Saint Augustine claimed that patience is the companion of wisdom. Increase your store of both virtues by following this advice from a truck driver, a world traveler, and others who know a thing or two about serenity-threatening situations.
Chew Your Food Slowly
People who consume food more slowly—and ignore those “I’m hungry” urges—eat less overall than those who devour their meals. Research has found that impatient people are more likely to be overweight, possibly because of their inability to delay gratification at the dinner table. This practice can help you in other areas of life as well: By eating slowly, you can train yourself to be less impulsive and more patient in general.
Charles Courtemanche, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of economics at Georgia State University, in Atlanta, who has studied the relationship between obesity and patience.
Experience Different Cultures
When you travel the world, you find out that many cultures aren’t as punctual and perfectionistic as ours, and encountering those perspectives can mellow you. To work on your patience closer to home, try visiting an area populated by people of a different culture (such as a city’s Chinatown) or take part in a festival held by an immigrant community. I recently visited a Vietnamese farmers’ market in New Orleans. I was annoyed that it was open only between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and I wanted to know why. The answer? I learned that often in cultures dependent on fishing, much of the work is done before daybreak. It was good to remind myself that simply because people do something differently doesn’t mean that they’re wrong.
Seth Kugel writes the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times. He lives in New York City and São Paulo, Brazil.
Laugh at Yourself
I’m a newspaper columnist and my husband is a politician, so both of us must be willing to converse with strangers when we’re eating out or shopping for groceries. In the rare moments when people are obnoxious (like the time a woman told me that I needed to get Botox), I can get impatient. But instead of being rude to the person, I formulate an internal joke, usually at my own expense. Knowing that I can laugh with a friend later on about, say, my deep wrinkles calms any irritation.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of …and His Lovely Wife ($16, amazon.com) which chronicles her experience as the wife of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. She lives in Cleveland.
Find a Distraction
Being out on the road for weeks on end can certainly test your patience. My wife and I—we drive as a team—have to deal with other drivers and the annoyances of traffic jams, and it’s natural to be anxious in these moments. We overcome that feeling by giving each other something else to think about. For example, my wife tells jokes and catches me up on the latest Facebook posts from friends. Or I’ll talk to my dogs (they also travel with us), since they provide emotional support without offering any opinions. Those quick moments of distraction recharge me, and I can again focus on the road without being irritated.
Wade Briggs, based in Boise, Idaho, is a commercial truck driver for Mayflower, a nationwide full-service moving company. He has been driving a truck for 18 years.
Stop Imagining the Ideal
I often grow impatient when I want to be in control of a situation. To avoid getting antsy when I am writing and can’t find specific words for my thoughts, I try to practice self-compassion. I tell myself that I’m not going to quit even if I become frustrated. I’ll say out loud, “You’re not perfect, but that’s OK. Writing can be a messy process, and it’s not ideal, but you can handle it.” Talking to yourself may feel awkward and goofy, but it quells that feeling of impatience. And it certainly beats foraging for carbs, which I’m also apt to do when I’m agitated and have writer’s block.
Brené Brown, Ph.D., is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and the author of the best-selling book Daring Greatly ($26, amazon.com). She has given one of the top 10 most-viewed talks on TED.com, which you can watch here: Brené Brown on Vulnerability.