We all get impatient at times, especially in our fast-paced world. In fact, new neuro-scientific evidence proves that the hurried, multi-tasking world we interact within has fundamentally rewired our brains to expect instant gratification, or at least quick results. This means that patience is becoming less the norm.
Why patience is still important
Our brains were originally wired to keep moving so that we weren’t in danger of being eaten by larger mammals. Our fight or flight response served us well in prehistoric times. But now, our brains have rewired themselves to expect things and people to move even faster…and not for important reasons like survival.
Now we want to do everything as quickly as possible so that we can keep up with the Jones, stay ahead at work, get as much done as possible each day…and then drop into our beds, exhausted.
This lifestyle not only kills our peace of mind, it also negatively impacts our physical health, spiritual health and relationships.
We have less time for our families, so we put high demands on them to hurry them along. But instead of doing that, it seems to make things worse–they slow down. But is this only our perception?
When we are impatient, we tend to overdramatize the importance of whatever event or location we are rushing to. We blow things out of proportion. We make mountains out of molehills.
We put the importance of getting, doing and having above that of our loved ones. We judge people who “stop and smell the roses” as wimps who can’t take the pressure of the modern world or as lazy because they aren’t struggling and doing, doing, doing like everyone else.
But what is all of this impatient struggling really getting us?
- Common road rage
- High divorce rates
- Stress-induced illnesses
- Raising rates of depression and anxiety, even in our youth
- More people dying from heart attacks
- Materialism that sucks our souls dry
- Pushing our children to succeed at everything
- People “going postal”
- More violence
- More drugs
Impatience makes us ill
Impatience causes stress. Now, stress is a part of life that we can’t get away from. And, believe it or not, some stress is healthy for us. We all get stressed out. What’s important is how we deal with that stress that matters.
Do we come home and yell at the kids because our boss has been breathing down our neck at work? Do we kick the dog because our kid didn’t take out the trash…again? Do we drive too close to the car in front of us because we have so much to do at the office that we are trying to get in early?
Impatience has been linked to high blood pressure, artery plaque buildup, heart disease and heart attacks. It can cause anxiety. It can break down relationships. It can cause people to avoid us because they get tired of being ridiculed when our expectations not being met. All in all, our hyper-paced world isn’t as great as we have built it up to be.
What Makes You Impatient?
No one is always patient. We all have things that trigger us to lose our patience from time to time. It may be technology that doesn’t work as it should, inconsiderate drivers or our kids who piddle around and make us late for work on a regular basis.
But, patience is a skill you can develop if you want to live a happier, more peaceful life. The first step is to notice what triggers your impatience and to begin to notice how it causes you to react. These techniques can help you start to recognize what triggers your impatience.
- Keep a journal or a simple list of all the times you get impatient over a few days.
- Notice if you tend to get more impatient when there are physical issues such as being hungry, thirsty or sleep deprived. These are things that can be easily remedied to prevent a lot of impatient behavior.
- Ask your friends and family what they notice about what triggers your impatience. If you are around them a lot, they will probably be able to list off things you hadn’t considered.
- Notice how you feel the next time you are impatient. More than likely, you’re not going to feel great. You might feel anxiety or angry. Your heart may race, your temperature may rise and your breath become shallow, for example.
Once you have a better understanding of what makes you feel impatient and how you feel when you are, you can start to take action to improve your patience and your life.
Action Steps: How to Develop Patience
There are many different ways you can develop patience. And yes, it can be developed or improved upon, just like any other skill we can learn and build upon. Below is a list of ideas you can choose from to develop your patience and start enjoying life more.
Instead of rushing through each task and setting impossible deadlines for yourself, deliberately slow down to the speed of life. Move a little more slowly, on purpose.
Overestimate how long it will take to accomplish a task, and then be delighted if you finish it before you thought you would.
As a society, we’re too used to doing everything ASAP. In fact, neuroscience has proven that our brains have actually gotten hooked on speed. There’s that rush of adrenaline that accompanies the need for speed.
But being in this constant state of fight or flight, besides deteriorating our physical health, steals our peace of mind. Finding ways to slow down deliberately will enhance your life, your decision-making and your focus.
Ask yourself, “how important is this to me…really?”
How often do we make a mountain out of molehill? When we get so focused on controlling every little aspect of our lives, we end up creating unnecessary mountains. When you feel yourself getting impatient, ask yourself how important it really is to get to the party on time.
How important it is to beat that train, to get your part of the report into your boss before your nemesis does. Most of the little things we lose our patience over are really not that important.
Asking yourself this question when you feel yourself losing your cool can help you gain some perspective on the situation and be more patient.
Recognize the illusion of control
As a species, we have a really high opinion of ourselves. We think we can control everything in our lives, or should be able to. This includes everything from making it through a yellow light before it turns red to who our child dates to how our boss treats us.
Being honest with ourselves that a lot of what we get impatient about is out of our control in the first place really puts things in perspective. It makes it easier for us to let go of the supposed control we are chasing and being more patient with ourselves and others. What a relief!
Interested in learning more about practicing patience?