There is no advantage to hurrying through life.Shikamaru Nara
Patience is an essential virtue to practice in our daily life, and many of us view it as the ‘right’ thing to do or as a ‘should’. It is the most virtuous in the face of adversity or frustration. There can be some real value in remaining patient and optimistic about hard situations in life. And yet, the ability to accept and tolerate trouble, delay or suffering without getting angry or upset is hard to develop.
Inspite of being able to ‘wait’ is a desirable quality, we become impulsive and our patience wears thin within no time. Since it is something that goes against our natural instinct, most of us fail to maintain a good attitude while waiting. We begin looking for things to instantly gratify ourselves in our daily instances where it is most important.
It is through practising patience in the present moment that the spiritual dimension of our life opens up. And is one of the most important spiritual quality that we can develop to build a life of more meaning and fulfilment. We get many opportunities to practice it in our day to day life experiences like at home with our kids, at work with our subordinates, in traffic, at a store and with strangers. But in many life situations, we lose our control and venture into things without considering all the options or waiting for the right moment for action. Often our emotions, the fear of future, ego or the desire to be in control of every moment become the major hindrances in practising it in all situations.
We generally grow impatient in response to some sort of situation that is not going according to our expectations or when something interferes with our plans. Our own expectations keep us from accepting the present moment on the grounds that it has to be replaced by some more ideal future. We tend to fight against things that are undesirable and try to change them. In a way, we refuse to adjust our expectations and reject how things are in reality in wanting to control something that we are powerless over.
Impatience is most times the result of not surrendering to the situation that we really cannot fight. We tend to accept things we like or surrender to certain realities of life that we can’t change. For instance, seasons, day and night. This is because we are sure that we cannot change them, so we choose not to fight it, rather we accept. But when it comes to unexpected changes, delays, difficulties, or undesirable things, we refuse to accept or tolerate the situation without getting angry or frustrated. It is important to remind ourselves that there are more things in life that we are powerless over and what we are really in control of are our own self, thoughts and actions.
To be impatient means to give into our ego.
Impatience is a natural human instinct and does not make you less human. It is simply the result of identifying more with your ‘ego’ part of self. When egoistic self gets in the way, it makes you think you need to be in control and forces you to act impulsively without considering the consequences or the other options. There are many situations where we let our egoic self take over and end up taking decisions or actions without waiting for the right moment.
Ego tends to make you think like “my time is more valuable than yours”, “my opinion matters more than yours”, or “I want to be in control of every situation.” Because of which we blow things out of proportion, lose perspective over a situation and make impulsive decisions. This often leads to many negative emotions and creates stress. And when you feel all this negativity, you pass it onto others. Being more mindful and self-compassionate in your moments of impatience is what paves way to practice more patience.
Patience is a compassionate act
Impatience often involves other people getting in our way in some shape or form. And sometimes it is our indifference, harshness or selfishness which gets in the way of being patient. We choose to react or behave impulsively when we feel something negative. Then we grow more impatient and reactive to the way we ourselves reacted—unkind and unmindful. Living life at fast pace, busyness and time constraints make us intolerant of our present moment. This results in frequent frustrations, anger and annoyance.
Actions arising from such annoyances can have consequences that are detrimental to one’s well-being. When anger intensifies, it limits our ability to use sound judgment and envision the consequences of our actions. As a result, we tend to consider others just as objects in our subjective life which makes us inconsiderate towards their concerns or feelings.
To be fully present with other requires a conscious choice to give the other your undivided attention. When you choose to empathise over reacting, you can really take time to listen actively, attend to yours or others’ concerns or emotions. Taking a pause between your immediate reactions to annoyances and your response to the feelings that arise within those instances, you can slow down, prevent yourself from saying hurtful things or avoid anger.
Impatience makes you inward focused, on you, on what you are not receiving, whereas, with patience, you are more focused outward. This can make you think, and choose care and compassion for not only the other person but also towards your own self. You can release your negative feelings and see ways to forgive unskillful actions of yours or others.
To be patient is to develop unconditional positive regard
The skill of patience helps you develop unconditional positive regard towards others where you grow more accepting and forgiving. Making an attempt to understand that every person is a product of so many conditions, their experiences and things that they have no control over opens you up to others’ weaknesses or flaws. Taking the necessary time to actively listen and understand what the other person is conveying to you makes you more tolerant even if you disagree or are offended. With compassion and willingness to forgive, we grow more accepting what the other is in a relationship.
Our emotions are natural and there is no quick fix to control the unbalanced emotions which are driven by unpleasant circumstances or thinks that we have no control on. However, we can make a conscious effort to manage how we think, choose to respond and be patient in any given circumstance. Patience will help you be more focused on being present with life as it is occurring and more grateful you become for what is good. It make you grow more resilient through difficult situations and persistent towards achieving your purpose.
- Grow mindful of the causes of your impatience. When you are aware of your triggers, you can learn to minimise them. Reframe the situation by being aware of what expectations you had of it before you became impatient. Is it your ego in play or your expectations of a situation or of a person or of a relationship. When you are conscious about the condition you are in and what’s at play, you can reframe it to understand without frustration.
- Manage your thoughts in the event of stressful situations. If a situation is intensifying your negative emotions, think in response to that particular feeling. This will allow you to choose your response or behaviour. Focus on the big picture rather than as good or bad out right or wrong. Life is often a combination of positives and negatives.
- Be aware of the signs of impatience. Explore and know how it plays up for you in the moment – on your physical, emotional and mental aspects. Tune into and notice the bodily signs that alert you to your impatience. Such times, pay attention to your breathing, take few and deep breaths to slow down. This improves your awareness of the impulse to which you typically react and behave so you can step out of such unhelpful patterns.
- When you notice self-critical thoughts and self-judgments that make you impulsive, take a self compassion break. Acknowledge that this particular situation is making you self-critical and instead of getting wound up in it, change your self-talk. Say to yourself, “I will adjust my expectations and try to be patient.”Be compassionate towards your own imperfections and vulnerabilities.
- When disagreements make you feel impatient or angry, don’t suppress. Instead respond to others without becoming unkind and abusive. Maintain a positive perspective, instead of dwelling on things that are making you impulsive. Accept things and people as they are instead of wanting others to conform to your expectations.
Patience is a silent virtue to practice. When you are impatient, others have your control, but when you have patience, then you have control of yourself even in most frustrating situations. As the saying goes, “There are no honours too distant to the person who prepares himself for them with patience.” It doesn’t matter how difficult the situation may be, you can endure it if you are willing to have the patience to go through the things and spend your time working towards your purpose.
When we practice patience, we gradually create more peaceful world within, where we grow more hopeful, trusting, less complaining, and more tolerant and accepting of difficulties and mistakes.
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience and compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”Lao Tzu