For the last ten years, I’ve been asked one very specific question over all others – how to be more patient. See, I don’t lose my cool on my 4-year-old when she’s hosting a “stuffie birthday party” instead of putting her shoes on…or my husband when I’ve said the same thing twice and he still hasn’t looked up from his phone.
I’m cool as a cucumber awaiting future events, don’t yell at other drivers when they cut me off, and don’t curse when I shake a drink all over the car because I swore the lid was on! (Ask my husband, he’d love to tell you how terrible that was.)
I didn’t always know how to be more patient.
But I wasn’t always that way! I used to obsess to the point of making myself physically ill while awaiting future events.
I would shout the first thing that came to mind when my husband would push my buttons or stress me out. I’d reach for immediate gratification every. single. time. rather than waiting patiently for something better down the road.
I personally learned how to be more patient the hard way, through trial and error and poor decisions blowing up in my face. But by sharing what I learned through that process, I hope to make your process of learning how to be more patient that much smoother! So let’s dive in!
First, put it all in perspective.
Okay, so someone cut me off in traffic. That was rude! Unsafe, even!
But was it really the worst thing that could happen? Probably not.
Okay, so we arrived at church five minutes late because my husband swore it was only a two-minute drive. Sure, I wanted to get there early.
But did those five minutes wreck the whole service? Not really.
Even truly terrible situations can be considered within a bigger picture. Sure, my husband had to undergo major surgery with a very (very!) long road to recovery.
But frankly…he could have died! The injury itself or the surgery could have left my daughter without her father. Is the long road not worth avoiding the alternative? Sometimes reminding yourself of the bigger picture gives you the push you need to be more patient in the moment.
Second, think ahead to the results of your impatient actions.
Kids getting ready in the morning…so annoying, right? No one would blame any of us for blowing up at them after we’ve told them six times to put on their shoes only to realize they’re still in pajamas.
Now I don’t know about your kids, but I know that if I blow up at mine, she’ll melt into a blubbering mess of tears in which she’s incapable of hearing or processing anything I say. So before I lose my cool, I ask myself if I want to go there. The answer is usually a hard pass.
Or say I’m at work and find evidence that one of my direct reports did something less than kosher. My first response is to pull them into a room immediately and let the accusations fly. Except…what if I’m wrong?
What if I’m misinterpreting the report? Or what if there was a totally valid reason they did what they did?
Wouldn’t making false accusations be even worse? Hello, loss of trust! Hello, HR! Sometimes the only reason I find the strength to be patient is that I’m avoiding a worse situation.
Third, think ahead to determine the best possible outcome, then work backward from there.
If you want to take the last trick one step further, consider the best outcome. Sure, you could yell at your husband in the moment and let off some steam.
But what if you could say what was on your mind using the perfect words and approach? What if you could explain your thoughts in such a way that your husband totally understood and committed to being your partner in whatever it was you needed?
Once the wrong words leave your mouth, you can never take them back. My husband can still tell you the wrong words I let escape ten years ago. That’s why I’ve learned the value of saying the right thing over the immediate thing.
Fourth, make a better plan.
Let’s go back to getting kids ready for school. You could probably call a play-by-play of your weekday morning, right? It tends to go the same way every time.
Now think…what could you change about that play-by-play to set yourself up for better success? I’ve made changes like waking up ten minutes earlier, making sure I catch my daughter before she gets knee-deep in an activity, and packing her lunch the night before. When you look for opportunities to set yourself up for success, you don’t have to exercise as much patience.
Finally, use time and practice to your advantage.
My ex constantly pushed boundaries, and not in the inspirational sort of way. I would set a boundary with him and he would promptly belittle and disregard it. It made for a long string of upsetting experiences.
But it provided me with boatloads of practice. At first, I would blow up in a fit of emotions, but with no real message or point to it all. Then I learned to blow up a little less.
Then I learned to better articulate my thoughts and feelings to more clearly explain why I was upset. Soon I was learning the best approach to setting boundaries and exactly what to do when they were crossed.
We can’t take credit for this one; it’s usually other people putting in the long hours to make us angry. (How thoughtful of them!) But we can use that time and practice to our advantage, learning from every experience and improving our own reaction over time.
Learning how to be more patient takes time and practice. But by putting things in perspective and thinking and planning ahead, you’ll find you build up your patience a little more every day.
So jot these ideas down and look over them in your most impatient moments. Friend, you’ve got this!
P.S. Lacking patience with your spouse? Nab our free ebook (+handy worksheet) here for 9 tricks to help you stop nagging, get the help you need, and avoid tension in the process!
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