How to Develop Patience

How to Develop Patience
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 14 March, 2022

Many believe that patience is a questionable virtue that leads us to be capable of enduring any adversity, without complaint. However, that interpretation is inaccurate. In fact, it’s a perspective that assumes patience to be a passive virtue when, in reality, it’s an attribute that requires many emotional resources.

Although patience implies keeping your cool during bad times or in the face of offense, this doesn’t mean that it involves ‘standing still’ or ‘holding on’ for as long as you can. 

Impulsiveness and patience

Man patiently fishing

Inside all of us, there exists a predatory mammal. For example, if you don’t develop your character properly, you’ll tend to be impulsive. This means you’ll react quickly to attack or defend yourself, without even being clear about what you intend to achieve, or the strategy that you’re going to use to do so. As a matter of fact, you’ll be unable to even define what the threat is that’s produced such reactions in you.

Patience is the exact opposite of impulsiveness. It’s not a state of passivity, but rather a response based on wisdom and not on what your gut tells you.

The kind of peace that leads to patience is, above all, inner peace. It supposes a sufficient degree of balance to curb those primary impulses and replace them with a slow process of analysis. This inner peace requires great inner cultivation of an understanding, empathetic and patient mind. A mind that, despite what happens out there, knows how to remain calm.

Patience leads you to be assertive. For example, saying what you want to say, doing what you want to do, and thinking what you want to think. On the other hand, impulsiveness makes you make mistakes. For instance, you end up aggravating problems that weren’t serious, creating distance where there should be closeness, and saying what your impulse to cause harm tells you to say, instead of something positive.

This is why patience is among the great universal virtues. A characteristic of the most daring historical warriors.

Develop patience

Girl patiently hunting jellyfish

You weren’t born with the virtue of patience. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Because, as a baby, you wanted what you needed and you wanted it there and then. You had no sense of waiting, nor the intellectual or emotional tools that allowed you to postpone your desires. Consequently, growing up involves learning the meaning of patience.

In principle, patience means refusing to react immediately. Indeed, a few seconds can often make the difference between acting erratically or behaving intelligently. As the sage, Śāntideva stated: “Therefore, even if one sees a friend or an enemy behaving badly, one can reflect that there are specific conditioning factors that determine this, and I thereby remain happy”. Śāntideva was suggesting that understanding the circumstances of a situation will lead you to foster patience.

It’s all about training. The more you practice, the more patient you’ll be. The more you get into the habit of taking a moment before responding or acting, the more easily you’ll insert that command into your brain, forcing it to reason.

Breathing helps you calm down. Deep breathing is an easy resource to use, which you have at your disposal at all times. It also helps, while you’re developing patience, to plant in your mind and in your heart the idea that you’re master of yourself. That everything you do or fail to do is solely your responsibility. Indeed, everything that happens will depend on the way you act.

Final reflection

With conviction and a little bit of hope, you can do it. Remember that everything in life has a beginning and an end. Just as your moments of happiness are born and will die, the bad and ungrateful moments won’t last forever either. Patience helps you make any problem more manageable, last for less time, and have consequences that are more controllable.

Therefore, if you start to shift the focus on controlling your emotions, you’ll develop patience. Instead of giving others the power to get on your nerves, you’ll be the one who decides whether to be calm or upset. When you become aware that you have the power to remain calm despite what happens out there, you’ll have taken a really important step. A step that’ll lead you to enjoy a much calmer and more peaceful life.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.