How To Recognize Impatience (And What to Do About It)

“Patience … is a very action-directed virtue: it is the slow, sound, lengthy preparation for the most dynamic, powerful activity. It is the winding of the spring. It is the drawing back of the bow. It is the charge along the runway before take-off.” — Margaret Hebblethwaite

  1. Frustration with daily routines and tasks: We’ve all felt this way, to a certain extent. Why do I have to do the dishes over and over and OVER again? Does it really matter if I skip the gym today, or tomorrow, for that matter? What difference does it make if I don’t hit my writing goal for today, or skip a week of tracking finances? Ironically, impatience for outcomes often leads people to abandon the very details that will lead them to those results.
  2. Hopelessness about future and dreams: When I’m feeling impatient, it leads me to feel hopeless. If I’m not a professional writer or marathon runner now, then I never will be (as the thinking pattern goes.)
  3. Lack of contentment; always looking forward to the next step: Impatience makes it impossible to feel happy with where I am at. It’s difficult to be content when it seems that happiness is always just around the corner, if I could just get there at last.
  4. Difficulty organizing my work or thoughts: Impatience makes details difficult, which makes organization even harder. When a person is too focused on abstract, big picture goals and their difficult in reaching them, the work they do to get there becomes entirely too mundane.
  5. Tendency towards distraction when things aren’t going smoothly: Often, if I get stuck on a problem at work or encounter a difficult situation, it’s easier to distract myself with something else rather than approach the situation head on. This habit of distraction is a classic symptom of impatience, and makes it difficult to solve problems. How many times have I not known how to answer an email and spend 10 minute scrolling through Instagram instead?
  6. Inability to finish projects: When the article isn’t writing itself or the audio software is hard to learn, projects have a tendency to go unfinished. I currently have what was supposed to be a crocheted hat balled up and sitting under my bed, what was supposed to be a podcast collecting dust in Adobe Audition, what was supposed to be a book, halfway finished and left that way in my Google Docs. Impatience with the process leaves the process unfinished.
  1. Mindfulness: Experts suggest that a daily practice of mindfulness can help build up patience. Even five minutes of meditation a day can help center, ground and calm you as you work to pursue your goals for the day.
  2. Practice waiting: A famous 1972 Stanford study suggested that a child’s ability to wait was positively correlated with future markers of success. The marshmallow experiment had a simple premise- a child was given a marshmallow, and told that if they could wait to eat it for 15 minutes, they would receive two marshmallows instead. The children who were able to wait went on to have better SAT scores, lower BMIs, and higher educational attainments. This ability to wait patiently for the outcome we desire is something we can practice, even if we wouldn’t have been able to wait for our own marshmallow as a kid. Consciously practice waiting throughout the day, and your ability to endure discomfort and annoyances in the pursuit of your ultimate goals will increase.
  3. “This is merely uncomfortable, not intolerable”: This mantra, when understood and repeated, can help you weather any frustrating situation. It’s uncomfortable to pay attention to details, to learn new skills, or to tolerate delays and setbacks, especially within ourselves. But discomfort is not death, nor is it unmanageable.

“I can be tolerant of my own flaws and inadequacies” — Jane Bolton

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