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How to be patient: building calm composure

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The fast-paced world we live in doesn’t leave too much room for patience—or so it would seem, at least. We can’t afford to be patient; we want things done, and we want them done now. Think of that work project that you just have to complete by the end of the week. What about that summer body that you only have two months left to work on? Time is ticking, and life doesn’t wait for anyone, right?

If fast results and instant gratification seem to guide most of your daily actions, then patience probably isn’t your strong suit. You’ve heard people’s advice time and time again, but you still find it hard to take a step back and just wait - especially when there are so many things that need doing.

But slowing down is crucial for navigating life’s biggest moments. 

Patience isn’t just a virtue. It’s a valuable life skill that can prove helpful both at work and in your private life. If you have more patience, people will see you as a friendlier, more focused individual. The good news is that you can actually learn how to be more patient. All it takes is a few consistent, smart behaviors. 

With more patience, you’ll have an easier time controlling your temper, and you’ll make better and more rational decisions through effective analytical thinking. Given enough time, you’ll also become a better, more patient leader, teaching your team members how to seek and appreciate patience in their own lives, and perhaps a better teacher, partner and friend.

Here are our top tips for a more relaxed, gentle way of navigating the trials and tribulations of life. 

Table of contents

How do you develop patience? Seven ways to be more patient

1. Wait, even when you don’t have to

There are moments in life where patience can really mean the difference between resolution and conflict. Think of a partner who asks you for some alone time so they can mourn the death of a loved one. Think of that employee who asks for a few more days to complete a project because they’ve been having a hard time at home. These are times in which you pretty much have to step back and wait. Sometimes time is all you can give, and simply waiting can be the only solution to a problem. 

But you don’t have to think that big. Patience actually begins by appreciating the small things you take for granted. Next time you make some coffee, give yourself a minute or two before taking a sip. If you’ve just baked a wonderful chocolate cake, take a moment to appreciate the result before cutting yourself a slice. 

Just got a notification that someone replied to your tweet? Curb that excitement for a moment and just let it sit. Don’t look. (I know - this one sounds almost masochistic, right?) 

The trick here is to just be patient even when you don’t have to. When you get your hands on that juicy burger after consciously pausing - even just for a moment, it’ll feel much more deserved—and will probably taste a lot better too. According to research, there’s great value and power in anticipation

Make a habit of waiting, and you’ll slowly build patience where there was previously none. In the same way you can train your body to endure more, you can just as well train your mind. 

2. Acknowledge life’s struggles

Patience starts with the small things and can slowly influence you to act more maturely. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but not doing anything at all is sometimes exactly what you should be doing. 

We’ve already touched on certain life situations that are best treated with a generous amount of patience. Maybe your partner just got fired and needs some extra time to recover. Perhaps you sprained your ankle and have to stay inside for a couple of weeks. Some things just take time, and there’s really no point stressing about them.

Yes, you don’t have control over everything that happens in your life, and that’s alright. Acknowledging life’s struggles as they come and accepting the fact that some things can’t be changed will put your mind at ease.

This attitude takes many forms - whether it’s in the serenity prayer or ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism. Some things just can’t be changed, and that’s fine. Wait them out. 

3. Focus on what’s important

We all live busy lives and complete hundreds of important—at least to us—tasks every day. But do we ever take a moment to think and really evaluate our daily activities? Is everything as important as we make it out to be, or are there things and people that bring unnecessary stress to our lives?

If you’re a perfectionist at heart, you’ll want to be the best at everything you do (but what’s really the true price of perfectionism?) You might also be tempted to take on more responsibilities than you can actually handle. Spending too much time on ultimately unimportant tasks will make it harder for you to find patience when you really need it. Patience can be a limited resource, and unnecessarily forcing yourself into situations that test it will deplete that resource for when it’s really needed. 

Think about it: do you really have to join your friend’s chess club if you don’t even enjoy chess? Do you really want to spend your whole Saturday afternoon helping an annoying co-worker move? If you want to be patient and retain energy for tasks and activities that really matter to you, you need to practice saying no to stress-inducing situations more often. 

Needless to say, you shouldn’t always be patient with everyone and everything. In some cases, it might make sense to confront an issue head-on. You might encounter racist, sexist or uncivil remarks at the office or having to deal with an abusive parent or partner at home. Your wellbeing and self-worth should always come first; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

4. Keep track of your triggers

While it’s true that the roots of impatience can usually be traced back to stressful habits, not everyone has the same things that set them off. With millions of neurons in your brain powering thousands of thoughts every second of each day (and night), it’s easy to move from task to task mindlessly, doing most things on autopilot.

The only way to get a better idea of what’s holding you back is to actively keep track of the things that make you impatient. How else can you ever know what’s really going on? It might be a toxic partner or friend who’s always taking and giving nothing in return. Maybe it’s an irritating co-worker who never listens to what you’ve got to say. But equally it might be something more subtle; something you have to look inward to really figure out.

Keep your eyes open and try to figure out your specific triggers. If you can, take note of events that lead to feelings of annoyance, or that make you lose your patience. 

It’s time to play detective. When did it happen? Who was involved? What did they do? How did you react? Every bit of information you can extract is crucial. Examine every aspect of these incidents as closely as possible, and you’ll quickly begin to identify familiar patterns in your (and others’) behavior.

