Why Haven't I Mastered My Impatience Yet?

A therapist explains why we're trained to be impatient, then shows us how to find our inner zen.


With Thanksgiving travel and Black Friday shopping on the horizon—and all the waiting in line that brings—we’re all going to need a little patience. Unfortunately, patience is something many of us have absolutely none of. But we don’t have to be a foot-tapping mess when things don’t go as planned—we asked for a few calming tips from Marriage and Family Counselor, Aida Vazin, so we can all find our inner zen (or at the very least, not act like a bunch of crazy people all holiday season).

To start with, let’s examine the reason why impatience affects everyone. “Impatience stems from living in a rushed world and having a rushed upbringing,” Vazin explains. “Our society teaches us that deadlines, pressures and being everywhere right on time are number one priorities, and when we do get a chance to slow down, we feel like we’re being unproductive and lazy.” In other words, we’re taught from a young age that feeling rushed to make it before the bell, so to speak, is simply something that comes with being a productive member of society (society strikes again, huh, Rage Against The Machine?)

The end result for many people is that they’re unable to just “let go” without feeling pressured to keep up with everyone else. “People tend to internalize this idea that they’re always doing something wrong—sometimes we just can’t meet that deadline, we can’t get there on time or we didn’t do our task correctly the first time around,” says Vazin. “Because of this, we create a panel of critics within us that fuels the fire of impatience.” In other words, it’s human nature to follow the herd, and when fail, we become frustrated and impatient.

If we’ve got you thinking patience is an unachievable virtue, think again. Vazin says the trick is simply about actively putting time aside—two 15 minute breaks per day, to be exact—to slow down and, more importantly, learn to be okay with that time spent relaxing. “We live in a society where we’re operating like a smartphone—as in, we have multiple functions [work, school, hobbies, etc.],” she explains. “So, like smartphones, we need to be recharged often if we expect to work efficiently.”

If you find yourself in a position that particularly tests your patience, Vazin says the best way to keep cool is to firstly acknowledge your impatience as a mood, rather than a result of the situation, then take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that this moment is temporary and soon will pass. As good as this advice is, you might want to try out your newfound calm on a slightly smaller line—say, at a grocery store check out—before trying it out in the TSA line at Thanksgiving. Human patience can only be stretched so far.