When my grandson is waiting for a special event, like a birthday or a promised trip to the beach or the train museum, he loves to cross off each day on the calendar and sometimes wants time to hurry faster. But when he’s playing or being read to he NEVER wants bedtime to arrive – it always comes too soon.
He wants what he wants when he wants it.
Of course, he’s only 5.
But I’m just the same. I “can’t wait” for summer-like weather to give way to fall (it’s supposed to be 96°F today). I’m anxious to have an upcoming minor surgery over and done with. I’ve started my Christmas shopping.
Microwave ovens, 24-hour shopping, one-day delivery, streaming services, and air travel have trained us to expect that our desires can be satisfied any time, any place, and pronto. Some of us never stop acquiring new treats. After all, when we’re rewarded so quickly every time we push a button, we just keep pushing that button.
And what about things that take a little longer? A home-cooked meal, an auto trip, a handwritten note, a conversation? We become too busy for those things, and let takeout or frozen meals, speeding, and likes and emojis do that work for us.
A world addicted to speed is not very pleasant. It makes many of us pushy and short-tempered. Our bodies and nervous systems are constantly on high alert, and don’t handle the too-frequent doses of “fight or flight” hormones very well. And lasting relationships built on care and trust are difficult to form from texts and rushed exchanges.
I am not exempt from any of this. I’m often impatient, and I want to deal with that. So I thought about how I might practice something different.
10 Steps to More Patience and Calm
1. Recognize impatience
I’ve started to notice when my habit of hurrying makes me push, or when I feel anxious and stressed because something is not happening immediately.
2. Deliberately choose to slow down
This is a choice I have to make multiple times per day.
3. Remove nonessentials
I aspire to be less busy. I don’t try to fill every minute of every day, but leave space between each task and appointment for the inevitable snags that arise, or simply for small moments of rest or contemplation. My days unfold more smoothly when I don’t over-schedule, and I actually get more done when I pay attention to one thing at a time.
It’s much easier to talk than to listen. In fact, sometimes when I’m “listening,” I’m really just thinking about what I want to say, impatient for my chance to jump in with my opinion or solution. I’m actually sending the message that my thoughts and my time are more important than the person I’m supposedly listening to, and I’m ruining any chance for a deeper relationship. Listening takes not only focus but humility, a good antidote to impatience.
5. Turn off advertising
Ads are everywhere and relentless, but I want to stop being distracted and sold to. I block ads as much as possible, and I don’t add needless shopping to my schedule.
6. Control news intake
I decided to stop being shocked and titillated. I check headlines once early and once later in the day, flagging articles I want to read when I have a break for reading. I don’t needlessly split my attention by having the news or a talk show on in the background. After all, “breaking news” is usually what’s been repeated over and over (and over) for the last several hours. I don’t need to listen in all day.
7. Keep a journal
Even a sentence or two about what made me smile, what I think is worth remembering, what went right, or what went wrong, and what I learned from it makes each day more valuable and distinct.
8. Notice your surroundings
It’s so easy to hurry by, but I practice paying attention to any beautiful, enjoyable details along the way.
9. Count your blessings
It sounds trite, but when I notice and give thanks for what I already have, I feel so much more satisfaction than when I focus on what I don’t have, or on what I wish for.
10. Redefine happiness
I don’t need a lot of possessions or exotic experiences in order to be happy. Watching the sunrise through clouds this morning while listening to one of my favorite pieces of music actually brought tears of joy to my eyes. I could have missed the moment and been poorer for it.
To echo Gandhi, there has to be more to life than increasing its speed. What is the value of anything if we just rush through it as quickly as possible? A slower, less busy lifestyle makes me less pushy and anxious, less self-centered, and it also allows me to give more energy and attention to what I care about.
About the Author: Karen Trefzger is a writer, singer, teacher, wife, mother, and grandmother who has been choosing a simpler life for over 20 years. She is the author of Minimalism A to Z, and blogs at MaximumGratitudeMinimalStuff.