Cultivating Patience

We live in a “now” culture. If it takes more than five seconds for a website to load, we won’t view it. We want to call our friends now, even if we’ll see them in 10 minutes. The “now” culture is one of convenience, and let’s face it, convenience can make our lives easier.

Unfortunately, by gaining convenience, we’ve lost some of our patience. Waiting has become a common enemy. We get irritated when the guy in front of us jokes with the cashier because it takes longer for us to buy milk. We want pills and surgery to lose weight instantly, rather than streamlining our diet and exercising. We want to have the best life possible right now, not tomorrow, and certainly not next year.

Despite our need for speed, life demands a certain amount of patience. Some of the best things in life take time. I attended a birthing class where one expectant mom was worried that if, for medical reasons, she could not hold her child immediately after delivery, she would lose a vital bonding moment. Without that touch, she insisted, the child would never “take” to her mother. This expectant mom didn’t understand that parenthood isn’t a moment, but a lifetime of loving. You can always lose one moment, but you have to work at years and years of little moments to create a true bond between mother and child.

If you’re like me, patience does not come naturally. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to cultivate more patience in my life:

Ask yourself why you’re in a hurry. 

If you feel rushed while going about your normal day, ask yourself why. Will the world end if you get home five minutes late? What if you stop to talk to the random people you meet each day: the store clerks, the people on the subway, the guys buying coffee ahead of you? If you do stop to talk, you’ll be amazed how much more connected you’ll feel to your community.

Enjoy quiet moments as much as big moments.

It’s easy to celebrate big events like a job promotion. It’s just as important, though, to enjoy the little things in life that comprise the majority of your time. Take a second to appreciate how much faster you can accomplish a task at work than you did a year before. Enjoy settling a minor issue for a customer that could have turned ugly, but didn’t because you handled it so well. Those are equally, if not more, impressive than the big event.

Hang around people who have patience. 

I had a lot less patience before I met my husband. Being around him daily has certainly given me a greater appreciation for the art of waiting. He’s not only a great example of someone who lives his live patiently, but he tells me if I’m getting too anxious or impatient. If you don’t know someone who’s patient in your immediate circle of friends, take a class like yoga where meditation is part of the art.

Focus on short-term goals to reach long-term ones. 

Sometimes you can lose sight of long-term goals in the rush towards instant gratification. Most people trying to lose weight have a hard time cutting out sugary or carb-loaded foods completely. It helps to cut these lofty long-term goals into smaller chunks. To encourage weight loss, you can slowly cut back on your calorie intake or increase your exercise regimen each week. Whatever route you take, setting those little goals will help you achieve the big ones faster.

Think of the things you’ve gained by being patient. 

When all else fails, I think of the good things that have happened in my life because I waited. Passing up on a few “so-so” job offers last year paved the way for me to land a job I really wanted. When you can think of positive outcomes that have come from waiting, it puts into perspective why it’s not always the best strategy to rush into things.

Patience can seem unachievable to those of us who struggle with it. Don’t worry if you slip back into “impatient mode” now and again. Patience is a skill, not an inborn talent, and therefore can be acquired by anyone with the will to learn.

16 thoughts on “Cultivating Patience”

  1. Patience is a great topic and it’s an area I struggle with in my life from time-to-time. I’m happy to say patience is starting to come more naturally to me the more I practice it, and patience allows me to feel centered, peaceful and calm in difficult situations.

    For me, the practice of patience starts small. For example, when I am stuck behind a slower-moving vehicle in traffic I consciously choose to take the opportunity to take several deep breaths and remind myself that my life is happening now, not wherever I am going, and only once I arrive. Do I want my life to be full of frustration or serenity? It’s my choice!

    The more I practice patience when I am only minorly inconvenienced, the easier it is to practice patience when the big stuff happens, like rumors of layoffs or other changes at work. When unwanted change is happens, I can assess my situation and consider how to make the best of the situation, such as appreciating having a heads up of employment instability so I can update my resume, reach out to contacts, and find ways to save some extra money in case layoffs happen.

    Great post!


  2. Thanks for adding your experience to the list, Chrysta. I have never tried deep breathing in traffic, but that is definitely an idea I’ll steal. Glad to hear that you are gaining more patience with more practice!

  3. Sometimes, patience could indeed be quite a hard thing to accomplish. We have to face the truth – we humans are all impatient. However, there are just some who managed to suppress it within them and have succeeded in being patient at times. Good thing for bringing this up :) Thanks!

  4. I’m always striving to have more patience and to enjoy life as it goes by. I love the tip about being around patient people. I’ve noticed that I’m drawn to people that take their time and start to want to get away from people that are unthankful or impatient.

