A recent expression of impatience inspired the subject of this post. My lovely, and always attentive, partner noticed a moment of facially demonstrative exasperation (a bit of an eye roll, a headshake, AND a grimace) at the slightest delay in a recent attempt at a family departure. We’re talking about a 30-45 second delay because our 2-year-old put in the last minute request for “more toast.”
I couldn’t handle it.
Clearly, those wasted 37 seconds I"ll never get back held a source of gratification and accomplishment beyond words. Who can say for sure, but it’s probable that in that time, I would've already devised a global hunger initiative, written the next 5 posts for this column, finished re-designing our website, worked through the behavioral imprint from my early childhood, and (with 8 seconds remaining) finally mastered the art of Tai Chi.
Why are we so Impatient?
I imagine there must be a similar conversation occurring in our subconscious minds when the unexpected grocery store line, the slow driver who won’t switch lanes, or the 2-year-old asking for more toast gets a response of irritability from us.
I find, when attempting to become something (patient, loving, a better listener, compassionate), it’s important to understand the inverse behavior/persona.
Focusing on the subject of impatience, I notice the core issue is a lack of acceptance—or a lack of flexibility. Rather than “go with the flow,” it’s more, “go with this really narrow set of life allowances, for which any conflict or disharmony will be utterly unacceptable, resulting in a full-fledged emotional, mental, and physical rebellion—an adult temper tantrum.”
It’s not even a personal vision that's being disrupted. I don’t (maybe you do) plot out how the commute is going to unfold every time I get into the car (or motorbike in my case). It’s more of a disruption of an “impression” I have of how things should go. It’s as though there is “a perfection” inherent in each moment that we either access or are denied.
Perfection denied. Or—“the universe is against me.”
Equally, I observe impatience stems from a continued internal dialogue, for which, impatience is a final outward expression. Life is a continuation of moments, events, circumstances, and experiences. When I act impatiently, it might be because I’ve been locked in some sort of internal, conflicting dialogue. I might be scolding myself for something, seeing things as “a struggle”, or again, embodying the myth that “the universe is against me”.
In this regard, impatience has nothing to do with the particular circumstance in front of me, but rather serves notice (to others) that I am not okay inside. So how do we do it? How do we become patient?
1. Meditate, Meditate, Meditate
If our impatience stems from internal unrest, meditation is THE practice for cultivating internal peace. Meditation is a well-documented catalyst for innumerable benefits, and patience is no exception.
Beginning and ending (and practicing whenever, really) our day with a silent meditation, puts life in perspective, allows us to see our nature beyond our mental constructs, and provides a rewiring of sorts for our physical disposition. It feels unnecessary to promote meditation in this context—it’s a key practice—so really, it’s simply a matter of doing it.
2. Pause and Reflect
When the upwelling of impatient emotions arise, it’s best to pay attention to the intricacies of these feelings. Ask yourself—what is it REALLY?
Get into the authenticity of what’s occurring both subtly, and noticeably. A sound first step in this process is to take a nice slow breath, and, if it’s possible, move to a slightly different location (to change the “energy” of the circumstances). Through this momentary pause, attempt to access the “reality” of the situation.
Put some perspective on your impatience. When you can break down your suffocating irritability to a mere 37-second delay in the course of your day, you might find it easier to accept and move on.
3. Change the Myth
The universe is not against me. The universe is not against me. The universe is not against me. Keep repeating until THIS becomes the story we tell ourselves about the world. When we change the myth, we change our perspective, and a metamorphosis of response is possible.
Gifts lay hidden in all that comes our way. The slow car in front of you (for which you have no tolerance) just may have saved you from a crazed, speed-filled commute destined for disaster. Life is a story. And the stories we tell ourselves about the world ring the loudest.
4. Accept the Moment
I’m literally stuck at the bank right now. No one LIKES sitting at the bank. I’m hungry. I’d prefer to be elsewhere, perhaps somewhere with a fan and a coconut. But I’m not.
And isn’t life like this really? We either accept or we don’t. It’s our relationship with the moment that gives our life its flavor, and ultimately begets the shape of our personality. I could do as my child and drop down on the middle of the tiled floor and protest, or I can pull out my laptop and start typing. Or I can close my eyes and focus on my breath. The choice is mine, just as the choice is yours. What do we choose?
5. Laugh About It
As my mini melodrama that opened this post attests, often our bouts of impatience are ridiculous outbursts grounded in childish validation.We should keep this in mind while pausing and reflecting on our reasons for our impatience. Humor is necessary in many of life’s instances and our impatient meanderings offer a perfect opportunity to lighten up.
Humor also alters the energy of the situation and can be a catalyst for acceptance. So next time you feel the swell of impatience surge up your spine and into your reddening, grimacing face, try and smile. Turn the drama into a comedy.
Each day is filled with endless opportunities to step into something different. The internal desire, “I wish I could change ____ about me,” is presented with endless options for becoming that which we desire.
Today I’m feeling the tug of impatience lead more towards a patient existence. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?