“Impatience for victory guarantees defeat”  Louis XIV


How often do you find yourself getting frustrated? Perhaps morning commuters get in your way, or perhaps your stomach growls as you sit waiting in a restaurant. Whenever moments like these arise, our ability to exercise patience is tested.

During any educational process, we eagerly anticipate being at a more advanced level such as when learning a new language and wanting to be fluent. Occasionally, these wishes can lead to missed opportunities due to a failure to appreciate the present moment. In hindsight, we may long for the moments where progress came to us more easily! Furthermore, deliberately waiting to start a new activity can help improve our chances of staying committed as our anticipation and motivation increase.

The old adage “good things come to those who wait” is often cited when someone seems particularly impatient, but the situation will dictate whether or not this is the best strategy. Research has shown that humans tend to prefer receiving rewards sooner rather than later. In fact, a famous study conducted in the 1960s by Walter Mischel involved four-year old children being offered one marshmallow immediately or, if they could resist eating it, a second marshmallow 20 minutes later [1]. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of children opted for the instantly available marshmallow. This process, known as ‘temporal discounting’, involves placing a lesser value on a reward received later, even though the reward is greater. Fortunately, we can improve our odds! In a moment of instant versus delayed gratification, visualising positive autobiographical memories can help reduce the appeal of the immediate reward [2].

Moreover, exercising patience in the middle of a heated argument is a hard skill to master, particularly if someone knows which buttons to press! Unfortunately, a common pitfall that occurs involves adopting a competitive mentality whereby “winning” the argument is your aim as opposed to finding a resolution to the original problem. This can lead to rash statements which we later regret saying as opposed to taking a minute to collect our thoughts. The efficacy of this pause can be demonstrated by the extent of regret we feel afterwards with regards to certain statements. Albeit difficult in the moment, it can help minimise our levels of guilt, even if we still end up disagreeing!


“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”  Jean Jacques Rousseau



[1] Marhsmallow Study. Mischel et al., 1960s

[2] Temporal Discounting. Lempert et al., 2017.