    My sister has always wanted things before her time, and I am the exact opposite. I can see the good that’s come from being patient, and when it’s good to strike a balance too. Thanks for such a wonderful and thought provoking post.

    I want to interact more with the community, because you’re right. Everyone has a story and an experience to share.

    1. I think it’s great you want to interact more with the community. I’ve met a ton of interesting folks that way (of the patient and impatient variety, actually). Good luck in your endeavors!

  5. Hi Deborah – that’s one big thing I’m working on, my patience. and you are right, what’s the rush? I got impatient at myself for not recovering as quickly, even though all my doctors / shrinks have told me that it would probably take 1-2 years. I wanted to be “normal me” again after a month! And then once I slowed down a little, breathe a little, I realize, what’s the rush to become? the rush is making me sicker. and only by slowing down did I start to reach the goal I was aiming for – health.
    so yes. take in the moment of now, as my calligraphy teacher says to me. focus on the one thing you are doing at that moment, and all will take shape…
    Noch Noch

    1. Noch Noch – Thanks for giving the article a broader perspective. I had not thought of the health perspective, but I know what you mean about being patient there too. I’ve read your blog (and love it!) so I know your story. It seems like you are taking this journey every day. I really appreciate how you are writing about your journey for others to read. It means a lot that you read my article.

  6. Hi Deborah!

    I sometimes catch myself picking up speed on the freeway or changing lanes a little too often to get around slower traffic. It’s at those times I have to talk myself into being more patient. Asking myself why I’m in such a hurry, then talking myself into a slower, more patient response to other cars is usually all I need to relax a bit and stop putting other drivers at risk just so I can shave off an extra 3 minutes off my driving time.

    Thanks for the reminder that patience is such an important trait to develop!

  7. I think patience is a sign of maturity. Wanting things now and then throwing a little tantrum when we can’t have it now is being childish. I ordered a new pair of spectacles recently and the optician explained they’d take a few days which I was happy to wait as I’d had the last pair 4 years so a few more days wouldn’t hurt. He then explained about how many people just couldn’t wait and got angry and frustrated even though this wouldn’t change anything. Learning to be patience is therefore a good thing to work on and anyway wouldn’t life be dull if we could have what we wanted in a instant!

    1. Good point on patience being a sign of maturity. After having children, I’ve definitely felt my own patience increase by sheer necessity!

      On your eyeglass example, part of that impatience comes from a “customer is king” culture. Although I agree that businesses should put their customers first, I don’t agree that people have the right to yell or be jerks to people in service industries just because they can. If you don’t like the business you are buying from, spend your dollars elsewhere.

  8. Hi Deborah, it’s a nice piece. I have been so impatient throughout and now I have realized that I have lost many beautiful moments of my life being impatient. Moreover the lack of patience has made me vulnerable many a times and has made me more restless.
    As patience can be cultivated, I will start it form ‘now’ to cherish the beauty of life.

    1. Thanks, saisabi. I had a moment last night where I was very impatient, and I’m reminded that this is a journey that perhaps I’ll never master, but at least I’m improving. I wish you luck in your own journey.

  9. Funny enough this web site would not come up quick enough for me and I felt myself become frustrated, I actually thought I was half Okay at being patient, sure proved me wrong. It was in that moment I realized just how our culture has changed us, I constantly feel like I am rushing even when I really could be relaxing. Granted I am a mother of three young children and yet even with my kids I feel like I never get to just sit, and when I do I feel distracted and yes I have done meditation etc etc guess i need a lot more practice. I watch my mother who has all the patients in the world and who never tried to be anyone else but a devoted mother, sit with my girls in silence and just be with them and I am captivated by her presence to them. What a priceless gift patient has come to be in this day and age, almost a forgotten art. Not so long ago I was invited to have dinner with two Indian married couple’s, the husband of one of the wives could not make it to dinner, and so the wife of that husband did not have dinner with us, but choose instead to wait until her husband got home very late that night. I was again in ore of her patient’s, what respect and beauty she had for her husband. And so tonight my husband is out, and all though I feel very hungry I have to decided to wait and eat my meal when he comes home. One of the rewards I am getting from this, right in this very moment is the feelings of gratitude for my husband and also for food, delicious food!!!. so thanks, reading this blog has inspired me to keep on cultivating mindfulness, and then to act on the art of being Patient. Little by little bit by bit.

    1. It sounds like you’re trying to cultivate patience in your own way. My mother is also a paragon of patience, but she told me that when she was younger, she used to be much more impulsive. It takes training and dedication. Good luck on your journey!

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