“So next time somebody says, “Sorry to have kept you waiting,” you can reply, “That’s all right, I wasn’t waiting. I was just standing here enjoying myself — in joy in my self.”
― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
I often receive notes from parents, alumni, and even grandparents after reading a newsletter article that I have written. I love hearing from you and learning whether something I have written resonates with you… or not. Sometimes I even receive suggestions on topics to write about. Today’s topic is a suggestion from a Roycemore grandparent. I would suspect that this grandparent could easily have written today’s article. Grandparents bring such great perspectives on patience. I now can claim that perspective myself, as I too am a grandparent!
When we are young, time can’t go fast enough. We want to be older than we are. For example, how many of us in our fifties proudly proclaim, “I am 53 AND A HALF years old!”
We want to be given opportunities that we might not truly be ready for. I recall when I was in my twenties thinking that I knew more than the head of the organization I worked for. When the position became vacant, I applied for it thinking I could do a better job. It’s possible that I could have done a better job in some areas, for certain, but I also hadn’t yet developed the work and leadership skills to be ready to step into such a critical role. I am fortunate that I did not get that job. I still had far too much to learn.
But it is unfair to stereotype the young as being impatient. Impatience doesn’t necessarily discriminate. We’ve all seen older adults losing their cool with others while waiting in line for something, or aggressively driving past someone they believed was driving too slowly. And depending on what we might be experiencing in our personal lives at any given time, we might be more or less patient. I greatly admire those individuals who I witness that seem to exhibit the patience of a saint. How do they do it? How might we develop greater patience so that we can serve as better role models for our children?
In an article for Psychology Today Jane Bolton suggests four steps to develop greater patience:
1. Understanding the addictive nature of anger, irritation, outrage
These very human emotions can become a default if we let them. Rather than allowing such emotions to take over, one must consciously cultivate a patient mindset including reframing the story we tell ourselves about a situation, and cultivating empathy and compassion toward others.
2. Upgrading our attitude towards discomfort and pain
If we are frustrated about that slow driver on the road, we might consider why that driver is going so slowly. Perhaps they are having a mechanical issue and need to get their car safely to the repair shop. Perhaps they were in an accident a month ago and this is the first day they have been back out on the road since the incident. If, in the moment we are feeling impatient, we can stop the mind pattern of blame and criticism and replace it with curiosity. Curiosity of what might be going on with the other person or what might be going on in our own minds to cause our reaction, can help us to cultivate greater patience.
3. Paying attention when the irritation/pain starts
When we are feeling impatient, there is often something that is bothering us that is making us feel uncomfortable. Paying attention to what that discomfort is can help us move past the pain and reflect on the real reason we are feeling the way we are feeling.
Once we have begun paying attention to the pain or irritation, we can address destructive self-talk and replace it with compassionate self-talk. Again, borrowing the slow driver story, perhaps we are feeling impatient because we are afraid that we are going to be late for work– again! And if we are late, we might lose our job. Is it the slow driver’s fault for making us late? Or did we not plan well enough to ensure we could get to work on time? Perhaps we stayed up too late (again) the night prior because of our Netflix binge-watching habit? Who is to blame?
As Bolton writes, “Pain has its purpose. It pushes us to find solutions.” Following these four steps is one solution to the difficulty we might experience in practicing patience and over time we might be the ones that others are admiring as we demonstrate the “patience of a saint.”