I’ve always considered myself to be a patient person. When I was younger, my first job was as a nanny, working with children who had both learning and intellectual disabilities. For two summers from ages 13-15, I spent time with a child who had mild Autism. I learned how to navigate the stress, emotions, and challenging, yet beautiful moments of her personality. Flash forward several years, and I pursued a career in education and recently, I became a bonus mom to my boyfriend’s son. Even now, I am still learning to practice patience in all different scenarios.
I won’t say I’m an expert in this by any means. In fact, I don’t think one can ever know how to navigate difficult scenarios perfectly. But there is value in learning how to practice patience and how to react to situations and people with grace.
Here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve tried to be a little more selfless and empathetic (even when it’s hard):
1. Remember that everything is temporary.
Something I’m always reminding myself of (and yet always struggling with) is the idea that everything in this life is temporary. It’s hard, especially when you’re faced with challenging moments, to keep this in mind. When you’re overcome with stress—everything feels immediate. And in that moment, it is.
But that doesn’t mean you have to let your frustration, anger, or sadness consume you. When it comes to dealing with a conflict or challenging person, practice patience in remembering that everything (including this moment) is temporary. You will get through.
2. See things on a grander scale, rather than immediate.
Something that can really pull you out of a current moment is to keep everything in perspective. If there’s something you’re stressing over, or a person who is incredibly challenging to deal with, think about the long-term rather than the short term.
What is your long-term goal? To keep the relationship? Mend the conflict? Get through this moment so that you can develop your career? Not burn a bridge with an employer or boss? Whatever your situation is, keep perspective in mind. If you’re thinking on that grander scale it can help you to have more patience, rather than reacting out of impulse.
3. Quiet your mind and focus on the present moment.
As important as it is to pull yourself out of the present and remember that this won’t last forever, it’s equally as important to re-center and be in the present, too. The present moment can reveal that perhaps we’re stressing over more than we can control. When it comes down to it, all you can control is your next breath, next step. Instead of stressing over what hasn’t happened yet, take it one step at a time. Quiet your mind and focus on where you are, right here, right now.
4. Think about the PERSON, not their actions.
People make stupid mistakes. People also do stupid things. If you’ve been mistreated by someone, remember that they are a human first. Sure, they may have done something that’s downright awful, or maybe even hard to forgive—but their action is not who they are.
When you’re learning to practice patience, see the person first. Remind yourself that people make mistakes and do hurtful things, but they do have the capacity to both fix and change.
5. Remember that you are human, too.
Learning to practice patience can come from reminding yourself that you make mistakes, too. No one is always going to do or say the right thing. If you’re feeling angry or bitter, remind yourself of the ways you were forgiven or given another chance when you messed up. This simple fact can help ground you and help you share empathy with others in the same way it was shown to you.
Featured Image Credit: Andrea Vehige