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How to Improve Your Patience: 7 Thoughts from the Last 500 Years



Image by jimharmer (license).



“God bestows upon one man genius without patience and upon another man patience without genius. The relative achievements of the two are often surprising.”
Walter C. Klein

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”
St. Augustine

“If I have made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention than to any other talent.”
Sir Isaac Newton

One of the most helpful qualities a person can have if s/he wants to grow is to be patient. With patience and persistence you can overcome pretty much anything.

But why is it hard to be patient? How can you improve your patience? And how can patience help you out practically in life?
Here are seven timeless thoughts that may give you some answers to such questions.

1. Social programming can stand in the way.

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”
Paul Sweeney

Everything is moving fast in today’s society. Instant gratification is default setting in many minds.

I’m not saying this to rail against today’s society. I’m just saying it to give at least a partial explanation why patience is hard to understand and use to your advantage.

Social programming doesn’t pay much attention to patience. It wants you to do more right now instead. And after a few years here you may want to have more things right now. And the thought of delaying gratification may seem a bit… weird.

2. With patience you’ll get it.

“He that can have patience, can have what he will.”
Benjamin Franklin

This may not be such a popular thought. People may not want to hear about it.

Still it’s what every successful person has had. And so they chipped away. Practised day in and day out.

It often looks like they have some massive talent or big stroke of luck when they become successful. That might be the case. But people may not see all the years of hard work that came before that big break. Or they don’t want to see it and instead rationalize it as “huge talent” or “luck”. That way they don’t have to think about the fact that they also have the option of putting in all that work. And that they by doing things that way could perhaps someday even outdo the dreams they have right now.

It’s easier to just put it down as big talent or luck. And keep dreaming about quick fixes and magic pills.

3. Don’t give up yet.

“Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.”
Soren Kierkegaard

“It’s not that I’m so smart,
it’s just that I stay with problems longer.“

Albert Einstein

Since society tells us to look for quick fixes it’s easy to make the mistake of giving up to soon. After you have failed perhaps 1-5 times. That’s the “normal” thing to do. But what could have happened if someone just kept going after that? And for each failure learned more and more about what works?

I think people often make a mistake of giving up too early. Your mind probably has a reasonable timeframe for success. This might not correspond to a realistic timeframe though.

It’s useful to take a break from advertised perspectives and let more realistic perspectives seep into your mind. Learn from people who have gone where you want to go. Talk to them. Read what they have to say in books or online. This will not give you complete plan but a clearer perspective of what is needed to achieve what you want.

Now, that’s not to say that you should never quit. But it can be helpful to keep going on your current path for a while longer.

And that’s not to say that you should do the same thing over and over in exactly the same manner. It’s better to do and get an experience. Take the lessons you can learn from that real life experience. And then adjust how you do things as you try again.

4. It gives you an advantage.

“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”
Thomas Jefferson

While other people fly off the handle you can remain cool and patient. While other people give up after trying a few times you keep moving. While others run in circles chasing the next quick solution to their problems you stay steadily on your path.

5. It’s a form of protection.

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will be powerless to vex your mind.”
Leonardo Da Vinci

This is a wonderful point. With patience wrongs or failure will not feel like the end of the world. They no longer hold such a large emotional power over you that you just give up. You know that if you just keep going and perhaps adjust how you do things then your life will improve.

6. Build it.

“Patience can’t be acquired overnight. It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it.”
Eknath Easwaran

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”
Helen Keller

The more you can remain patient the easier it gets. It’s a muscle you build over months and years of time.

As Keller says, life can teach you to become more patient. During the rough parts of life you often have no choice but to be patient. These are the times that will especially strengthen your patience muscle.

When we are young we get much of what we want instantly from our parents and other grownups. As we become adults we learn that people won’t give us everything we want anymore. If we want to have the things we really want we often have to learn to be patient.

Otherwise we may time after time wind up in a loop where we get things we kinda want right now to cover up the real and deeper wants. This can bring dissatisfaction after the initial buzz of newness dissipates. A vague knowing at the back of our minds. As we consume more right now to make that uneasiness go away.

7. Be patient with yourself.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.”
St. Francis de Sales

This is a very important thing to keep in mind when it comes to personal development and life. Because things will not always go as planned. You will fail. You will bail out because of fear. You will become confused. You will do things you know you shouldn’t have done. You will probably do these things more than once.

Don’t beat yourself up about it for two weeks or three months. Or give up.

Instead, be smart and patient with yourself. And get back up on that horse and back in the saddle again tomorrow.

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  • organic made easy September 22, 2010, 8:21 pm

    Patience becomes easier, for me at least, when I find other ways to note progress. Carrying the view that “the ride towards the goal” has many opportunities for joy is what sustains my patience. Whether it be setting small goals that can be achieved quickly and reassure me that the big one is coming….or, whether I feel meaning and joy while doing the steps it takes to achieve the end goal…the process of “finding joy in the path” is the only thing that has allowed me to sustain faith and thereby sustain my patience.

    Thanks for the post :)

  • Alex Yong September 23, 2010, 3:17 pm

    Over the years, I have encountered many failures, due to my impatience. I’ve learned my lesson well that patience is one of the important elements for success.

    A well defined post about patience. I love those quotes you’ve here.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Gabriel September 24, 2010, 8:39 am

    Human nature is hardwired and as you said with social conditioning to want to see instant result. For a lot of us, being patient means we have to wait. It’s that waiting for the unknown and wanting to have that certainty now, makes us impatient in wanting to have that instant result.

    Could it possibly be a fear-based thing? Perhaps. If we could see the good end-result, we would persist patiently, but if we see a bad end-result, we would most likely stop. So perhaps it could be a fear of not knowing if it is going to end up badly that impatience kicks end to stop us from wasting any more effort or keep doing the same wrong thing.

  • Latoya September 27, 2010, 3:59 am

    Patience is a virtue because it makes us as people better.

    Quote- “All good things comes to those who wait”.

  • mel September 28, 2010, 5:21 am

    thankyou for this one,i get so impatient ,and want things to happen fast,but thinking back over how ive achieved anything,it was always a bit by bit learning practising and doing,dull but true lol,the trick is not to give up if you stuff up,just learn more and try again