I’ll be the first to admit that patience has never been something that comes naturally to me. Whether it was something as small as a traffic jam or as big as my career, I was often so trapped in thoughts of the future that I forgot to experience –– let alone enjoy –– what was happening in the moment. However, since having my son and watching him grow, I’ve realized the important connection there is between developing patience and learning to live in the moment, and am working to stay present and savor every moment I have. When looking back, the heightened anxiety and stress I have felt as a result of impatience have not only made me feel exhausted, but also often led to me making rash decisions.

I know I’m not alone here either. I think it’s partially a sign of the times –– technology has changed our lives for the better in so many ways as everything has become faster, simpler and more convenient. With our smartphones we have the world at our fingertips, and things that were once time-consuming or tedious can now be achieved with a few simple taps. No more waiting in lines when you can queue up online and have your phone texted when your place is ready. No more waiting weeks or more to hear from long distance friends, whether by text, email, social media or video chat you’re never more than a whim away. And of course, the obvious one: with Amazon’s two day shipping of practically anything you can imagine, it’s easy to see how our patience as a society has been wearing thin.

As a result, many of us (myself included) have lost our ability to live in the present. We have grown to expect instant gratification from most things in life, and are left frustrated when we are “wasting our time.” However, it is important that we challenge this perception and not let it prevent us from living in the moment. From business deals or moving up in your career to slow queues and yes, even traffic jams, the twists and turns of life mean that things will inevitably not always go our way, but patience is a major factor in learning from these experiences. While I still have a long way to go in my journey to patience, below are a few of the many benefits to developing patience I have found.

You make smarter decisions

Like I said, I’ve made my fair share of rash decisions in my day under the guise of “trusting my gut.” Now I’m not discounting the importance of intuition or listening to what your body is trying to tell you, I’m simply pointing out that we can often use this as an excuse to take the quick way out of something. To be clear, I’m not saying that practicing patience means holding back on every choice we make or waffling with indecision. It means remaining mindful enough to stop and focus during the present moment before acting.

Odds are you have probably heard of the Stanford “marshmallow experiment,” but one of the reasons for its enduring popularity is its ability to evidence the effect that patience can have on your life. In case you’ve been living under a rock when it comes to famous psychological studies, here is what happened. In 1972, psychologist Walter Mischel and his team put together a study in which they gave a child the choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. They were given a marshmallow and told that the researcher would be leaving the room for a bit, and if they waited until the adult returned to the room to eat it they would get a second one. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who had the patience to wait for the greater reward tended to have better SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index, and other life measures. Although further studies have shown that economic factors also play a big role in these successes, the fact still remains that being able to use patience as a tool is a powerful way to make better decisions by encouraging mindfulness.

You can build a better reputation

Here’s a question for you: would you rather work with the hot-headed person who explodes in anger and frustration every time things don’t quite go they way they wanted or expected, or the person who is able to quickly move forward when things don’t go according to plan, maybe even finding a way to laugh at the situation or themselves? All right, I know that nobody in their right mind would choose to work with the hot-headed lunatic and it may seem a bit extreme, but take a good hard look at yourself and try to determine which category you lean more towards in your own life. I know I can say that in the past I have tended more toward the first option, and while I do maintain that a “fire in the belly” is an important aspect of gaining success in your career, I also acknowledge that learning to practice mindfulness and live in the moment can help you become a person that people want to work with in the long term. A steady demeanor during stressful situations can make people more likely to trust you, and by learning patience you can become a person that people know they can count on when the chips are down.

You can experience better mental and physical health

By extension, studies are increasingly showing that being patient can benefit your health. While being able to better cope with upsetting or stressful situations can help you make smarter decisions and be a better co-worker or leader, one study by a leading psychology professor found that patient people also tend to express less depression and negative emotions. Those within the study also rated themselves as more mindful and felt more gratitude, more connection to mankind and the universe, and a greater sense of abundance.

There is even evidence that becoming more patient can help your physical health. A 2007 study found that patient people were less likely to report health problems such as headaches, acne, ulcers, diarrhea and pneumonia. Additionally, other research has found that people who tend to have more health complaints and worse sleep are those who exhibit the Type A personality characteristics of impatience and irritability. If patience can reduce our daily stress, it is also reasonable to speculate that it could also protect us against the damaging health effects that stress causes, leading to a better quality of life that will allow us to be more present in the day to day and notice the little things.

You can achieve your long-term goals

While it may seem counterintuitive, developing patience and living in the moment can help you achieve your long-term goals. Having patience can reward you with positive recognition, better relationships with those close to us, and bigger career moves among other things. Rather than getting caught up in instant gratification, patience allows you to practice awareness and see the bigger picture. I know that for me, learning to be more patient has taught me to see things at face value, and recognize what my true priorities are in life. When you are patient, you are able to clearly map out how each decision and effort you make in life will affect your long-term goals, and are able to persevere because of it.


If there’s one thing I want you to take from this, it’s that I am talking about learning patience. While it may feel like some people are simply born with the patience gene and others aren’t (I certainly thought this was the case for the longest time) in fact patience can be learned, and quite quickly. In a 2012 study that saw subjects participate in just two weeks of patience training where they learned to identify feelings and their triggers, regulate their emotions, empathize with others and meditate, they reported feeling more patient toward the trying people in their lives, feeling less depressed and experiencing higher levels of positive emotions.

We all know that we should relax and wait prudently to make the best logical move, but when emotions get involved, we sometimes can’t help ourselves. The good news is, while patience may be a virtue, it is also a skill that can be sharpened with time and effort. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not something that is an innate part of a person’s psyche, but a conscious decision we learn to make each day with practice. By developing the skill of patience, you can better appreciate all that life has to offer.

Connect with Christopher Kelly on LinkedIn and TopioNetworks.