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Developing Patience

Chapter 14: Developing Patience

Tools for Personal Growth

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


What is patience?

Patience is the ability to:

  • Sit back and wait for an expected outcome without experiencing anxiety, tension, or frustration.
  • Let go of your need for immediate gratification.
  • Display tolerance, compassion, understanding, and acceptance toward those who are slower than you in developing maturity, emotional freedom, and coping abilities.
  • Accept your human frailty in the pursuit of personal, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. Accept the set-backs and reversals inevitable in your quest for personal growth.
  • Believe in the concepts of permanence and commitment. Be calm and considerate as you handle the growth issues in your committed relationships in marriage, family, career, community, or church.
  • Hang on to a relationship when trouble arises that may take some time to resolve.
  • Feel peace, contentment, and satisfaction that you are on the path to recovery and personal growth.
  • Temper your enthusiasm, energy, exuberance, and excitement after you have experienced a renewal of spirit, received revelations or insights.
  • Accept the non-enthusiastic reception of others to share in your new found truths.
  • Accept that there is no need to rush yourself or others in facing the challenges of emotional growth.
  • See that overnight reformations are rarely long lasting; gradual change and growth have a greater durability.
  • Feel relaxed, calm, and placid as you face your daily schedule and the challenges it presents.
  • Believe that your day-to-day efforts, sacrifices, and changes are building a new edifice of a whole person with healthy self-esteem.
  • Feel satisfied with the use of the Tools for Coping tools in a gradual reshaping, rebuilding, and remodeling of yourself into a confident, secure, trusting, loving person dealing in healthy communication, and self-actualization.

What are some negative consequences of impatience?

By being impatient you can:

  • Run the risk of always being dissatisfied, upset, and angry at yourself for your slow pace of growth and change.
  • Easily lose your control and fire off outbursts of anger, temper, and blame on those who are slow to change and grow.
  • Become a member of the throw away generation, discarding relationships, people, jobs, and school whenever things are not working out as quickly as you want them to.
  • Waste energy worrying about how slow things are changing instead of directing that energy toward the changes you desire.
  • Withdraw prematurely from a helping situation because you are not seeing an immediate pay-off for your efforts.
  • Turn off the others in your life who want to support you, but whom you offend by accusing them (when change is slow) of not helping you enough.
  • Sacrifice friendships and relationships prematurely because the other person is not changing as quickly or as thoroughly as you desire.
  • Ignore all of the positive gains you and others have made on the road to recovery and growth, only concentrating on what has not yet been accomplished.
  • Become pessimistic about life, seeing only the half-empty cup rather than the half-filled cup.
  • Be in such a hurry that you neglect to count your blessings and see how far you have come.
  • Burn yourself out in the pursuit of your goals.
  • Lose the ability to reward or reinforce any level of success or attainment, discouraging yourself and others in the pursuit of recovery and growth.
  • Lose the ability to take a large goal and break it down into manageable increments.
  • Become overwhelmed by the large tasks ahead of you and lose the hope and motivation to keep on trying.


How do people respond to impatience?

When you are impatient with yourself and your rate of personal growth, others may:

  • Remind you of your current progress.
  • Try to help you refocus on the positive gains you have made.
  • Try to help you reset your goals to be more realistic.
  • Remind you that you are a human being, thus subject to setbacks, relapses, and error.
  • Try to encourage you to take ``one day at a time.''
  • Get angry with you for being so hard on yourself.
  • Get discouraged with supporting you since you always seem to ignore them.
  • Get confused by your pessimism since they are encouraged by the progress they see.
  • Reject and turn their back on you because your negativity and pessimism affects too low in their personal struggles to grow and change.
  • Insist that you get professional help as a condition of their involvement with you.


