And...Breathe: Become More Patient in 9 Easy Steps
Patience is a virtue, or so you’ve heard. But if you’re like me, you wonder how patience could benefit you, not just the people who seem to relentlessly and persistently demand patience while seemingly causing unnecessary delays in a fast-moving world.
Eventually, though, you’ll discover that impatience can thwart your otherwise deserving efforts, interfere with reaching your goals, and cause trouble. When exercised at the right times and in the right ways, patience can not only augment forward movement but also build respect for you and your decisions.
Cultivating patience is easier than you may think, but it requires getting perspective in the heat of crises and frustration of everyday life. Here are steps I have taken to develop the sort of patience that is virtuous and pays off. (See also: Friends and Goals: Don't Let a Blue Falcon Bring You Down)
The best way to cultivate patience is to practice patience. That is, pretend to have patience, and see what happens.
The more you test acting patient in various scenarios, the better you become at discerning when patience is necessary for desired outcomes or when aggressive action is the right way to get things done, when being patient commands esteem or when agility wins favor, when being patient helps you to gain support or when quick decisiveness gets you noticed.
1. Make Progress Toward Your Goal
Don't mistake patience with tolerance for inaction. True patience is working while you wait. This process should involve regular evaluation of whether the tasks you are doing or waiting for someone else to complete are going to deliver the results you want.
2. Realize That Setbacks Can Move You Closer to Your Goal
Setbacks are frustrating and can lead you to lose patience, not acquire it. Very often, though, mistakes you make, rejections you receive, confusion that arises, and support you don't win gives you insights that help move you closer to whatever outcome you desire. Setbacks, then, are not simply delays. They are signposts that can guide you to your destination.
When things don’t happen or unfold as planned, consider what happened. Figure out if you misread a situation, overestimated the strength of a supporter, needed more information, etc. Revise your approach and keep moving.
3. Get a Handle on a Typical Wait Time
To become patient, you should have a general idea of how long things should take. For example, there are commonly accepted timeframes from request to response for many situations, such as a marriage proposal (immediate), thank-you letter for a new job (1-3 days), or a prototype request (a week or longer).
Your expectations should have some basis in reality. Ask friends and experts to figure out what is considered reasonable for a waiting period.
4. Decide If You Really Want to Wait
Figure out whether you are willing to wait for whatever time is required. If "yes," wait patiently with the understanding that the timeline may be longer than you had anticipated. Re-evaluate your decision to be patient if things are not moving along at a reasonable pace.
If you are not willing to wait but want to try a plan B, remember that you may still not get what you want when you want it. Plus, you may find that quality standards may be lower and prices could be higher if you choose the fastest possible method, with notable exceptions like instant downloads and express delivery.
Or you may abandon a particular goal or desire altogether if the wait is too long. There is no shame in not being patient and waiting for something that you later realize you don't really want.
5. Take Time to Process New Information
When confronted with a new challenge, an unfamiliar scenario, or an unclear assignment, take your time to devise a well-conceived plan. Such planning typically involves researching an opportunity, learning what others have done in similar situations, and determining what’s novel about your challenge. It also requires investing significant amounts of time to absorb information, process new ideas, and, finally, connect the dots to craft a breakthrough solution.
Remember that rushing doesn’t help. Impulsiveness causes you to move along too quickly, later making you hesitate at critical points that require swift action and making you uncertain when decisiveness is needed. Be patient with yourself as you learn, absorb, adapt, strategize, plan, and execute.
6. Learn How Being Rushed Can Threaten Success
Notice how moving too fast can compromise success of an endeavor. While many people (claim to) work well under pressure, most need sufficient time to get things done right. That often means that you must patiently wait for your turn or allot plenty of time for whatever you are trying to accomplish.
For example, acting too quickly may mean that you don’t take the time to...
- Research home prices or review home inspection reports before snapping up a new property listing that you later learn is overpriced.
- Compare benefit packages and corporate cultures associated with two different job offers before accepting one that isn’t a good fit with your work style and personal needs.
- Teach a new skill or technique to a friend, coworker, or child, taking shortcuts that lead to mistakes and long-term learning problems.
- Get to know someone before taking significant steps toward a long-term relationship, preventing you from laying a foundation of mutual trust.
7. Look for the Right Moment
Become aware of the right moment to bring up a sensitive issue with a friend or coworker. By refraining from an aggressive confrontation and waiting until the person comes to you for advice or the topic emerges as a concern, you may be able to more fully capture this person’s attention and maintain a friendly relationship.
When the time is right, weave your talking point into a conversation. Perhaps your friend is confounded by his child or a coworker is frustrated with her boss. Get both attention and appreciation as you problem-solve, rather than challenging them before they are ready to listen.
8. Enjoy What’s Happening Now
Learn to enjoy your present state, the time before your goals are realized and when there is still uncertainty about whether your efforts will reap benefits. Be grateful for what you have right now, show pride in your accomplishments to date, revel in whatever you are learning and doing, and plan for rather than fret about the future.
9. Don’t Worry What Other People Think
When you demonstrate patience, onlookers — including your friends, family members, bosses, coworkers, and customers — may think that you are not aggressive enough. They may wonder why you don’t take immediate action, even as they complain about those who act too rashly, make quick decisions without considering all aspects of situation, etc.
At the same time, some people will consider you impatient simply because you insist on moving forward. But after you have cultivated this virtue, remember that you are the best judge of whether you are showing enough or too much patience.
Just recently, I discovered that having the aura of patience can help speed things along. That is, a polite smile despite delays, willingness to wait, etc. encourages people to provide immediate help rather than sending you away to come back another day.
The best thing about having patience, though, is being able to discern when to wait and when to act.