At the beginning of the year, we chose 12 character traits that we both wanted to improve – individually and in how we relate to each other. In the first post of every month, we discuss one of the traits and set intentions, and at the end of the month, we share how we did. This week, we report back on our progress with the trait of patience.

Ellen…

While I had set an intention to work on being more patient with people who move or speak slower than me, I was tested this month by the mother of all patience-busters, technology. In early October, I upgraded my annoyingly slow 5-year-old computer and bought a shiny new one with promises of speed like I had never experienced. I knew the set-up and data transfer might be bumpy, but I wasn’t prepared for spending six hours over three consecutive Saturdays with my tech friends at Staples to get things working right!

I am proud to report that I did not yell and scream; I stayed calm and patient even when I suspected that one of the friendly new techsters who helped me wasn’t fully knowledgeable about my specific computer issues. It really tried my patience when he would fix something in the store and it would revert back when I got home!

How did I stay patient? Self-talk, empathy and persistence. I told myself that issues are common when transferring a lot of data, I knew that the tech guys were doing the best they could, and I just hung in there until we fixed the problems.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I probably have the most patience with Jenna and wish that I would demonstrate that same level of patience with others. The flip side is that she has a tendency to become impatient with me for what I consider insignificant things. I have a feeling that other mothers experience the same with their daughters, because our memories aren’t what they used to be and we’re not as tech-savvy as they are.

Anyway, I was the target of Jenna’s impatience this month and it didn’t feel good. I was driving to Philly for the Wharton Mother-Daughter Weekend when Jenna called with panic in her voice: The file of daughter profiles in our shared folder had disappeared, and she needed to print them for the event the following day. When I told her that I did not bring my computer with me, she got very upset. I calmly explained that I wasn’t about to turn around to go home to get my computer and that the worst possible outcome would be that we would need to email people their profiles after the event.

Jenna lost her cool and said that wasn’t good enough – the profiles were an important part of the event. Still, after a few minutes, she calmed and came up with a possible solution to call my husband and walk him through the steps to find the files on my computer so he could email them to us.

After our brief and upsetting conversation, I thought about the interaction: I certainly could relate to the frustration when technology turns on you, and I knew that Jenna was under a lot of pressure to finalize the event logistics. I told myself not to take her attack personally…but it still hurt and didn’t portend great things for a weekend that was supposed to be filled with mother-daughter love.

When I arrived at Jen’s apartment, the first thing she did was apologize for being harsh on the phone (that’s one of the things I love about her!) and happily reported that she found the file that was lost.

Frustration and impatience can lead to misplaced anger: We (including me) need to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, especially with the ones we love.

Jenna…

Well, my mom took the words right out of my mouth! Reflecting back on our month, the incident right before the mother-daughter weekend immediately came to my mind. It was definitely a moment where I was under a lot of stress and my impatience got the best of me.

At the beginning of the month, I knew I would be really stressed this month and tried to adopt some habits to hedge myself against these bursts of impatience. I tried the rubber band technique, which worked much better than I thought: looking down at the green band around my wrist served as a great reminder to stay calm and present throughout my busy schedule. At the same time, I did a good job at sticking to my daily mediation practice, which always helps me start the day off more balanced and centered.

Nonetheless, I still didn’t stay calm under pressure and patient with those around me in those crucial moments. How could I have prevented this?

Overall, I think I’m pretty thoughtful at trying to prepare myself to stay calm before a situation I know will test my patience. At the same time, I’m able to immediately recognize an incident when I’ve let my stress take over in a trying moment. So, this has got me thinking: why is it so hard to stop and change our behavior in the moment? How can I find patience at the exact point in time where I need it the most?

I don’t think I’ve yet found the answer – so any suggestions or ideas would be very helpful!

Either way, I’m lucky that my mom is so forgiving in these moments and I’m glad I’ve learned to let my ego go and become more apologetic. Working on character traits is a process, but at least I am learning to recognize my weaknesses and awareness is the first step to improvement!

If you’re interested in reading our posts on other character traits, here are some blogs on Spirituality Compassion Listening Self-Confidence Mindfulness Health Creativity  Optimism and Generosity.