How to Cultivate Patience

by Dr Angel Adams, Dr Patricia Papciak

Image: The March Hare from Alice in Wonderland

No time to say hello, good-bye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

I’m late and when I wave, I lose the time I save.

My fuzzy ears and whiskers took me too much time to shave.

I run and then I hop, hop, hop, I wish that I could fly.

There’s danger if I dare to stop and here’s a reason why:

I’m over-due, I’m in a rabbit stew.

Can’t even say good-bye, hello, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

– Lewis Carroll –

I’m late, I’m late! Does this sound familiar? We live in a world where our schedules are hectic and today’s technology bombards us constantly. It seems more difficult then ever to cultivate patience when we are accustomed to and reinforced for having things instantly available. In addition, we often feel pressure to react immediately to interruptions from our e-mail, phone calls, or texting. As a result we resort to multi-tasking to decrease the impact of being overwhelmed from all of this while juggling family, work and social relations. There is a downside to multitasking. According to researchers at the University of California and Kings College, London, multitasking can actually lower your IQ (as does smoking marijuana) because the lack of focus prevents information from reaching the brain’s memory stores.

Patience is the ability to slow down and wait. It is the ability to regulate negative emotions (anger and frustration). It is the ability to delay gratification and control impulses (what is said and done hastily). When we see people who are patient, we certainly value this quality and wish we were more skilled at it. We have respect for the individual who can deal with provocative and irritating situations with ease and grace. Patient people show more empathy and compassion towards others, and are more calm and perseverant.

Our patience will achieve more than our force – Edmund Burke

We certainly have the opportunity to practice patience in our daily lives. A few common examples are: trying to find a parking place, waiting in a long postal queue, sitting in the doctors offices for hours, being put on hold via a computer-generated telephone message, getting passed from one person to another only to get cut off and end up having to go through the whole rigmarole again. Children and adolescents can also certainly try our patience beyond reckoning.

Tips for being patient with the world

  1. “Answer your emails only twice a day at scheduled times. Firstly, to check for urgent emails, and a secondly, at time that you have scheduled after the important tasks have been done (this includes Facebook, Skype, MySpace, Twitter etc.). One of the biggest distracters and time wasters is to respond to emails as they come in, so disable the symbol and sound that notifies you when an email hits your inbox and better yet, turn the Internet off completely so you don’t end up surfing the web. Make sure you have no distractions. The studies indicate that every email or anything else that interrupts you, takes 12-15 minutes to get back on track. The same goes for your child who is studying for exams and doing homework.
  2. Turn off your phone and mobile and put them on voicemail. When it fits into your schedule, respond to the very important ones and leave the rest till later!
  3. If you find it intolerable to wait in queues, always carry an inspirational book or something to preoccupy yourself. Maybe it’s a good time to sort out what’s in your bag or look at your schedule tomorrow and get organized for the next day. Or listen to the audible earworms on your iPod to learn a new language. This is also a good time to say your affirmations.
  4. The next time you start to get aggravated at the dawdling bank teller, the intrusive telesales person, or the disappearing waiter/waitress, imagine that there is a CCTV camera that shows the public a large close up of your face so that every muscle of your impatience is visible. If you don’t like that image of yourself then how would you like the world to notice you?

Tips for being patient with your kids

  1. When you feel like saying something out of frustration and intolerance, try to either zip your lip or crack a joke instead. Act patiently, don’t yak impatiently. You can also reframe the situation at hand with a light-hearted approach. Laughter is much better for your health than the stress that comes with a short fuse and exasperation. Remember, for every minute you are angry you lose 60 seconds of joy with your child.
  2. Watch your body-language. Children with ADHD and ASD are developmentally delayed in their ability to self-control and to demonstrate certain prosocial behaviours (usually 30-40% below their peers). All children go through different developmental stages and it is normal to find your child doing such things as writing with a black marker on a beautiful wooden floor or smearing makeup all over her face, your clothes and your room. Before you assume that your child is just being a right pain, consider that she might be trying to copy her mother. Children are experimenting and discovering their world. Kids will spill and break things and they may get sick on your new carpet. Sometimes they are clumsy, vulnerable, forgetful and they make mistakes. Instead of showing a facial expression of disgust and anger, the responsibility lies with the parent to keep things in a safe place and out of reach and to show patience and understanding. Of course there are times that parents need to give consequences, but make sure the punishment fits the crime for what is developmentally appropriate. Kids are not little adults.
  3. If you take the time to problem solve with your kids, it gives them practice in developing critical thinking skills which they will need to function successfully in life. Patient parents take the time to be involved in collaborative problem-solving with family members. Dr. Ross Greene, who wrote the book: The Explosive Child, states:

    “Instead of asking yourself, ‘What’s it going to take to motivate this kid to behave differently’ ask ‘Why is this so hard for this child? What’s getting in his way? How can I help?'”

Tips for being patient with yourself

  1. It’s not at all flattering to you when you arrive late to meetings and appointments. Make it a habit to arrive early. This will take a conscious effort on your part to set the alarm clock at an earlier time and make a commitment to get on your journey at least half an hour ahead of time. Visualize yourself being early from now on. If you dread waiting around, think of it as a time to practice patience. You can also pull out that inspirational book, sort out what’s in your bag or briefcase, organize your schedule, listen to an audible book on your iPod, say your affirmations or breathe deeply. You will feel more contained, collected, and grounded. This serenity can only boost your self-esteem.
  2. Really get skilled at this. Become more consciously aware of your impulsiveness and impatience. Count or record how many times during the day you are impatient. Then try to decrease your score! Take deep breaths as an alternative response. We have read that deep breathing can help you lose weight and keep you healthy, thus, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages of losing your cool. Practice, practice, practice. Yes you can change!
  3. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Give yourself permission to say “No, I think that will be too much”, “I won’t really have time to do that”, “Sorry, I can’t fit that in to my schedule”. When you do make plans to meet with someone, make it your goal to really take pleasure in their company. It is easier to enjoy people when you have made the proper time to see them, and you can give them your full attention. It’s not enjoyable to others when you are multi-tasking while talking. It doesn’t feel good that you can barely fit them into your schedule and you are looking at your watch from the beginning of the encounter. It is better to be fully present and mindful of your friend, child, relative or colleague. It’s also the quality of time together that is valuable, not the quantity.

    “Genius is eternal patience.” – Michelangelo

Finally, what can we learn from the three-toed sloth? When looking for inspirational stories and facts about patient animals, we came across the sloth. Sloths are marvellous mammals that have the patience of a saint. The stigma of the word “slothful” seems duly unfair. The sloth can hang patiently from a tree for so long that it grows algae on its furry coat. Humans can learn a lot from these intelligent creatures as they teach us to slowly chew our food and to value sleep. (They can sleep 15-20 hours at a time). They move slowly on the ground, but they are excellent swimmers! Take a look at this enjoyable video and see what a smashing personality they have. Can you scratch your head with your foot? http://www.conservationreport.com/2009/02/21/animals-baby-sloths-are-too-cute/

Keep hanging in there while developing the power of patience!


Thanks for taking the time to read this Monday’s Motivational article.

Please feel free to send me any comments or your own stories you wish to share, or post them on this site by leaving a comment below.

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