We live in an instant world. We have instant (or nearly instant) travel. We have instant access to information and entertainment. We even have instant mashed potatoes! (Which I do not recommend as anything other than soup thickener, by the way.) Yet we hear the saying “Good things come to those who wait.” How do we learn how to master patience in such an environment?
Even in today’s instant world, we still need patience because some things still just take time. I talked last week about the many benefits of being patient. This week, I’d like to dive deeper into how to master patience. There is one tactic in particular that works well for me, and I’ll share which one with you at the end of the post.
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What is Patience?
Patience has many definitions, but the two that help me to learn how to master patience the most is “Patience is when you should be angry, but instead choose to understand.” And “Patience is not only the ability to wait but how you behave while you are waiting.”
We are very used to being comfortable. Often our brains become so used to being comfortable, we think that it’s the only state that we can endure. You actually can make it if you are a little bit uncomfortable. Often learning how to master patience involves learning how to endure some short term discomfort for long term gain.
What are the causes of Impatience?
I always thought of impatience as not having patience. However, according to psychology today, impatience is not a lack of patience. It’s what motivates us to take action when reaching a goal is going to cost us more than we thought it would. I have often thought of impatience as a negative, thing, but as the article pointed out, it is not always so. Sometimes we have patience too long. We might stay at a dead-end job too long, in a relationship too long, or we might miss an opportunity from having too much patience. There sometimes comes a point that it’s more advantageous to cut our losses and move on.
We are more likely to feel impatient when we have more options. Impatience helps us to evaluate whether we need to keep concentrating on the goal at hand, or whether we would be better to switch goals and focus on something else.
How Do You Overcome Impatience?
In order to learn how to master patience, we must first overcome impatience. As in most cases, the first step is analyzing what you feel and why.
- What are you impatient about?
- What are your other options?
- Is your goal still important to you?
- What additional costs to reach your goal have you since become aware of?
- Do you want to keep your goal, or change goals and go after a new one?
Answering these questions should give you some idea of whether you want to continue to have patience and pursue your goal, or if you should change goals. Remember that mistakes and life are learning experiences. No one gets it right 100% of the time.
If you need help setting some goals, I recommend the Slay Your Goals planner. You can see a full review of the slay your goals planner with walkthrough video here.
How Can I Increase My Patience?
If you have decided to stick with your goal, I’d like to offer you some strategies to learn how to master patience. I personally use all of these and have found them helpful.
How To Master Patience Tip #1: Figure out What Your Goal Is
Have you ever found yourself working very hard for something, but you felt like you were just walking in the dark? Like you were just choosing a direction and blindly walking and working that way with no specific goal in mind? When I do that, I usually find myself impatient that I’m not getting anywhere. How can I? That’s like going on vacation and just driving with no destination in mind. That might work for some people, but for people like myself who cannot navigate their way out of a paper bag, I find it incredibly frustrating. I would be driving in circles for hours!
If you want to learn how to master patience, one of the first steps is setting a concrete goal. Good goals are SMART- which stands for:
I am a much better traveling companion when I know what my goal is and about how long it will take to get there. That applies to following your dreams, having patience, goal setting, and vacations.
How To Master Patience Tip #2: Have a Plan B for Reaching Your Goals
“If at first, you don’t succeed, try try again.” How many times have I repeated that old adage to myself? Sometimes Plan A does not work for reaching our goals. Sometimes we find roadblocks in our way. One of the ways that I try to master patience is to have multiple ideas on how to reach my goal. That way I don’t feel high and dry if plan A does not work out.
How To Master Patience Tip #3: Change Your Perspective
This one hits home. Hard. I am ashamed to think how many times I was/am trying to learn how to master patience, but did not stop to look at things from the other person’s perspective. Your toddler probably didn’t mean to spill the juice you just handed him/her. He/She might have been just playing and experimenting with different ways to hold the glass, or trying to mimic you by learning to take the lid off. The little old lady who has asked you something 5 times may be trying her very best to remember, or she may be scared and need some reassurance, or possibly just lonely and want someone to talk to.
Another way to change your perspective that I have found helpful is to look at the situation as a way to serve God. Patiently teaching our children and serving others shows them love and is an act of service. I have a much easier time being calm and patient when I think that by serving others (even if it is annoying at the time) I am serving God. That usually gives me a pretty quick attitude adjustment.
