are doing and what is happening in your life. This doesn’t have to be in the form of an extensive diary, simple dot points are enough. Your notes could include statements such as: “Applied for job xy today”, “Great session at the gym” or “Starting to feel better after…”. Save them as notes in your phone, write yourself an email with the same subject so you can easily find them again later, place sticky notes with the same colour in your diary, write a list and keep it next to your bed, etc. There are endless possibilities and you can choose whatever works for you. Having a look through events and achievements (even if they are little) can help us to stay on track to realise that we are on the right path. Also, take a moment to be truly grateful for how far you have come already. You have achieved all these little victories and you should be proud of that.
What a Difference a Day Makes
One of my favourite authors C.S. Lewis once wrote:
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”
So often we are unhappy because things haven’t changed in a day. We then start questioning whether what we are doing is actually worth it. We may also look at something we would like to pursue or achieve in the future (e.g. a hobby or job), but then we realise how long it would take to actually excel at this activity or get qualified for this type of job, so we don’t even start trying. Isn’t that just sad? We don’t have the patience and motivation to study for three years, so we rather stay in our current job that makes us miserable for the next thirty years? Or we stay in an unhealthy relationship because we don’t have the patience to wait for someone else and don’t want to be alone? Really? Maybe I am different, but this just does not make any sense to me at all. So, even if you may not have the impression right now: every day matters. Every decision you make today matters. When you flick through your diary in a few months or look at that list next to your bed you will see why.
Practicing patience on the big scale is fantastic, but you also need to pay attention to the small things happening in your life. On the positive note, life usually overloads us with possibilities to practice patience – they are everywhere. Getting stuck in traffic, waiting at the gym to use a machine while someone is sitting on their phone pretending to use it, saving money to buy something specific, waiting on someone at a work meeting etc. Pretty much anything that frustrates you is a chance to practice patience. And people these days are frustrated all the time, aren’t they? So, on top of keeping track of your achievements and showing gratitude, try to change your perspective on certain situations. Yes, you may have to wait on your work colleague right now, but what other task can you quickly get done while you are waiting? The positive perspective will in this case not only make you more productive, but also feel better. Patience and self-control are linked, which means when we lose one, we often lose the other, too. Trying to regulate the automatic response of feeling impatient, can help us work on our mindset and be generally happier.
Patience As a Habit
According to a 2009 study, it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit. While some people find forming a habit easier than others (depending on their personality type), this is good news! If we commit to challenge ourselves with our patience for a little over two months, positive results will follow. So let’s be a bit less hard on ourselves and others. Be grateful for what we have and the path we are on. Remind ourselves of our big and small achievements. Accept that sometimes in life you simply have to wait. Try to change situations for the better by shifting our perspective. It is worth it, because patience is a quality that will only improve our balance in life. And who knows which new doors will open for us if we are ready to wait? Expecting immediate change can sometimes be harmful instead of helpful, because we may not be mentally ready. So embrace the journey, embrace the wait and see what happens next.