More patience — is there an app for that?

September 3, 2014

Not so long ago, we at Unstuck experienced a small stuck moment of our own. It began when we opened a customer service email from a potential Unstuck app user, which simply read: ANDROID! NOW!

After a few seconds of shock, we landed on a sense of indignation: How dare this person shout at us this way? We provide free software that helps people. And it works. And it’s free! Doesn’t this shouter know that it costs us time and money to create free apps?

But it nibbled at our subconscious long enough that we decided to turn our indignation into a question: Why did this person feel it was okay to demand — to scream — that we deliver a free Android app?

We’ll spare you our meandering logic and fast-forward to the conclusion: Among all the wonderful things technology does for us, it also feeds a primal desire for instant gratification. Want it? You got it. Now.

There’s Uber for instant taxis, Netflix for instant entertainment, Glam Squad for on-demand beauty services, Zeel for same-day massages, Postmates for speedy food delivery. The list goes on and on, and includes Unstuck. (Yikes! Are we part of a problem?)

This kind of immediacy is something we’re all getting very used to — lots of quick fixes throughout the day — to the point where the idea of waiting for something becomes a distant memory. It’s supposed to make us more efficient. And we admit we’re enamored with the innovation it’s breeding (check out these three products). But it’s also making patience a rare commodity.

What patience does for us
Patience is an unsung hero. It enables us to make better decisions. To appreciate the process as well as the result. To tap into empathy, compassion, and understanding. To see things through to the end. (This reads like a short list of abilities that come in handy when we need to get unstuck.)

But it doesn’t seem to be holding up particularly well these days. Maybe that’s because patience is a skill, and like any skill, it requires practice. Of course, as logic goes, with all our insta-apps delivering what we want when we want it, there isn’t as much call for us to practice patience. But we submit that it’s just the opposite. In a world gone on-demand, we need more.

To put a fine point on it, without patience we lack the wherewithal to see things through, to wait for the better outcome, to strive for our heart’s desire when it’s not in front of us at the moment. And that lowers our quality of life in all kinds of ways. Like ulcers and heart issues. Anxiety, anger, and depression. Torn relationships. Compromised quality. Colossal amounts of energy spent on achieving very little.

That disturbing scenario has put us in pursuit of patience.

First, we took a deep breath and wrote back to the Android device owner. We explained that we’ve developed a web app designed to work well on Android, and we invited feedback on the experience (when you meet stuck moments with patience, it helps others tap into their own). Then we came up with ways to exercise our patience every day. We share them here, with the hope that you, too, believe that patient people should not be an endangered species.

When you’re feeling short on patience:

Consider what goes into making your request happen. If you found out that it was going to take at least 30 minutes to receive your entree, like the famous chicken served at Zuni Café, where they begin preparing it the day before and roast it in wood-fired brick ovens, would you still insist they hurry it up? If you would, are you okay with a wing and thigh from a fast food joint instead?

Project how important this moment of impatience will be in a year or a week or even a day. Be honest, will you even remember why you caused such a fuss? And will it make a difference in the long run?

Notice the angry person you are in this moment. Is this the person you really want to be in the world?

When you’re feeling calm and want to stay that way:

Take the long way and enjoy what it has to offer. Instead of texting, handwrite a note. Instead of the highway, take the back road and stay under the speed limit. If you’re riding the train, put away your phone and look around.

Be grateful for what is. When you spend time adding up what’s good in life (and we don’t necessarily mean possessions), it brings on an awesome feeling of contentment. If you do that every day, you get to feel that contentment every day. Contentment and impatience are mutually exclusive.

Don’t try to multitask. We emphasize “try” because, unlike computers, the human brain isn’t wired to compute more than one thing at a time (here’s why). So when we attempt to, we get frazzled, and that can lead to impatience.

Meditate. It does take practice — that alone will increase your tolerance levels. And once you get the hang of meditating on a regular basis, you’ll be equipped to combat impatient flare-ups. Here’s an easy primer to get started.

Final thought: By its very nature, there is no insta-fix for patience. But if we pay attention to it, and practice it, we can make it more of a habit.

Next week: How to work like a human
Last week: How to make the most of a big mistake

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