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Why Patience Pays Off and How to Develop It

Patience is the capacity to accept, tolerate, or delay trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset. Meaning you are able or willing to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with a delay or an undesirable situation.

Being patient in a modern world has become increasingly difficult as our society feeds our desire for instant gratification. We have come to expect results instantaneously and with ease. Unfortunately, quick and easy are rarely, if ever, part of the formula to a successful and fulfilling life—quite the opposite.

Numerous studies have shown a significant correlation between patience, success, and overall contentment. One of the most famous is “the marshmallow test,” conducted by Stanford professor Walter Mischel in 1972.

In short, children were independently placed in a playroom and seated at a table where a marshmallow was placed in front of them. The researcher informed the child that they would leave the room and return shortly. If the child did not eat the marshmallow before they returned, they would provide the child with a second marshmallow, but only if they resisted eating the one placed in front of them.

This experiment aimed to analyze the long-term effects of delayed gratification. The children were followed, and their success was evaluated for more than forty years. The researchers found that the children who delayed gratification and waited for the second marshmallow had higher SAT scores, were better at managing stress, had lower obesity and substance abuse rates, and had better social skills than their counterparts.

Patience allows us to focus on the moment and task at hand instead of getting lost or fixated on the outcome, which is essential if we intend to achieve our dreams and goals. When we focus on the task at hand and nothing else, we can more easily enter a state of flow and accomplish more of the things that lead us to our ideal outcome. Our ability to stick it out till the end leads to attributes like acceptance, perseverance, productive and level-headed decision making, optimism, and gratitude.

How to Develop Patience:

Because patience does not come naturally to us, we must work to positively reinforce it or distract ourselves from a lack of instant gratification.

Self-awareness is Step #1 when developing any new skill or habit. Your ability to recognize your patterns that both hinder and foster patience is essential.

Here you can find additional resources to help develop your level of awareness.

Methods to help you integrate patience:

Practice mindfulness, and learn to reduce judgment and accept current circumstances.

  • Take a seat somewhere comfortable and notice what thoughts or judgments arise.

  • Witness whatever comes up in the body or mind in conjunction with that thought or judgment.

  • Recognize the thoughts, feelings, and stories playing without denouncing them or clinging to them.

  • Once you get clear and comfortable sitting with them, move forward with clarity by asking yourself insightful questions like:

“Why am I in such a hurry?”

“Is what I am waiting for worth the wait or effort?”

“What can I do to make better use of my time than worrying or trying to hurry the process?”

“What will it feel like once I have obtained or achieved said thing?” Focus on that feeling and find other things in your life that already make you feel that way.

Intentionally slow down in chaotic situations.

  • 5-5-7 Breathing: inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds; repeat five times.

  • Box Breathing: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds; repeat four times.

  • Take a technology break; turn all tech devices off for 2-4 hours.

  • Take a relaxing walk; get out of the house or office and enjoy nature for 20-30 minutes allowing yourself to disconnect from your concerns.

Incorporate playfulness into your day.

  • Sing and dance just for the fun of it.

  • Try new things and experience the unexpected.

  • Participate in something out of the ordinary to expand your horizon.

  • Use your unscheduled time to be creative, daydream and reflect.

Practice gratitude for what you currently have.

  • Keep a gratitude journal and write five things you are grateful for every day. When you feel anxious about your impatience (which is always a result of longing for something you don’t have yet), reflect on these things.

  • Place attention on your current accomplishments or belongings and look at them with a fresh eye. Revel in them as if they are newly achieved or obtained.

While practicing patience can be challenging and uncomfortable, the discomfort that comes from the consequences of not exhibiting patience is far more substantial.

Have you ever not done something because of how long it would take only to get to that moment in time and have nothing to account for? Maybe you wanted to go back to university, but four years seemed too long to wait. Now, four years later, you think, "I would have a degree right now if I had just acted and been patient.

Establishing patience is uncomfortable yet necessary to achieve our long-term goals and dreams. We feel certain feelings for a reason. Every emotion is an indicator of what we want, and we often feel them during times of cognitive dissonance. For instance, we may feel angry because we know what we need to do to get a certain result or outcome. Allowing that anger to motivate us can be powerful. However, when that anger turns into aggression, we are not utilizing it effectively.

If there is one takeaway, it is that: patience puts you in direct control of yourself; there is a sense of self-possession where your emotions cannot emotionally hijack you. Which, in the end, will lead to a far more present, calm, respectful way of being.

Applying patience is both a conscious habit as well as a never-ending journey. Like developing a healthy lifestyle, you do not see results overnight, but through incremental changes, constant practice, and integration into your day-to-day life.


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