Patience + Self-control = Happiness?

By Olga Zavgorodnya Patience.

We hear the word often from parents, teachers, partners, and friends. We use it freely; but do we really know what patience is–or what is even the point of being patient?

Neel Burton, M.D., a psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and professor in Oxford, England believes that patience may be the key to overall happiness. Dr. Burton states that looking through history, humans have a habit to discount long-term reward and reinforcement.

Many of us have seen the famous “Marshmallow Test”, a study conducted by Walter Mischel and Ebbe B. Ebbesen at Stanford University in the 1960’s (see video link below). The test was conducted with 4-5-year-old children to measure their self-control. The results gleaned amazing insight into human variation and the ability to be patient. Burton discussed follow-up studies carried out over 40 years, finding that “the minority of children who had been able to hold out for a second marshmallow went on to enjoy significantly better life outcomes, including higher test scores, better social skills, and less substance misuse.”

Patience obviously correlates with self-control. Will practicing this skill increase our ability for self-control? Or will practicing self-control increase our ability and tolerability with patience? Honestly, it does not matter whether you begin with the chicken or the egg; either way, one must dedicate hard work.

It should come as no surprise, then, that many of us are unhappy or even depressed. Patience acts as an investment in one’s happiness because you have a plan and goal for success in the future.

How can someone be happy if they are incapable to appreciate the present moment as it is – not what it will or could be? Being able to control one’s immediate wants is key– if one is looking to have a better future.

Immediate gratification or pleasure lasts for a small moment; alternately, patience, self-control, and effort make a moment that is truly memorable and builds a deeper happiness and a pride in one’s accomplishments. A synonym for this is joy—an abiding, deeper, and sustainable happiness. Not just a short burst of indulgence- that for most is usually followed by guilt for not being able to do what you know would have been the smarter option. Do not underestimate the power that patience may have in your life.

A note to parents; your children need you to set a good example for them. Part of your role is training them to practice and appreciate patience. They are watching you: are you being patient and showing examples of self-control or are you setting up your child for a life of immediate gratification and little effort to building a happy and strong future?

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