The Art of Patience: How it can benefit three aspects of our lives
Over time, patience has earned itself a bad reputation. In this fast-paced world, we’ve become used to getting what we want, when we want it.
Hungry? A fast food restaurant will have your dinner on the table in five minutes. Replacing your kettle? Use next day delivery to get a new one by tomorrow morning. Dying to find out what happens next in your favourite TV show? Don’t worry - gone are the days of waiting a week - the next episode is at your fingertips on Netflix!
No wonder we’ve lost the art of patience along the way.
I see it in my day-to-day relationship counselling; couples often want fast, overnight results. I see it in parenting when children’s wants are being fulfilled even before their real needs are being understood.
Covid19 has been a good reminder that patience is important. Even with the best minds in the world working on a solution, we still don’t have the answers. All we can do, as individuals, is focus on doing the best we can do every day, and eventually things work out.
If you are trying to improve any aspect of your life - patience and persistence are the magic ingredients. Instead of focusing on the end result, trust the process of the journey. Be mindful to continually improve and focus on bringing the best version of yourself, with warmth and love, every day. I promise you that this time is not wasted.
So, as a trait, where can being patient help us in our day to day lives?
Patience is an important quality to teach our children. We can offer them regular opportunities to practise this - ask them to wait quietly in the supermarket queue, finish your phone call before addressing their demands, or wait until an event (such as their birthday) before giving them a special treat.
If we fulfil their wants immediately, before truly understanding what they need, we are slowly instilling bad habits and teaching them that they do not need to wait for what they want.
Not only is it wise to teach children patience, but it’s a helpful trait to have in ourselves when raising them. Be persistent with your messages and over time they will sink in.
When raising children, there are many moments of frustration. Parents can feel, at times, as though they are repeating the same messages again and again (e.g. don't talk with a full mouth!). But be confident that nothing is wasted. Keep dropping the messages with warmth and persistence and it will sink in eventually.
In our relationship
Transforming a relationship is not an overnight process - something I remind clients going through couples therapy. It takes time to re-programme your mind and develop healthy habits.
It’s the small, regular gestures of appreciation that add up to making your partner feel valued. It’s practising the art of truly listening to your partner that allows you to understand them on a deeper level. It’s daily acts of kindness that help make your relationship feel strong.
Concentrate on the small steps every day. Try expressing appreciation for something about your partner each day, offer small gestures of affection, or talk about what you’re grateful for. Over time, you’ll have the relationship you’re looking for.
If you feel that this is an area you’d like help with, you might find one of my couple workshops useful (sign up to my newsletter to be notified of dates).
If you’ve set yourself a goal - perhaps getting a promotion at work, completing a course, changing career or learning a new skill - then patience is equally as important.
Each day, focus on completing your tasks to the best of your ability and seize every opportunity. Keep your goal in mind and believe that every small step is edging you closer to towards it. Remember that setbacks are inevitable, but these simply allow us to learn and grow.
There is no magic tool for success. As the famous saying goes: “behind every overnight success is 10 years of hard work”. Trust the process and you’ll arrive at your goals in good time.
This article was written by couples therapist and parental advisor Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari. With a doctorate in Psychology, Dr Ben-Ari has worked in the field for over 20 years and runs a private clinic in Hampstead, London. She is also an author, speaker, therapist supervisor and has been the Chair of Imago UK since 2013.