How To Master Patience Tip #4: Break Your Goals Down Into Sub-goals
I have some pretty big goals for the blog. At first, they seem like very big, almost un-reachable goals. If I thought about the whole thing at once I would get overwhelmed. Then I would get frustrated that things are not going fast enough. However, the slay your goals planner that I purchased helps me break it down into smaller sub-goals, all with time frames. The sub-goals are more manageable because they are in bite-sized chunks. Plus, when you achieve one of those small goals, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day.
How To Master Patience Tip #5: Wait a Little Bit
Sometimes the wait seems too long. The line at the grocery store is taking too long. You have been in the waiting room at the doctor’s office for what seems like hours. Perhaps, it’s not that at all – maybe you are feeling impatient because you thought you’d be further along in life by now? If you are thinking of abandoning your goal, whether it be a big life goal, or simply changing check out lines at the grocery store, wait just a little bit, and then make your decision. That waiting a little bit will give you time to better evaluate your choice.
How To Master Patience Tip #6: Let Go of the Things You Can’t Control
Life is uncontrollable by nature. One of the keys of how to master patience is that some things you simply must let go. You are not responsible for other people’s choices or reactions. You are only responsible for your own. Telling yourself those two principles can help to free you from the sense of responsibility of trying to control others. It can’t be done. Once the burden is lifted and you let it go, it becomes much easier to be calm and patient.
How To Master Patience Tip #7: Identify Your Triggers
Have you ever said “So-and-so really knows how to push my buttons!” when you are upset or angry? Odds are, that’s not a moment of great patience for you. Those “buttons” are what psychologists refer to as “triggers.” They are conditions that usually elicit a response. Being tired is one of mine, as is being hungry. If I am tired and hungry, I usually get agitated. Yours may be something entirely different, like a sensitive subject or something that someone says to you that hurts and makes you angry.
If you can identify your triggers, you can preemptively do something about them. For example, if I’m very tired and hungry and I find a pile of dirty clothes on the floor, I’m much more likely to lose my patience and lash out. However, if I recognize the fact that I’m tired and hungry, I’m also more likely to stop myself from lashing out. I realize that I’m not really mad at the dirty clothes on the floor – the problem is that I need to grab some lunch and a nap (or a cup of coffee).
How To Master Patience Tip #8: When you Mess Up, Replay the Event as You Wish It Would Have Happened
No one is patient all the time. We all have our breaking points. Sometimes mastering patience goes out the window and we snap at the ones we love, or we throw our hands up, say “Forget it!” and storm out of the room.
Those are not my proudest moments. However, we make mistakes so that we can learn from them. It can help you to learn how to master patience if you replay the scene in your head as you WISH it would have happened. Imagine yourself reacting better. When you visualize what should have happened, it has a higher likelihood of happening that way next time because your brain remembers it.
How To Master Patience Tip #9: Take Time To Enjoy the Process
If I am working on something, sometimes I get impatient and I want it done NOW! I’m tired of working on it, it’s taking too much time, and I start thinking “Maybe I should scrap the whole thing!” That’s not patient and usually scrapping the whole things is not my best option.
I used to be very impatient with crafts. I considered myself not very creative. But last winter, my kids taught me a valuable lesson – often times it’s not the final result that is the be-all end-all. What matters more is enjoying the process. We can learn a lot just from the process. It’s for things ok to not be Pinterest perfect all the time.
How To Master Patience Tip #10: Breathe and Relax Your Muscles
When I am about to lose my patience, I feel it physically. My breathing gets more rapid and my muscles in my body tense up. I have found if I stop and take a few deep breaths, it helps me to calm down and be patient. Next time you feel like you are about to “lose it,” stop, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths and consciously relax your muscles.
How To Master Patience Tip #11: Manage Your Emotions
Of all the things I am learning about how to master patience, this one is probably the hardest for me. I am getting better, I think. It’s hard to not react emotionally to situations around you sometimes. When our minds are overcome with emotion, it’s very hard to make rational decisions. Managing your emotions is a big key to also mastering patience.
How To Master Patience Tip #12: Practice Active Listening
How many times do we sit down to talk to someone and we don’t really try to understand what the other person is saying or where they are coming from? Most of the time, when we engage in conversation with people, we are simply waiting for our turn to talk. When you practice active listening it helps your patience because it helps you to understand the other person’s viewpoint and where they are coming from.
