Practicing Patience


By Troy Headrick

It’s not even close to January 1st but I’m making a resolution nonetheless.  I’m resolving to become a more patient person.  The way I want achieve this goal is by establishing a daily habit of practicing patience.

Those of you who regularly read my blogs know that I’m an American who spent nearly two decades living abroad.  Since July of 2015, the summer I ended a seven-year teaching stint at the American University in Cairo, I’ve been back in Texas, the state where I was born and raised.

I’m still in the process of learning how to be an American again.  I’m often surprised by how hard it’s been to readjust to a culture that once was so familiar.  One of the more unpleasant discoveries I’ve made is that I find I’m angry a lot and terribly impatient.  These two are less of an issue when I’m living in other places.  I wonder why that is?

The idea of establishing a daily routine of practicing patience came to me this past weekend.  I currently live in San Antonio, Texas, but needed to drive an hour to the north, to Austin’s international airport, to pick up Azza, my Egyptian wife, who was returning from a month-long visit with her family in Cairo.  Because of the time of day the plane was arriving, I knew I’d have to drive during rush hour, the time when the entire populations of both cities are liberated from work and make a mad dash towards home and freedom, thus creating a vehicular logjam on streets large and small.

So, before leaving for Austin, the idea came to me that I would practice patience during my drive.  I wouldn’t let the heavy traffic or bad drivers or anything whatsoever get to me.

I had the opportunity, almost immediately, to start practicing.  The interstate leaving San Antonio was crammed with every shape and size of automobile and truck.  Actually, the interstate was more of a parking lot than a thoroughfare.  So, as we inched along, I felt my anxiety and impatience begin to rise.  To combat it I began to talk to myself—a technique I’ve often used, over the years, in many situations—to tell myself that I was powerless in such a situation.  The only power I had was deciding how I was going to react to all those frustrations.

Almost instinctively, I began to breath in and out very regularly and slowly and deeply.  I also told myself that I wanted to try to generate, if at all possible, a calming feeling of “letting go.”  While doing these things, I found that my eyes kept darting to the clock on my dashboard, so I made myself stop doing that.  I’m firmly convinced that impatience is harder to overcome the more one obsesses about time.  As time loses its relevance, impatience can lose its hold on the individual.

These techniques started working and I began to feel more relaxed.  I repeatedly told myself that I would get to the airport as soon as possible, not a moment earlier.  Everything was as it had to be.  This is related to the “letting go” feeling I mentioned a few paragraphs back.

Generally speaking, I was able to keep my cool for most of the trip to the airport.  I didn’t say the entire trip, though, did I?  After all, I’m just starting my practice, and I’m very aware that I have some work ahead of me.  I’m trying to affect a deep transformation.  Making a profound change of this sort takes time and unflagging effort.

What thoughts are out there about impatience and how to combat it?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy:  Blog & Art.


51 thoughts on “Practicing Patience

    1. Hi, Reg. You bring up a good point. Maybe I’m too impatient with MYSELF? I promise you, though, that I didn’t capture my whole trip. I’m terribly inconsistent. I’m really Zen at moments but then end up ranting and raving at others. I suppose I want to achieve a kind of consistency. If I were listing out things I would like to change about myself, being more consistently patient would be fairly close to the top of the list. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Great point. Sometimes, the most important step of any journey is the very first one taken. Still, though, this is something I’d really like to improve about myself. I think it would help me be happier too. Thanks for your comment.

  1. I get angry too. Sometimes very impatient too. And YES, these two are less drastically when I am out.

    I think you teach Maths. Wonder if this has something to do with Maths !

    Just trying to debug.
    How would you describe yourself – an introspective person or an extrovert ?

    Maths appears from the core of inner peace. If the peace gets disturbed by any external agent, the person can get really annoyed. Is this the reason ?

    1. Interesting. So you’ve been an expat and find that you are angrier in the US? I’d like to hear why you think that’s true. Actually, I used to teach writing, research, literature, and critical thinking. I currently manage a writing center at a college but I still do lots of teaching. I’m definitely an introvert. Your theories about the connect between being mathematical and other psychological traits is intriguing. You should say more about this. I’ve found your comment pretty cool on lots of levels. Thanks for posting it.

      1. We often have more expectations from our family, home, homeland and any such closer, but that reduces for distant relations. The “general anger” appears when our expectation is not met. Especially, for any foreign land, our mind sets the expectation for ourselves instead of others, to make us fit in. That causes a reversal of polarity of anger – admittance, if any, and sometimes compromise too.

      2. There it is – “research”, that matches with your “Zen, at times.” Zen is the battery of research ! Being “introvert” can lay a very natural foundation of introspection, onto which our spirit of Zen can take form. It is then ready to establish a connection with the realm of Ideas.

      3. I absolutely believe that introversion lines up nicely with introspection. I’ve done quite a lot of studying about Taoism. As a matter of fact, several years ago, when I was living and working in Egypt, I read all the great Taoist texts.