When you are impatient with other people's rate of growth and change, they may:

  • Remind you that they have made progress and are trying.
  • Focus on the positive steps they have made in growing and changing.
  • Point out how they have set realistic short-term goals and objectives in the path toward larger goals of growth and change.
  • Remind you that as humans they have the right to experience setbacks, relapses, and errors on the way to change.
  • Remind you that they believe in the attitude of rewarding yourself by living each day to the fullest and taking one day at a time.
  • Get angry with you for being so hard on them and end their efforts to grow.
  • Get discouraged or pessimistic about their progress in the face of your lack of support and give up.
  • Reject or abandon you because you are too negative, pessimistic, demanding, blaming, and directive toward them, which brings them too low in their struggles with growth and change.
  • Attack you for your lack of support, lack of caring, lack of understanding, lack of humanity, and lack of respect.

How do you feel when you are impatient?

  • irritated 
  • agitated
  • ignored
  • frustrated
  • resentful
  • forgotten
  • anxious
  • burned-out
  • misdirected
  • tense    
  • over-stressed
  • misunderstood
  • nervous
  • ill-tempered
  • over-responsible


What are some beliefs of people who lack patience?

  • I should be able to do this faster and better than what I am.
  • They should understand me the first time and not need me to repeat myself.
  • Why should it take so long and so much effort to change and grow?
  • I have so much to accomplish I'll never be able to do it all.
  • There is no way that I can ever be helped to change. I am an impossible case.
  • There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Why is it that everyone I come in contact with chooses the wrong way?
  • Why can't they change quicker than what they are?
  • Why can't the institutions keep up with the rate and pace of change of its members?
  • All people should be as excited about the desire to grow and change as I am.
  • If I can change and grow, you should be equally changing and growing.
  • I want this done yesterday.
  • It makes no difference how far along I am if I have not accomplished my target goals.
  • I can't stand such things as diets, counseling, physical therapy, allergy desensitization, and orthodontics; they all take too long before results are visible.
  • I would rather get a job now than go through four years of college. That way I can make more money in my lifetime.
  • I am trying to change, but you keep on falling back into your old habits; that must mean you aren't trying as hard as I am.
  • Every time I have a setback or a relapse I get mad at myself for taking so long to grow and change.
  • I can't stand things being out of order. It makes me nervous and upset with such disarray.
  • I must be perfect so you must be perfect; if we are not, it must be because we don't want it to work out.
  • There I go again, falling back into my old habits just when I thought I had them licked. This isn't the way it is supposed to be.
  • I could never accomplish my goal of growth and change, so there is no use in even getting started.

What new behavior traits are needed for patience to develop in your life?

To increase your level of patience you need to:


Develop a consistent philosophy of life. Take life one day at a time. Consider each day a gift of life that will allow you to get one step closer to your goal of growth and change.


Accept the reality of your humanism in that you are going to need time, effort, and energy to change and grow. You will experience some resistance to altering long-standing, habitual ways of acting, reacting, and believing.


Reframe your perspective on the past, present, and future. Do not dwell on your past mistakes and failings. Do not worry about what you will become or how you will act in the future. Begin to live each new day as a fresh start.


Break larger goals down into components that are short-term goals and objectives, more realistically attainable in the immediate future.


Be systematic in planning your path to recovery and growth.


Accept, understand, and forgive yourself for being fragile, imperfect, and weak. You need to become your own best friend and cheerleader. Love yourself.


Wake up to the realities of life around you. Everyone with whom you come in contact is busy working through their own struggles, weaknesses, setbacks, relapses, crises, and obstacles to their personal growth and recovery. All of us are on the path to personal growth. There is no one exempt from this journey. It takes a lifetime to complete.


Hand over and let go of the worries, concerns, anxieties, and doubts about attaining your goal.


Confront your fears about attaining your goal. Remember, the world was not created in a day. Beautiful symphonies, works of art, and literary masterpieces were not created in a day. A lifetime is not lived in a day.


Modify your spiritual perspective to include your God as a guide on this journey. Be ready and willing to face challenges as you strive for personal growth. 

