This week I’m doing a deep dive into patience. For a couple of reasons. First, I surveyed my listeners at the end of the summer and asked them the number one thing they struggle with that makes it hard to feel like a good person. And the most popular response by far was: impatience. I think we’ve all had that experience of losing your patience, which makes you think, do, or say something you regret, which then makes you question whether or not you’re a good person. And second, it’s my perception that collectively our patience is running a little thin, all around.
I see it in aggressive drivers, social media comments, and videos of people throwing their groceries after being told they have to wear a mask. Waiting for the election results and heading into winter after we’ve already been dealing with a pandemic for nine months certainly isn’t helping. But even in the grooviest of times, patience can be challenging. So let’s take a look at it.
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I’ll start with the definition of patience:
“The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
Reading that, patience sounds like a pretty tall order, doesn’t it? It’s helpful to put patience in some context.
There are big things that make us impatient, like, oh, I don’t know, waiting for votes to be counted, or to hear back from the colleges you applied to, or waiting to hear back about a job interview.
And then there’s the little stuff.
A slow driver, or a kid or a friend who isn’t listening to you, or a partner who chews too loudly or some other habit that you just have no tolerance for, or even something like having to watch a commercial before your online video starts playing.
The big stuff, it’s understandable that you’d get impatient around them, because they have a such a big impact on your life. You just want to be able to start envisioning how things are going to be. You want to KNOW. The little stuff doesn’t really affect the outcome of your life that much, yet these little things can often trigger a pretty big reaction.
Today I want to talk about impatience for these little inconveniences.
The first thing to do when you’re feeling that impatience flare up is to notice.
Say, “Woah, I’m really feeling impatient right now!” Awareness is always the first step in making a change, because, say it with me!, you can’t change a habit you don’t know you have. Also, a lot of times these baseline emotions, like impatience, or anger, are habits. They’re like an old Birkenstock that we slip right into and it feels good. Noticing that you’re feeling impatience is the equivalent of saying, “Wow, I’m wearing that old Birkenstock again. How do I feel about that?”
Of course, taking a breath, counting to 10, taking a walk around the block, are ALL LEGIT strategies for cooling impatience!
They all help. But I’m guessing you already know those things. Maybe you just need a reminder to do them. Well here’s your reminder. Maybe that’s all you need in this moment. A reminder to do something that gives you a little pause, and a little perspective.
But if this little thing that triggers your impatience is recurring, ask yourself, is there something I’m tolerating that I’m no longer willing to tolerate?
It might be time to set some boundaries. If it’s taking your kids forever to get ready for bed, maybe there’s some piece of the night-time routine that you’ve let slide that you need to tighten up, for everyone’s sake, so that the kids get out of the habit of seeing how long they can go with messing around before you really start to lose it.
Related to that, check in with yourself to see if there’s a need or a desire that you’re not expressing.
A lot of times we confuse patience with being willing to wait. I mean, yes, they’re related, but being willing to wait does not mean being completely passive. If there are things you need that you’re not asking for or taking steps toward, it’s gonna be real easy to build up resentment, and that resentment is likely to be expressed as impatience.
Let’s say your partner is out for the night with friends, and they’re home an hour later than they said they would be. If you haven’t been tending to your needs for social time or just time away from domestic responsibilities, you’re probably going to be highly irritated that they’re late. How could they do that?!
When really it’s easier to be mad at them than it is to do a little check in with yourself and realize that you’d like some time out too, and then to reach out to someone to make a plan. But if you haven’t acknowledged your own need, you’re likely to put all the angst created by your unmet need for time off on your partner. Make sense?
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to notice when you feel impatient today, and then do one thing in response; whether that’s take a breath, take a walk, ask yourself if there’s something you’re not willing to tolerate anymore, or if there’s a need that you haven’t fully acknowledged yet.