This month our topic is patience. As I was reading through emails I discovered that I’m not the only one thinking about patience this month, Seth Godin is too. His post was a great reminder of one of the best things about patience: it can be learned. So today I thought we’d take a look at this and talk about how we can learn patience.
The first thing that we have to be aware of, and it may seem obvious, is that we are in control of how much patience there is in our lives. For those of us who are perpetually impatient, it’s a habit, one that you’ve developed over time. For those of us who tend to be patient, again, it’s a habit that we’ve developed over time. So if you are tired of being angry and frustrated all the time and want a little more peace in your life, maybe it’s time to develop your patience skills.
Unfortunately I don’t think going cold-turkey is a possibility. Patience can only be developed over time, one moment at a time. You can choose to tackle your biggest challenge first or you can start with something smaller. For example if you’re impatient when it comes to food and always pick the food you can get your hands on the quickest, you can start by picking just one meal/snack of the day to be more patient (and healthy and cheaper) about putting together and build from there. Of course the big patience challenge for most of us are the people in our lives, those we have personal relationships with and those who we interact with in much more casual ways like at coffeehouses and on the road. If you really struggle to be patient with people and really want to conquer the patience challenge, pick the place or time where you struggle most and interact with most often, like in the morning trying to get your kids out the door or at night trying to get them to bed or while you’re out driving on the road, and work on being a little more patient each time you face that challenge.
So how can we learn to be more patient? Some of us can just think about it or give ourselves an attitude adjustment. Other people like to use post-its or other visible reminders in high-stress locations to refocus on being patient (for example by the coffee pot or on your dashboard). A favorite tactic for stalling and gathering your patience rather than exploding with the usual response is counting to 5 or 10. Don’t knock it because it sounds childish, do it because it works. The reason it works is because it gives you the time to back off from the response you were going to give and gives you the chance to respond differently. And if you’re still struggling after putting up visible signs, giving yourself an attitude adjustment and counting to 10, it’s probably time for an accountability partner, someone who may be working on their own patience challenge, or can just keep you focused on yours.
How will you practice your patience this week?