Applied Psychology

Does Patience Pay Off and is it Worth Learning?

Feb 02, 2021 | By Saranne Durham
Does Patience Pay Off and is it Worth Learning?

Patience helps us achieve our goals and be more positive. By exercising patience, we are less likely to be reactive and therefore make bad decisions. It’s something that can be taught to children or grown into a habit as an adult. Because patience is something that needs to be exercised, it is not a passive skill but rather something that can require endurance, motivation and practice to master.

What is Patience?

Patience is regarded as the ability to wait or do something without agitation. It is a skill that is generally highly regarded and noted by many as a state of moral excellence. Which is why patience is seen to be a virtue.

“Patience is a skill that can be learnt over time.”

Many misunderstand patience, thinking it’s only about waiting and hoping for something to transpire. It’s not. The danger of thinking that patience is about waiting, is that it often results in inaction. Whereas it actually can be about endurance, consistency and persistence. In other words, it is not sitting looking at the cliff waiting for a miracle to happen, so you can get to the top. But rather, it is about exercising grit as you slowly and meticulously carve out steps to get to the top.

Where did the saying Patience is a Virtue come from?

This common saying, like many older ones, has a few suspected origins. These are four of the more commonly assumed ones:

  1. Cato the Elder was a 3rd or 4th century author of a Latin collection of proverbial wisdom and morality called The Distichs of Cato. This text is considered to be a great way to learn Latin and simultaneously be reminded of good morals.
  2. Psychomania, an almost thousand-line Latin poem, by Prudentius was written in the 5th Century. It describes the conflict between virtue and vice. In it, patience is emphasised as a state of moral excellence.
  3. Piers Plowman is a poem, which was written between 1360 and 1387, by William Langland. This poem is a theological parable of what it truly means to be a Christian. It is about a man in search of faith and contains the expression Patience is a Virtue.
  4. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in the 1300s. One of the themes in these stories is that patience has a place in our lives and how exercising patience enables one to be more contented. Accordingly, patience is noted as a great virtue of perfection.

While we may not be certain of its exact origin, the meaning of the saying patience is a virtue has a common thread throughout the alleged sources. This being that patience is an admirable quality that people should aspire to exercising even though it can be counter-instinctual.

Where does Patience come from?

You can learn patience and it’s a skill that, over time, you can become better at by exercising it. As it’s a habit, it is something that we can either grow into or grow out of. The antithesis of it being impatience which results in frustration, quitting and in the long run, negativity.

Three Benefits of Patience

  1. Smarter Decisions: By focusing in the moment, taking time to look at things from a logical perspective and work out a solution or way forward, you are more likely to make better decisions than decisions based on a knee-jerk reaction or impulsive response.
  2. Success: The ability to work steadily towards a goal puts you in a better position to consistently achieve goals as well as build a reputation based on perseverance. Essentially patience can help build excellent skills and great standing in your field.
  3. Self-Control: Patience puts you in the driving seat of yourself. By having direct control over yourself, you are less likely to be emotionally hijacked by yourself and others. This will also enable you to better adapt to change, remain calm when things take a difficult turn and improve your tolerance for unexpected challenges.

Three Ways to Grow Patience

  1. Do something that you usually find difficult and takes time to complete properly. It helps if, once you successfully compete the task, you have a reward at the end.
  2. Learn a new skill that requires time and effort to master. Things to consider would be a foreign language, taking a cooking class, learning to draw or a new sport.
  3. Take more time to savour everyday things. Start by eating and drinking a little slower, noting the different colours, flavours and textures. Then move on to something bigger.

“Exercising patience means doing something, not waiting around.”

Effectively, it’s not going to help to sit and wait to learn patience. Exercise means doing something. Ergo – do something so that you can learn to be more patient.

Three Results of a Lack of Patience

  1. Escalated Stress: Agitation, anger and frustration are all the fruits of not exercising patience. They can also be the added cause of increased stress levels and ultimately, it can negatively affect your health.
  2. Breakdown of Relationships: Relationships often require acknowledging that the other person may take a little more time than you to do something or has their own way of going about things. Any relationship can go through patches of uncertainty or require you to allow time to go by to see where it’s going. Without patience you could chase the other person away by taking over when they’re doing something or end a good relationship because you want an instant answer where there isn’t one.
  3. Increased Cost: You can escalate your general costs when you give up on something too quickly. For example: fixing an appliance. It may be difficult and take time to unjam a toaster, but the alternative is to chuck it and buy a new one, which is an unnecessary expense.

Given that exercising patience has advantages, and the lack thereof can have quite a negative impact, what happens when you simply reach the “end” of your patience?

Three Ways to Replenish Your Patience

  1. Take a Break: Take a timeout from what you’re doing and from the people around you. If you have kids, don’t feel bad about putting something on the TV for them to watch and enjoying a quiet cup of tea.
  2. Remind Yourself: Take a step back from what you’re doing and think through why you’re doing it. What’s the end goal and why is it important to finish it up or continue to follow through?
  3. Switch it up: Leave what you’re doing for a short time, do something else you need to do and then get back to the first thing you were doing. Sometimes to figure something out or exercise grit we need a temporary change of scenery or focus.

There’s an African saying that is great to remember when you’re faced with a challenge, needing to take a bit more time to do something than you expected to or things change unexpectedly. Patience can cook a stone meaning that any problem can be solved if you’re patient, even those that are seemingly impossible.

Interested in learning more about how to help parents and children? SACAP offers a range of courses in psychology and counselling, including part-time and full-time as well as distance learning options. For more information, enquire now.

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