Cultivating Patience

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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.

Deborah Fike

Deborah Fike is the Director of Educational Outreach for Spotkin, an educational games company that marries fun with learning.  She’s also the founder of Avalon Labs, which provides marketing consultations and writing services for start-ups and online businesses.   She carves out a significant portion of her time to raising her two younger daughters.

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