We’ve all heard the phrase: “She’s got the patience of a saint.” These days, people aren’t very patient. After all, we live in a world of instant gratification. We can reach just about anybody any time via cell phone or email. We can instantly print movie tickets, postage stamps, and airline boarding passes on our home computer. If there are more than two people in front of us in line at the bank or grocery store, our blood pressure rockets through the roof.
Experts say that patience is more than just a virtue. It’s also a sign of maturity, and without it, we’re like babies who want what we want - when we want it – even if waiting provides a bigger reward. Like, having the self-control to not eat a bag of Cheetos because you know it would only take 15 minutes to whip up a healthy meal. Patience is also a sign of intelligence. Researchers at Columbia University measured how well 4-year-olds could resist candy. When the kids were old enough to take the SAT, they checked back in. The result: The kids who could only resist the candy for a few seconds scored 60 points lower than those with enough self-control to wait five minutes. As they grew, the patient preschoolers were better able to tolerate the stresses and frustrations of life. The good news is, it’s never too late to learn patience. Here’s how:
- Grab a piece of paper, and for one week, keep track of how often you become impatient – and the triggers that caused it. Say, the bus was late, or you got stuck in traffic.
- Then, focus on a small trigger that crops up frequently. One that makes you mildly impatient – instead of one that makes your blood boil. Like when your child tries to grab your attention when you’re on the phone. The fix: Hold up one finger and tell your child in a calm voice, “I’ll be with you in one minute.” That way, both of you will be more patient and gradually work up to the triggers that work your last nerve.
- Do something for others. Instant gratification is all about you, but studies show that the deepest gratification comes from being selfless, when your actions benefit others. So, volunteer. Find a place where you’re needed, and get involved – like cooking a meal at a homeless shelter.