      1. Oh, no, I never mind on anyone’s questioning as the choice of answering lies with replier.

        The feeling of expatriate is common in this civilization, plausible in any scale as school/office, locality, state, country, continent etc. (can’t get off the planet to Mars and I don’t want to. I love Earth) with the basics of reasoning as the similar, if not same.

  2. Heavy traffic –
    an opportunity to take rest. It’s not my fault after all !

    Bad driver –
    Some people are like that. It’s normal. No reaction unless physically affects me.

    Time –
    Oh, that’s a unique resource. As a whole, it is infinitely available till eternity ! If my life span is shorter, then that’s very normal. So why fight against time !

    With these realizations, perhaps patience can come naturally from the first day without the need of practice.

    Hope, this helps. 😀

    1. Wow! I’m certain you have mastered patience at a level that I can only aspire to. Do you have any tips for those of us who’d like to get on top of our impatience?

      1. Acknowledge impatience gets you nowhere. It’s not going to make traffic faster nor is going to stop the kid in front of you from completely melting down. Learn from the moment and be appreciative that your around to complain if you so choose about the weather, children, or the godawful traffic jam in front of you!

      2. Yes. I often feel much happier if I just give up trying to change things. Americans are raised to be “fighters” and “winners.” The older I get, the more I realize that these notions are quite unhealthy. Thanks, again. I’m going to remember this comment the next time I need to practice a bit of patience.

  3. Anyone who drives in Austin and doesn’t lose their biscuit is likely in the back of the ambulance. Whole lotta college kids, adults who should know better than to to play with their phones, orange barrel delight, and the most bass-ackward signage I’ve ever encountered. Now that the turn by turn directions in my phone has joined the Celestial Choir, it’s even more fun!
    However – my books and calls and music still link to the car, so I use them to minimize my stress. I already know that people are going to drive like deranged loons, there’s no point in losing patience with them. I do try to think charitably. Sometimes. Or come up with creative curses.
    Yesterday I was gifted with a conversation with a young man on campus who had a speech impediment of sorts. I’m not a specialist, I don’t know the details, just that he clearly had some thoughts he wanted to share, some rather deep thoughts as it turned out, and I was happy to sit and listen. Not interrupt or assume that I knew where he was going with the discussion, just to be an open ear and an open mind. I don’t know which of us was happier with the encounter! It took me to a place that I haven’t been in a very long time, one where I knew that there was time to spend.

    Cut yourself some slack, your wife was gone for a month! Of course you were anxious. Welcome home, Azza!

    1. Thanks for the welcome home for my wife! And thanks for sharing your experiences dealing with stress and such. It seems you know Austin. Interesting. Yes, it’s suppose to have one of the worst traffic problems in the entire US. Your listening to music and such in your car sounds really good. Certainly, in my case, music helps some. Many years ago, back when I was considerably younger, I sort of created my own meditation technique by listening to classical music while lying on my bed and practicing deep breathing. It worked so well. Maybe I need to reinstate my meditation? Sounds like a good idea!

  4. Hi Troy, I have found listening to Emancipator to be helpful.

    But beyond that, I began a similar “project” myself a few years ago. That is, undertaking a serious attempt to cultivate patience and alleviate frustration when driving. In your post, you describe yourself using some core methods from the Stoic and Buddhist paths. I’ve actually relied heavily on those same methods (with some expansion and variation over time, of course). One thing that has helped me succeed with those methods is to remind myself that driving and its frustrations are a really valuable opportunity to develop greater patience, and to exercise those methods, “in the field.” (I know you’ll recognize that as a Stoic and Buddhist technique as well.)

    Really interesting post!

    1. Thanks for the comment. Yes, I know we’ve had an exchange or two about stoicism in the past. I try to incorporate Stoic practices as often as possible. I absolutely agree. Driving home is the perfect “laboratory” where one might practice patience and calmness and such. There’s something about driving that I find especially upsetting. As a matter of fact, I wrote about my thoughts about driving several weeks ago in Again, thanks for sharing your story. Perhaps I’ll reach out to you to learn more about your thinking on Stoicism. By the way, several years ago, when I was teaching at the American University in Cairo, I undertook a study on Taoism and ended up reading all the great Taoist texts.

      1. It was a great study. Can you make a recommendation on a really good book on Stoicism? I’ve read many of the primary texts. By the way, I sent you a message via the contact page on your website. Thanks.

  5. It is just simply mind-setting for me. 😉

    I remember, my mom used to tell me to count from 1-100. Before you reach 100, you already changed your mind. And somehow it works. Before you react, analyze first why you are reacting that way. Maybe you just lack of sleep or just worried about something.

    In short, know why are you being hot-tempered at that moment.

