in the first few moments of 2014, it’s easy to feel…impatient. What will the year bring? While New Year’s Eve seems to help us slow down and reflect, those first days of the year can often have the opposite effect – resolutions and fresh starts can sometimes make us antsy.
In the scramble of life, achieving that zen state – in traffic, in line, even at home! – is a major feat. One we pride ourselves in when we succeed and feel exhausted by when we fail. In The Power of Patience: How This Old-Fashioned Virtue Can Improve Your Life by bestselling author M.J. Ryan gives us a few sweet reminders of just how valuable a little patience can be. Whether learning to slow the rush or how just to deal with it, Ryan shows how doing so allows us to make better decisions and to feel better about ourselves every day. Here is Ryan’s list of simple ideas for learning to tame the impatient beast within!
1. If you’ve got a big project you’re working on… choose to notice what you’ve done rather than what you’ve got left to do. The “glass half full” approach increases patience because it taps into our sense of positivism. As one man wrote about building a boat, “I don’t think about how long it will take. Instead I notice how far I’ve come.”
2. At your tolerance limit with someone at work or home? Try a vigorous walk or jog. You’ll burn off the stress hormones that have accumulated in your system and will be more able to reengage your patience when you return.
3. The old advice to count to ten… before speaking in a heated situation really can work. It gives you a chance to remember what really matters to you—blowing off steam or finding an effective solution. If ten doesn’t work, try twenty. Keep counting!
4. Seek practical solutions… to the things that irritate you about your mate rather than nag. Get a refrigerator with an automatic ice cube maker if you go nuts about your sweetie always forgetting to fill the ice cube trays; get the toothpaste that comes in a pump if you see red at the sight of the cap left off. Many such simple solutions exist if we look for them.
5. Put a small pebble in your pocket. When you start to feel irritation rise, move the pebble from one pocket to the other, which will help interrupt the anger cycle and give you a chance to regroup.
6. Standing in line, take yourself on a mental vacation. Visualize the most peaceful place you can think of. See, feel, and hear yourself there. Bring to mind the feelings that such a place evokes in you. Rather than focusing on how long you have to wait, relish this chance to take a little daydream to Tahiti or the Alps.
7. Kids, parents, spouse making your blood boil? Remember what legacy you want to leave in the world. That your father says on his deathbed that you were so kind? That your son thanks you for being a patient teacher to him? Take a minute now to think of what you would want to be remembered for after you are gone and bring it to mind in times of relationship trials.
8. Start a patience movement. Thank others for being patient when you’ve been the one fumbling for the right change and holding everyone up. It will defuse their tension and yours, and perhaps encourage others to do the same.
9. When you have to wait a long time… for something to come to fruition—a big project, for instance—celebrate small milestones along the way. Ten pages done? Take yourself to lunch. When we reward ourselves for what we’ve accomplished, we give ourselves the resilience to press on.
10. No time to go on retreat? Use waiting in line to practice walking meditation. Feel your feet on the floor. Carefully pick up one foot, noticing how it feels to do that. Place it carefully down and with awareness, then lift and place the other foot. See how long you can focus on lifting and placing. When you find your mind wandering, gently return it to noticing your walking. You will not only be calmer while waiting, but will be building your patience muscle.
11. Waiting impatiently for your computer to boot up? Do the rag doll, which relaxes back and neck muscles. Push away from the desk, sit on the edge of your chair with your knees and feet about twelve inches apart. Put your head between your knees, allowing your hands to rest on the floor between your feet. Breathe and allow your irritation and tension to flow out of your body into the floor.
12. Try the red-light meditation. Use a red light, ringing phone, or other frustration to notice three breaths. Simply notice how your breath goes in and comes out, without trying to change it.
13. Try mindfulness in chores. When wiping the kitchen table, for instance, really notice what you are doing. Feel your arm as it moves back and forth; enjoy the shine you are creating. It will take no longer than doing it mindlessly and by bringing yourself fully to the enjoyment of the experience, you have more patience for it.
14. Cut down or swear off caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause jitteriness and yes, irritability, the inability to take life in stride. According to one study, more than half of Americans consume more than the recommended amount of two hundred milligrams per day. (The average cup of coffee contains one hundred milligrams.) When I found myself drinking as much as a quart a day of iced tea, I switched to decaf. Yes, I had a blinding headache for a day, but it was worth the price for the increase in calmness and patience.
15. Tuning out when someone’s talking? Think about a time in your life when you needed someone to be patient with you and they were. When you remember the healing power of patience in your life, you’ll have more with others.
16. Would I rather be right or effective? That’s a great question to hold in your mind when you’re in a conflict with someone. Use it as often as you need to keep your goal—and your patience—front and center.
17. Find an inspirational quote This book has plenty. Find one that you can put on your computer, on your bathroom mirror, in your car. When you find patience slipping, read it for an immediate booster shot.
18. Ask for help. Lots of times we are impatient because we are overloaded. There’s no prize at the end of your life for doing too much, particularly if you do it in a frazzled state.
19. Try laughing at yourself or your situation. Christopher Reeve writes eloquently about how joking helps him. When asked how he was doing in the early stages of his paralysis, he replied, “Well, my throat’s a little scratchy, I have an itch on my nose, and my fingernails need cutting. Oh—and I’m paralyzed.”
20. Testy at the office? Go online to unwind.com for soothing pictures and music, as well as relaxation exercises that you can do at your desk. Or give yourself a laugh by browsing online videos for a few moments.
win the book! Win a newly released paperback edition of The Power of Patience! Share your tips with us for breaking out of the impatience trap below and be entered to win the book – good luck!