Strategies for Increasing Patience

In a world asking us to move faster and do everything instantly—dominated by fast food, instant credit, and constant communication—many of us have lost touch with what it means to be patient. But as Harvard professor Dr. Edward Banfield concluded after 50 years of research, patience is the key to success.

As a professional development trainer and keynote speaker, I've seen patience transform people's careers and personal lives. I believe so firmly in the power of patience that it's one of the main themes in my book, Water The Bamboo. Here are five strategies to increase your patience:

1. Take the long view when making decisions.

Our lives are full of decisions, big and small. Take time to think about the long-term impact of your decisions. Ask yourself questions like, "How will this play out one year from now or five years?" Nobody has an accurate crystal ball but taking a long-term view helps us be more patient.

I think the biggest single thing that causes difficulty in the business world is the short-term view. We become obsessed with it. But it forces bad decisions.
— James Sinegal

2. Create a buffer between activities.

Our attention spans are short and we have very little tolerance for boredom. When you rush directly from one activity to the next, it's likely you'll feel anxious. Your mind needs and deserves a break before you switch gears. Whether it's 15 minutes or an hour, create a buffer between activities to give your mind time to refresh.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

3. Be a patient listener.

It's hard to listen to others when you're impatient. When you are constantly moving from one activity to another, stopping and listening is difficult. When we are impatient while another person is talking, we are thinking about what we are going to say. Allow for a pause after someone stops talking and take time to internalize what they've said. This will help you slow the entire conversation down.

The patient listener has many friends and clients.

4. Practice patience.

Identify your "frequent flyers" (i.e. things that you tend to lose patience with the most), then create a plan of how you will approach the situation more patiently. For example, you may get impatient on your commute. Instead of being impatient with your fellow drivers, leave a bit earlier, listen to your favorite music or audio book—in other words find ways to enjoy the ride.

Create a strategy to be more patient.

5. Seek to reduce your stress.

Stress and impatience go hand in hand. So if you want to become more patient, you need to manage your stress better. This means adopting regular stress management techniques that reduce your overall stress level. Think of things like physical activity, sleep, and being outdoors. You also should develop strategies for managing stress within a given moment. Breathing techniques, mental relaxation exercises, and the ability to step away from a stressful situation are all beneficial practices.

Dear stress, let’s break up.

6. Push back on unreasonable demands.

Everyone has demands on their time and energy. It's difficult to meet deadlines and stay on task so you have to be mindful of "scope creep". One skill to work on is your ability to say "no" when it's appropriate or to renegotiate your workload so that it is more reasonable and you can deliver quality work.

It is very easy to say “yes.” To truly be a leader, you must learn to say “no.”

Please add to the conversation—comment below or on Twitter at @gregbellspeaks.