How can patience be developed in the pursuit of personal growth and change?


Step 1:  Prior to developing the skills needed to increase patience, identify the current state of your patience. Answer the following questions in your journal:
  • What is your definition of patience?
  • How much patience do you have when a problem presents itself?
  • How patient are you with your own rate of personal growth?
  • How patient are you with the rate of growth of the significant others in your life?
  • What negative consequences have you experienced as a result of your lack of patience?
  • How do others react to your lack of patience in yourself? In them?
  • What feelings do you experience when you are impatient?
  • What beliefs block your ability to have patience?
  • What replacement beliefs would help you gain more patience?
  • What new behavior traits could you develop to gain more patience?


Step 2:  Once you have a better picture of the status of your patience, you may need to learn how to take a growth goal and break it down into workable components that are realistic, and can be accomplished in a short time period. Use the following goal-setting activity to learn this skill.


Goal-setting Activity

Get yourself into a relaxed state. Close your eyes. Visualize yourself on a long path that reaches out into a vast and open field. As you begin down the path you see a variety of road signs intended to give your journey direction. Each sign represents a different focus in your life's journey. The signs are:

  1. family,
  2. relationships,
  3. school,
  4. career,
  5. community, and
  6. personal wellness.

As you reach each sign, visualize what your ultimate goals are for this area. Carry these visions with you as you approach each sign. After you reach the last sign you will have your life goals in your mind. Continue walking into the horizon with confidence that your goals in life will always be clearly in focus. Once you are ready, count backward five to one. Open your eyes and feel relaxed and ready to work.


Record the life goals you visualized for each of the six signs on your life path:

  1. Family (family of origin and/or current family and/or children)
  2. Relationships (friendships and/or marriages)
  3. School (high school, college, trade, graduate)
  4. Career (profession, job, work)
  5. Community (civic groups, volunteer activity, church, politics)
  6. Personal wellness (physical health, mental health, physical activity, leisure, recreation)


Do the goals in you wrote down' represent each of your personal goals? If yes, proceed to the next set of goals. If not, record other goals you have for your life.

For each goal listed, answer the following questions in your journal:

  1. How long will it take to attain the goal?
  2. What smaller goals or objectives go into making this larger goal? How much time will each of these smaller goals take?
  3. What new behavior do I need to develop in order to attain these smaller goals?
  4. What tasks will I need to do in order to achieve these smaller goals?
  5. What rewards can I give myself for attaining each of the smaller goals?
  6. What role does patience play in achieving the smaller goals?


Now fit each of the six life goals into the following Life-Goal Outline:
Life-goal Outline
Life Goal: time needed
     Sub-Goals: time needed
          Objectives: time needed
               Tasks to be Done: time needed
                    Behavior to be Developed: time needed
                           Rewards for new behaviors: for goal, objectives 

Step 3:  After you have reviewed your life goals and learned to break them down into smaller, workable, achievable units, you are ready to respond to your belief system about goal attainment. In your journal write a short poem, song, or paragraph about each of the following patience-promoting sayings:
  • Let go and let god
  • Easy does it
  • One day at a time
  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life
  • First things first
Review your writing and draw or paint a picture of your life to include your perspective of the journey on your life path.
Next, answer the following questions in your journal:
  • How am I more accepting of the concept of being patient with myself and others?
  • How open am I to the patience-promoting sayings above?
  • How cluttered is my life with anger, resentment, and hostility about how long it will take to accomplish my goal?
  • How can I relax and accomplish personal growth at a comfortable pace?
  • What have I learned about patience from this exercise?
  • How do I feel about myself and my future as a result of this exercise?


Step 4:  Once you have completed Steps 1, 2, and 3 you will be able to accept that personal growth, recovery, and change are lifelong pursuits to be approached in realistic increments. If you still find yourself getting impatient with yourself or others, return to Step 1 and begin again.