I am told that when I was a toddler and someone irritated me, I would point at the person and say sternly, “Go way. Be late.” I not only wanted the offender banished from my presence, but I also wanted them to be late getting to that place of exile.
At age three, I was already aware of the importance of time in our culture. I continued this awareness for the next few decades, arriving early for classes, appointments, and sometimes parties, being met by the startled hosts still buttoning their clothing.
I lived for decades with feelings of frustration and anxiety before I slowed down, turned around, observed the flowers, and actually learned to stop and smell them.
The delightful surprises of life: suddenly seeing a new shop or restaurant that I had overlooked, having a chance encounter with a stranger which could have been adversarial but become a moment of friendliness and even friendship; these were my rewards for tamping down on impatience.
Why do we place so much importance on time? Is it that we think we must rush into the future in case all the really Good Stuff is snatched up by others before we can get there? Because, along the way, we are missing a lot of Good Stuff: the rich sensations of the world around us, such as bird calls, the brief whiff of perfume from a flowering tree, the leisure of making contact with a stranger, exchanging a few words, and discovering a new connection.
Is it that we find the present so unpleasant that we rush forward into an unknown future, hoping for the best
Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., President and CEO of HeartMath™ Institute, points out that people think of impatience as mild irritation, but it is much more. It is the gateway to frustration and even anger. Impatient people often have explosive reactions. We make harsh judgments of others and of situations when we are impatient. We may live with constant anxiety over the fear of being thwarted. And of course, all of this leads to serious health issues.
Her suggestion is to try the following whenever you become aware of the pressure of impatience: Breathe in and out slowly and deeply through the heart. After a few moments of this, breathe in the feeling of patience. Use your imagination and look to your memories to recapture this feeling.
It’s a simple and quick exercise to help us all survive while recognizing that all those people with whom we are impatient are probably doing the best they can under the circumstances, just as we are.
If you’d like to explore how impatience not only depletes our energy quickly, but also distances us from other people just when we need support, consider joining my Sunday Connections group, in which we explore these and other human connection issues thoroughly.
Lynette Crane is a speaker, coach, trainer, and author who specializes in resilience training and heart-brain connections. She holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California and a life coach certification from Coach Training Alliance, and is a certified trainer and coach/mentor with HeartMath™ Institute.