Once you have plenty of data at hand, try to focus on the bigger picture. Will any of these incidents really affect your life in the grand scheme of things? Was this trigger even worth your time and energy? As you become more conscious of your behavioral patterns, you’ll realize that your frustration over trivial matters is often largely unwarranted.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that your impatient behavior in itself is irrational. It just means that you’re kind of missing the point. More often than not, losing your patience is a symptom and not the cause of the problem. 

Do you often feel tired, overwhelmed, stressed, and powerless to do the things that really matter to you? It might be that instead of directing your energy towards the thing that’s frustrating you, you need to point it at yourself instead and perform a little self-care. 

In times like these, make sure you:

  • Don’t take on more work than you can handle.
  • Take enough time off for yourself.
  • Spend plenty of time with the people you love.
  • Get plenty of sleep every night.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Book a vacation in the near future or something else to look forward to. 

The recent global pandemic hasn’t been kind to most of us. If you’ve only grown cranky and impatient recently, a change of scenery and environment will help you find your good old self, whenever it’s safe to do so. Give yourself a break and focus on self-fulfillment to gently guide yourself back into a peaceful headspace. 

5. Take a deep breath

Identifying your triggers is only the first step. Controlling yourself and fighting your impulses will take as much—if not more—practice. Did you know that proper breathing comes with a number of mental and physical health benefits?

When you first start feeling like you’re losing your patience, take a deep breath and hold it in for a few seconds. Slowly breathe out and continue the process two more times. These three breaths should give you plenty of time (30 to 45 seconds) to calm your nerves and bring you back to the here and now. 

Remember, when practicing controlled breathing, you should solely focus on the breaths themselves, nothing else. Feel your lungs as they slowly fill with air. Put your hand on your stomach and feel the air escape your body as you exhale. Pay attention to your breathing, and don’t let your mind drift away. 

Another useful trick you can try when frustration takes over is to stop and count to ten. You’ll see that as time passes, your need to yell or act impulsively won’t be as strong anymore. For best results, combine and alternate between these two exercises every time you feel like you’re losing control. If your anger and frustration persist after a confrontation, walk away and take some extra time to think and relax.

If you often get upset over little things, you need to learn to be patient with yourself first of all. You can’t always predict how you’ll react to a specific situation, and you certainly can’t predict how others will react—and that’s alright. Learning how to be patient is largely about mental clarity: Shifting your focus from satisfying the momentary irritation to contemplating the bigger picture.

6. Meditate

Meditation and mindfulness are all about connecting to your real emotions and discovering your inner self. By helping to rewire the brain and create new neural pathways, meditation can alleviate stress, improve your state of mind, and actively contribute to healthier lifestyle choices.

Although not technically an emotion, impatience is a negative character trait that can be unlearned with consistent practice. By drawing attention to the raw emotions and energy of the here and now, meditation takes the simple breathing exercises we already mentioned to a whole different level. You can’t, of course, meditate in the heat of a moment. Meditation and mindfulness exercises are mental activities that require time, effort, and—you guessed it right—patience.

By dedicating more time to making that mental space and finding your authentic self, you’re getting one step closer to eliminating your bad habits and impulses. But to do that, you’ll first need to practice patience with yourself and with others.

If mediation doesn’t do it for you, you can find other healthy ways to relieve frustration. Punch a pillow, call a friend, or just yell in the middle of a field to let off steam. While many gyms and fitness centers are closed during the pandemic, outdoor activities like team sports, group hikes, and Bootcamp classes are still ongoing. They may end up being just the release that you need. 

7. Laugh and love

Life has a funny way of proving that we sometimes take it all a bit too seriously. We can sometimes see insurmountable problems everywhere we look but rarely do we make some times to really count our blessings. It’s usually not until we have to face a truly life-changing event (e.g., the death of a loved one, serious illness) that we realize how trivial and insignificant most of our day-to-day problems are. 

Have you perhaps ever wondered why older people and people who have been through hell in life are usually the ones who show the most patience? Real hardships remind us that life is fleeting. Be that as it may, there’s always enough time for an odd smile or laugh here and there. 

Current research indicates that laughter has quantifiable positive physiologic benefits. Appreciating life and living in the moment isn’t always easy, but it’s a way of living that brings a little bit more love and kindness to the world. 

We all stand small in the face of death. But you don’t have to experience tragedy firsthand to be kind and compassionate. A bright outlook on life will allow you to treat frustrating situations with remarkable calm and patience. 

Remind yourself to laugh and love, even when others insist on sulking and hating. It’s not an insensitive thing to do - it’s a source of strength and one of the best ways to be less impatient. 


How can I be patient with progress?

Being patient in your search for patience might sound a bit silly, but it’s good to remind yourself that change doesn’t happen overnight. 

Cut yourself some slack and learn through your mistakes. Yes, there’ll be bad days and some unnecessary outbursts along the way, but that’s just part of the game. If you’re persistent with your approach and make a habit of regularly practicing and applying the tips we’ve shared with you here, you’ll start seeing results much faster than you expect. 

Stay positive, be more patient, and others will return the favor. Wait—and think—before you allow your frustration to build. All things will pass. Don’t forget to breathe.

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