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The Patience Project: What I Learned When I Practiced Patience

Patience is more than waiting. It is putting the wait to work in you and allowing the wait to work on you. Patience is waiting with purpose. It is acting only when the time and direction is clear. Patience is understanding that the needs of others are as important as yours. Begin your own Patience Project. It works. But there's a catch...

Author Disclaimer: My own Patience Project remains a work in progress. Seriously. My true confession is that I lost my patience just a few days ago and I felt foolish and angry with myself because of that. For the record, I was also wrong in my opinion, Anyway, just so you know, this is a very long term project if you choose to take it on. True patience takes a lifetime to cultivate but the rewards, which are many, appear right away. Read and be encouraged.

So here's what happened: I am collaborating with a friend on a project. I sent a text early in the afternoon with photos, suggestions, enthusiastic commentary, etc. It was quite late that evening before I got a texted response and it threw a cup of cold water on my enthusiasm. I immediately shot back a reminder about the deadline and the need for high quality. I received a soothing, reassuring text that all would be well. In the end, I felt pretty rotten.

I know better than to respond to things when I am tired, anxious, or feeling pressured, and yet I replied to someone I love in an unloving manner because I forgot the habits of patience that I have been working to cultivate for decades. I celebrate and honor kindness in all things, and work intentionally on being patient with those around me. And still, I reacted out of selfishness and fear. These are two of the root causes of impatience.

How is your patience level? What happens when your child is dithering over getting dressed or brushing their teeth or getting into the car? What if your children are bickering in the back seat and you just made a wrong turn? What do you say and how do you say it?

How do you handle a slow moving drive thru line or the security screening process at the airport? What do you do when you're looking for a new job and the interviews go well, but they hire someone else? When things that should be easy aren't easy at all? What does patience look like in these moments? How can we develop patience? What is the formula?

Patience is more than enduring times of delayed gratification. It is the act of allowing that time of endurance to strengthen you. Patience goes beyond getting your children in the car without yelling at them. It is understanding that children operate at a different pace than adults and allowing time in the schedule for that. Patience is looking beyond your own desires and seeing the larger purpose of the community around you.

What are some practical, do-it-today strategies that you can incorporate into your life that will help you become a genuinely patient person? Here are some that I used on my journey to become more patient.

  1. Think ahead. I have a few daily habits that keep me on track and help me avoid impatience. All but one are about preparing the night before for the morning rush. The first is setting my coffee to be ready when I get up. The second is setting out or at least planning what I'm going to wear the next day. The third is getting enough sleep. Go to bed on time, get up on time. Well rested people are more likely to be patient. Every good day begins the night before. The last thing I do is that I make my bed each and every day. No exceptions. It creates a sense of order and even if everything else goes wrong, you come home to a made up bed. Establish these really simple habits in yourself and in your children and you will be more patient immediately. Really.

  2. Allow for margins. Leave some white space on your to-do list. Put some breathing room in between activities, and schedule fewer of them. Your children do not need every hour of every day to be filled with sports, academics, etc. Neither do you. Slow the pace. Create some space for patience.

  3. Take a look around. Do you see all those people? They have needs, they have goals, they have worries. Just like you. You are not the only one who is in a hurry, who needs to pay for the groceries and get home, who needs to turn left at a busy intersection. We all matter. We are all on our way somewhere. Imagine if we all helped each other get through the day instead of scowling and fussing and acting frustrated? What if that energy became positive was turned outward? What if you used that impatience to help someone? If you did that, it would miraculously become patience.

  4. Think about stuff. When I am stuck in a line of traffic or airline passengers, or retail customers I use that time constructively. I think. I think of recipes, historical figures, people I haven't seen in awhile, and God. I pray. I hum. I make a friend in the line with me. I got a great recipe for something called "taco bubble up" from a total stranger while waiting in a long slow line.

  5. Drive patiently. Give yourself enough time to get where you are going. Impatient driving is dangerous driving. I see impatience more on the busy roads around our community than anywhere else. Just drive where you are going. You don't have to pass people who are already exceeding the speed limit. If everyone drove patiently we would eliminate most car wrecks. Drivers: we are all on the roads together.

  6. Children are a treasure. Children deserve our patience and respect. They are learning how to be adults and it takes awhile. Expecting them to be able to know what to do without reminders and guidance is unreasonable. Be patient with children at all times. They want to please you. If your children can't get ready fast enough, put them to bed fifteen minutes earlier and then get them up fifteen minutes earlier. Set them up to be on time. Lay out their clothes, have their things ready and near the door. A good day today starts with good planning the night before. Be patient.

I will know that I have finally reached the ultimate level of patience on the day that I have as much patience with adults as I do with children. Be that as it may, I am generally a very patient person. It didn't come naturally, and I'm still working on increasing my patience. But here it is in a nutshell: make some adjustments to how you think. You are a part of a beautiful community of people and we all require patience. Including you.

Begin training yourself to be patient on purpose and see how much happier and at peace you are. Being patient with others will rebound on you.

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