How To Master Patience Tip #13: Slow Down
Our lives have gotten very busy! Often times when I find myself feeling impatient, it’s because I am late or I fear that I will be late. I hate being late. It makes me feel bad when other people have to wait for me or when I feel like I’m the hold-up.
I dare say, that sometimes the busyness of our lives is self-induced. Sometimes we need to slow down, even when we feel like we can’t. There is a way, we just have to find it. No one needs to feel constant pressure in their lives. It just breeds unnecessary stress. If you find yourself constantly pressured and stressed, it will make you rather impatient.
How To Master Patience Tip #14: Think Before You Speak
I cannot tell you how many times my mother had to tell me to think before I spoke when I was a teen. Something would fly out of my mouth before I had time to think about it, often with negative consequences. I would say things that I didn’t mean when I was upset or angry.
When you are trying to learn how to master patience, take the time to think before you speak. Think about how it will sound to the other person and about the consequences that what you say might have later on.
How To Master Patience Tip #15: Live In the Moment
Sometimes we forget to practice mindfulness and live in the moment. I have a whole chapter on this in my book, “The Pearl Perspective: How Changing Your Perspective Can Change Your Life.” I spent so much time being anxious about upcoming things I often forgot to enjoy the moment.
I was in such a hurry to get to the next thing, was thinking about what I should be doing instead, or other things that I needed to take care of, I forgot to enjoy things like taking my kids to the park while we were there. It became more of “took kids to park – check!”
Living in the moment increases your patience because it helps to refill your tank and can be a form of self-care.
How To Master Patience Tip #16: Expose Yourself to Situations Where You Have to Practice Patience
“Practice makes perfect.” My band director disagreed on that saying. His stance was “Practice makes perfect if you practice perfect.” Mastering patience is something that takes time and practice, like all great skills in life. If you expose yourself to situations where you have to practice patience, you get better at it over time. Patience is a skill – which means it takes practice and time but anyone can learn it.
How To Master Patience Tip #17: Assess Your Boundaries
We should all have personal boundaries. They help to keep us safe, and they are necessary to help those that we love. We have to have some point where we say “Stop. I draw the line.” Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do. If you are finding yourself impatient and feeling like you are being unfairly taken advantage of, you may need to stop and assess your personal boundaries.
How To Master Patience Tip #18: Start a Hobby That Requires Patience
If you start a hobby that requires patience, it makes practicing patience more fun.
I planted some lettuce seeds inside a few days ago. Do you know what happened an hour after I planted them? Nothing. I had an egg carton full of dirt. But, I had planted seeds. Seeds take time to grow. Many things in life take time.
About 5 days later, I noticed little sprouts poking out of the egg carton. My lettuce is off to a good start. However, I will have to go through and thin them out, and it will be more than a month before I can even think about harvesting little lettuce leaves for a salad. (Cultivating positive thoughts, by the way, is also much like gardening.)
When you have a hobby that requires patience, you get used to practicing patience, and it helps you to slow down and enjoy the process as well.
How To Master Patience Tip #19: Work on Transforming Your Perfectionism
Many times we are impatient because we are perfectionists. Perfectionists want it right the first time, and often they have no patience with themselves or others. The underlying problem is perfectionism. Even if you have perfectionist tendencies, as I do, you can work on transforming your perfectionism. As a result, your patience will increase as well.
How To Master Patience Tip #20: Pray About It
When I feel like I am at the end of my rope, sometimes, I walk to my room, close the door, and hit my knees. I tell my Heavenly Father how stressed I am, how frustrated I am, all my fears, and ask him for help. Sometimes I don’t know how to do something. Sometimes I feel like I can’t take it anymore.
He is the ultimate source of strength, encouragement, and wisdom. Patience is one of the fruits of the spirit that it talks about in Galatians 5: 22-23. Patience is a virtue because it’s practicing self-control. The quest for learning how to master patience is something that honors God. Some days, that’s what keeps me going.
When I am finished pouring my heart out, I always feel my strength renewed. If you are needing some encouragement today, remember: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
The Last Thing You Need To Know About How To Master Patience
Improving your patience is not something that happens overnight. You have to work on mastering patience. I hope that these tips will help you, as they have helped me. The one that I use the most is probably taking a deep breath and trying to relax my muscles. Of all the tips on how to master patience that I gave you, that’s probably the one that is the most readily available in the moment when I need patience and I need it NOW. (I guess I could say when I am impatient for patience?)
What is your favorite tip for mastering patience? I’d love to hear your thoughts and hear your advice! Leave me a comment below!