Impatience is something that many people suffer from.
It can be a hindrance in many occasions - but you can actually learn to improve your patience!
Patience is the support of weakness; impatience the ruin of strength.
- Charles Caleb Colton
First of all, let's look at a very interesting Experiment from Walter Mischel called the "Marshmallow Experiment". In the 1970's, Mischel and his team invited several pre-school kids to a test. They had to wait inside a room, with a bell in front of them. Mischel left the room and told the kids that they could ring the bell, then he would return and give the kid a marshmallow.
But if the Kid didn't ring the bell and waited until he came back by himself, the kid would receive 2 marshmallows.
The results varied, but most kids pressed the bell between 6-10 minutes.
Usually, he would come back on its own after around 15 minutes.
Now we all know how impatient kids are, especially pre-schoolers, and that 15 minutes feel like an eternity to them!
In his tests, Mischel found out that the kids that waited longer (= were more patient) ended up being more disciplined and engaged in school activity, and that they could cope with stress better.
So what can we learn from this experiment?
- People that are patient naturally tend to be more disciplined in general.
- Patience pays off. (Of course, not always.)
- Impatience doesn't get you any benefits.
- Even when it's hard, and you don't know how long you have to be patient for, you should still try and stick with it!
Impatience can apply to many different aspects of life, big ones and small ones.
But when it affects your work or personal life majorly, you should think about changing your behaviour - because patience can be learned and improved!
Let's start with how you can fight your impatience in small steps!
1) Analyze your daily life, and all the small situations that tend to make you feel impatient. Maybe the red light in front of your home always takes so long, or the elevator at work moves too slowly? Whatever it is, write a list of at least 5 small things where you are impatient daily.
Leave out big aspects like work-related issues.
2) From your list, pick out 1-2 things that you want to work on first. This is much better than simply telling yourself "I will be more patient from now on." because that statement is not specific enough!
3) Before you act, think about the situations you picked in your head.
Think about how you normally react in that situation, how you feel and what exactly annoys you. Also, think about how this feeling affects your actions, also in situations with others, and realize that your impatience has negative effects!
4) NOW you can think about how you would like to act differently. And don't make this scenario too easy in your head - it's not as easy as it sounds to change your behaviour patterns!
You can do this with several methods :
- Think about the situation that makes you impatient. Breathe in deeply, and let all your muscles relax. Your whole body is calm and relaxed, and you can conquer the situation with a clear head.
- Try creating a Mantra, and repeating it over and over in your head. For example: "Whenever I wait for the Elevator, I stay calm. If I get impatient that doesn't make it go any faster."
- Connect your action with a habit - create a signal for yourself. For example, always touching your wedding ring or something else you have with you at all times. This way you signal your body: I'm in a new state of mind now. Whenever I touch this, I will stay calm and patient and will be reminded of my intentions.
5) When the situation comes, analyze your thoughts and changes in your body. Now remind yourself that impatience doesn't get you anywhere, it only has negative effects.
Concentrate on your body, breathe deeply and slowly and feel the tension go away.
Of course, these examples are only tiny situations.
What really bothers you is something else - when you work on an important task, and you think "Why isn't this finished yet?! This needs to be done faster, I don't have that much time..."
So how can you conquer that kind of impatience?
After you have mastered the small situations, you can then move on to the bigger issues that come with impatience. There is no generic solution for that, but in general remember three things:
1) Impatience happens only in your head.
It's a stress that you are creating for yourself, it's not naturally there! It's a construct of your own thoughts.
2) Time pressure is the killer of patience.
This goes hand in hand with step 1 - you are creating way too much stress for yourself, especially when you're on a time schedule.
Now everybody has deadlines and I understand that they're important - but if you stress about it, you won't work any faster! Think about the worst possible thing that happen when you delay that deadline. Most of the time, it's really not as bad as we think.
Also when you work at home or independently, try not to create too much time pressure if you already know you are getting impatient easily.
3) Impatience can lead to negative effects!
When someone is impatient, they often end up acting rashly, without proper planning - which leads to mistakes or negative effects. And when you put too much pressure on yourself, you get nervous and tend to make more mistakes as well. It's a vicious cycle!
So be aware that impatience affects your behaviour (very often in a negative way).
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