Most everyone experiences impatience when waiting in long lines, listening to someone’s long, boring story, and enduring other frustrating situations. However, impatience is magnified in people who have developed a strong preference for doing at the expense of being. Such people can enjoy the moment when it is fascinating, fruitful, or fun-filled, but get frustrated easily otherwise.
Impatience is not bad in itself. In moderation, it indicates that your time could be better spent. But when impatience is excessive or when a situation is beyond our control, our frustration turns into an unnecessary waste of time and energy. While stimulating activities, achievement, and productivity are necessary as well as fulfilling in themselves, excessive impatience can indicate that action is emphasized to the detriment of being in the present.
Impatient people have a sense that if they’re not getting something done, whether working, buying groceries, reading a book, getting somewhere quickly, or enjoying an event, then they’re wasting their time or missing out on something.
Impatience not only doesn’t help the situation, it harms our state of mind, our relationships, and our health. Therefore, it is important and beneficial to find a balance between being goal oriented and being able to be at peace in an ordinary moment. Such balance allows us to experience and enjoy the moment even while waiting in a long line at the DMV.
Here are some alternative ways of enjoying the moment rather than silently cursing that deliberately-slow bureaucrat who’s holding up the line:
1. Take time to relax your body and your mind. Breathe slowly and deeply, relax your face and shoulders, and think pleasant thoughts.
2. Find humor in the situation. If you’re the mental type, then challenge yourself to describe the scene in a humorous way.
3. Find something interesting about the surroundings and the people around you, no matter how unappealing they may seem.
4. Strike up a conversation with someone in line. No-strings-attached banter with a complete stranger can be pleasant or at least intriguing in a socio-psychological way. Who knows — you might meet somebody interesting or hear an amazing story.
5. Do some planning on how to improve your life. Design an activity, dinner, or adventure that you would enjoy. Or think about how you can become a better person.
6. Mentally list all the things you are grateful for. Research shows that this simple process makes a person happier.
If the line is really long, you can do everything on the list and beyond, and gain that desired sense of achievement.
People are more enjoyable to be with when they are not frustrated, rushing about, and impatient. They can get just as much done, AND they are able to make the most of those unproductive moments, despite the pressure of time. We all enjoy being with people who balance action with serenity, because they don’t exude that unpleasant fidgety desire to get moving.
Too much patience is the support of weakness; too much impatience the ruin of strength.
~Charles Caleb Colton, paraphrased
by Alison Poulsen, PhD