    PS: I am not saying that I don’t get angry anymore. I do, but it just became manageable now. ☺ I hope, that will work for you, too. 🙏

    1. Thanks for sharing your story and for giving some really good advice. Your mother sounds like a wise person. You’re really talking about becoming more mindful. Are you familiar with mindfulness? Yes, rather than reacting spontaneously, I suppose I need to pause and look at what is really going on inside of me when I feel impatient. I certainly will try to be more mindful when I am faced with things that I find upsetting.

      1. Yup! She really is. Actually if you cannot do yoga or do an act of meditating, you can at least find a place that is free from noise. Like a library or your own room. And let your anger or disappointment vanish little by little.

      2. One of the reasons I like to blog here is the wonderful suggestions that come from readers. Your suggestion certainly qualifies and wonderful. Thank you so much for your great advice.

  6. If you could only package your technique into a gummy, the world would be a better place.

    Rush hour is a misnomer.

    Anyone who drives or lives on this planet will be angry and impatient. Situations that we can’t control can make us feel a boatload of emotions. Had you not controlled your thoughts, your emotions could have cranked you into road rage. Once we accept that we can’t control the universe to operate on our time table, we can be more patient. Consider this statement when caught driving during “rush” hour: I can’t go faster than the traffic will allow. Oh well! Time for my favorite audio book!

    Keep breathing and (over)thinking everyone.

    1. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a happy pill that we could take on a daily (or hourly, as needed) basis? Actually, there are such pills but one either needs a doctor’s prescription or can get a bit of prison time if one gets involved in self-prescribing. Yes, I need to try to learn to give up control. Unfortunately, American culture is one that puts tons of emphasis on being on top of things and being the master of one’s domain. Here’s the good news: The older I get, the more I mellow and reject conventional wisdom. By the way, can anything really be called “wisdom” if it’s mere conventional? Food for thought…

  7. I don’t know if it is the culture I grew up in, but I don’t tend to get angry as much. I think it has to do with the fact that in my culture and daily life there, anything could happen so we are always prepared for the unexpected. That is not to say we don’t get angry, just not as much.

    1. Yes, America is a very angry place. I always rediscover this truth about the country not long after I’ve returned to the place I was born. It’s funny that I was born here but feel very much like a foreigner whenever I’m in the US. America and Americans could learn a lot from other places and peoples if only they would drop some of their arrogance and see things from a new point of view. Thanks, Betul. Now that you mention it, I don’t ever remember people being terribly angry in Turkey. Of course, as you say, anger exists everywhere there are people, but the Turks (maybe because they are a people with a much longer history?) tend to be emotionally measured and generally emotionally healthy.

      1. Well, I think America is driven by a desire to be at the top all the time, including the individuals. That probably makes people angrier. You have to do things otherwise you fall behind. A lot of competition. We don’t really have that much of it in Turkey, not to this extent. And I also think Turkish people express more emotions because they do not care about face value that much. I mean, again, when you are in a competition, you don’t want to show your weak sides, right?

      2. I think you’re right. And, as a matter of fact, your comment anticipates my next blog topic. I’m going to write about the importance competition plays in American culture and how we need to think about nurturing a much more cooperative attitude for a variety of reasons. Your comments here helped me formulate my thoughts. Plus, it’s American football season right now, and America, perhaps more than any other country in the world, loves sports and competition and winning and “doing battle” on the gridiron and so forth and so on. We thrive on competition, but this thriving comes with real costs.

      3. I am happy that my comments helped! Yes, in fact, this competitive environment is making me think that it is not that healthy for me to live here. It is just too much for the human body and mind. Anyways, I am looking forward to your post!

      4. I’ve always felt really comfortable in Europe. I lived in Poland for 2.5 years and have traveled extensively in many other European countries. I’m beginning to rethink living here as well.

  8. Worth all the time! Patience is a necessity to survive in today’s world and we all must practice being patient. I’m new hear and would love if you take out some time and follow me. My posts wouldn’t be disappointing. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment. As a matter of fact, I checked out your blog, followed you, and left a comment. I’m looking forward to seeing more of your writing! Take care…

  9. Worth all the time! Patience is a necessity to survive in today’s world and we all must practice being patient. I’m new hear and would love if you take out some time and follow me. My posts wouldn’t be disappointing.

  10. Thank you for this Post! I Think too that patience is something we have to Practice, but once we have understood that it is a necessary part of reaching our goals it will be easiere as we dont view it as something negative, it is something we have to adjust to and learn, practising patience can be easier when we reward us with little things rather than wantingn to achieve something right away, sending you kindest regards!

    1. Thank you for the kind regards, naaiba. I send them back to you! I find that I tend to slip into an impatient way of living if I don’t continuous monitor my behavior and remind myself that achieving patience and a kind of “quietness” of spirit takes constant work. If we see patience as something that we need to do to “feed” our psyches in the same way that our bodies need regular feeding, then, perhaps, we can become better people. I thank you so much for you participating in this discussion!

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