Wikipedia defines patience as “level of endurance one can take before negativity”. Hoo boy, ain’t that the truth?!
A key component of this definition is the absence of negativity during the wait. Patience is not solely about the ability to wait or delay gratification, but the ability to maintain a good attitude while waiting. In this age of ever increasing internet speeds, we are all moving towards an expectation of instant gratification, and become annoyed or frustrated when that gratification is delayed.
From a scientific perspective all animals, including humans, are inclined to choose small rewards in the short term over larger rewards in the long term. However, if you can wait for that longer term delivery, the rewards will be greater.
I believe patience is a trait that can be cultivated. When non-stitchers look at my needlework a common comment is “I’d never have the patience to do that!” From my perspective, though, stitching teaches me patience. It takes a long time to stitch up a large or complex cross stitch project, and if I weren’t patient with the process I’d never reach the goal of a completed and beautiful work of art.
Another way in which I cultivate patience is to couple it with anticipation. Every quarter, I like to have something on my calendar to look forward to. It might be a weekend trip to visit a place I’ve wanted to go. I know it’s out there, and I savor the anticipation of planning and preparing for the event.
That’s not to say that I’m always a patient person (see my blog for the letter “I”—Impatience), but I do find it less stressful to relax and go with the flow of things than to get all worked up about something I can’t control or influence. Even the trick of counting to ten before reacting to something that provokes you gives you a little edge on developing patience….and the long term rewards may well be worth the effort.