Is Patience Still a Virtue?

By January 3, 2018Culture, Psychology

Most of you would agree that a long-loading time is one of the most frustrating ‘first world problems’ that we can experience. Not so long ago, we were happy if our dial-up connection took under five minutes… and wasn’t interrupted by a sibling picking up the phone. Today, we’re annoyed if we can’t read live tweets as we brush our teeth. Is patience an endangered virtue?

Companies like Amazon cater to our need for instant gratification by offering same-day delivery. Twitter brings breaking news as it happens. It doesn’t seem like patience has a place in our lives, so is it a bad thing that we don’t practice this kind virtue?

I don’t think so. Our desire for everything-on-demand has led to ground-breaking tech that take the mundane, out of everyday tasks. I can program my thermostat on my way home from work and pre-order my take-out lunch so there’s no lining up or cash exchange required. Our obsession with optimization and efficiencies has given birth to the Uber model: using idle resources to create a low-cost alternative to traditional commerce. We worry about wasted time and demand higher levels of productivity from ourselves and those around us – that can be a good thing.

We are increasingly reliant on a rhythm and cadence that shapes our days. Many of our actions are essentially autonomous, and any change in the beat is immediate cause for attention. For example, if a website loads slower than normal, that delay elicits anxiety not unlike getting to work late.

Our impatience is making abandonment a way of life. If that unskippable YouTube ad is longer than 30 seconds, you’ll consider closing the window. If you see a long lineup at your favourite coffee shop, you’ll consider walking out. This is all fine and well since you can likely find coffee elsewhere. But what about relationships, careers, and other long-term initiatives. We can’t walk away from a job after one frustrating day at the office. You can’t quit because promotions aren’t readily handed out. I’m not suggesting we’re that sensitive, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that millennials have shorter employment tenures than previous generations.

We need to be cognizant that technology has unleashed a craving for instant gratification. We need to be mindful; perhaps by practicing meditation or yoga, or simply making time to invigorate our creativity and elevate our mood. Let’s hold ourselves accountable and be present – learn to be patient with people, with work, and with our relationships. Patience, in all facets of life, is crucial.

Stay focused on your goals and remember that delaying gratification results in a long-term reward. That deep-rooted satisfaction you get from a job well done or a the completion of a project long in the making is part of our DNA and we need not let that go.

Don’t worry, your Facebook account will be fine without you.