Whether it is enduring the process of untangling yarn, cancelling all your credit cards after losing your wallet, or waiting for months to hear back from a college admissions’ office, patience makes the experience more meaningful and less unbearable. As a quality that is considered morally good and desirable in a person, no wonder patience is a virtue as it offers a much-needed chance to maintain or regain our strength while seeing where we are and what we are made of.
On this episode, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University and Editor for Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Dr. Sarah Schnitker, discusses her research in the area of patience, why it is a virtue, and reasons why it’s a tough but worthy skill to master. Strong Executive Function skills help set goals, follow through and accomplish them over time, and learning to become more patient could be an excellent investment in such skill building.
About Dr. Sarah Schnitker
Dr. Sarah Schnitker is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University. She holds a PhD and an MA in Personality and Social Psychology from the University of California, Davis, and a BA in Psychology from Grove City College. Schnitker studies virtue and character development in adolescents and emerging adults, with a focus on the role of spirituality and religion in virtue formation. She specializes in the study of patience, self-control, gratitude, generosity, and thrift. Schnitker has procured more than $7 million in funding as a principal investigator on multiple research grants, and she has published in a variety of scientific journals and edited volumes. Schnitker is an Associate Editor for Psychology of Religion and Spirituality and an Editorial Board member for Journal of Research in Personality. She is a dedicated mentor, having served as dissertation advisor for more than 20 doctoral students, whom she helps to cultivate intellectual virtues alongside scientific competencies. She is the recipient of the Virginia Sexton American Psychological Association’s Division 36 Mentoring Award and Student International Positive Psychology Association Mentor Award.
About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.
Sucheta Kamath: Welcome back to Full PreFrontal exposing the mysteries of executive function. As you know, this podcast is fueled with many motivating and very important goals, which is to educate the listeners about executive function, its relevance to everyday life. Also to kind of think about, how do we take charge of our own selves? And how do we guide ourselves so that our current self is helping the future self. And one such quality that comes to mind is patience. And often when you ask people, are you a patient person? Probably 90% of us will say, No, I'm not, right? And so, we are going to dive deep today into that topic. You know, in the modern world of technological advancement, the waiting game is exclusively reserved for the losers, or sometimes it feels like that. So demonstrating patience is a sign of somehow resignation or impatient existence is expected, and some sometimes even revered. Recently, I saw Jaden Smith's ad for the newest New Balance shoes. And he says, When you know what you want, waiting isn't an option. So having this clear notion that you you know, you should be goal driven, you should not wait. And you should if you're waiting, there's something wrong with you, is something that the culture is propagating. And we somehow buy into it, particularly as those who are helping children, if they seem to take their own sweet time demonstrate no urgency, or in fact, have no focus. We unconsciously as an observer, as a parent, or a teacher, or an educator may have this urge to start something different and new so that our time is not wasted, right? Slow. So why why do we feel so impatient and is impatient and patience as science worthy of studying? Well, I will tell you, yes, it's a science worthy of attention of our guests today. So it's a great pleasure and honor to invite Dr. Sarah, Schnitker. She is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University. She holds a PhD, and an MA in Personality and Social Psychology from University of California Davis, and she has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Grove City College, she studies virtue and character development in adolescents and emerging adults, with a focus on role of spirituality and religion in virtue formation. I just love that, you know, there is a way to combine, particularly to interest of mine and to find science behind it. She specializes in study of patience, self control, gratitude, generosity, and thrift. So with a great joy, welcome to the podcast. Sarah, how are you?
Sarah Schnitker: Thank you so much for having me.
Sucheta Kamath: Well, I asked this question of my guests. Since we talk about executive function before you we jump into your work. Can you talk a little bit about your own executive function skills, and particularly patience when you were a child?
Sarah Schnitker: Yes. So I, as probably quite a few faculty are I in some ways excell in executive functions. So imagine that I especially those more active forms of self-control, delay of gratification, persistence, sticking with a task, pushing ahead, getting it done. As a child, that was always a really strong strength for me. I would say though, my patience like many people, this culture was less of a strength. I did not like to wait and really wanted to get it done and get it done now. And, you know, I think my most interesting part of my personal story is actually in my early 20s. That is when I really learned the value of patience. So I had some I have some chronic health issues, something called cyclic vomiting syndrome, which is as horrible as it sounds.
Sucheta Kamath: Really? I'm so sorry.
Sarah Schnitker: Yeah, it's pretty rare, emerged when I was in graduate school in my early 20s. And it taught me that patience is a virtue that really matters alongside those more active assertive forms of executive function. So really the value of learning to wait, learning to rest, to not push forward to really listening to your own body and being okay with delays. It was really taxing time for me because I'm trying to get graduate work done. But also then getting really ill and having to figure out do I push, but if I push, I'm gonna make myself sicker tomorrow, or do I wait, work a little less today and then be able to sustain my productivity and my long term goal pursuit. So it is something my health issues have forced me to actually practice. And this is it, it's hard when you study something scientifically, and then you're forced to actually try to do it yourself. You're like God did I jinx myself. But I think that is such an important lesson to learn. And I'm really grateful in many ways that I got to learn that a little bit earlier in life, I think a lot of people don't learn it till kind of much later when they're aging. And they start to see their body not do what they want it to do, or even during our pandemic, as people have long COVID, and are just having more and more kind of health issues that you can't just fix with a quick antibiotic treatment or something of that sort. So that is very much part of my story with patience as a part of executive function is learning my own limitations. And embracing them.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, so interesting. First of all, I'm grateful that you're, you're better and have learned to manage it, because sounds like something, you will have to continue to manage all your life. So this is an interesting thing about patience. And I would love for you to maybe first define for us, but I feel that patience is a virtue, however, culturally, it gets kind of a bad rap, it almost like is equated to waiting. But what I understood from your work is, it's a lot more than waiting. Yeah. And I do want maybe you can make a cultural commentary. Why do we look down upon patience and not revere it as our ancient wisdom says we should?
Sarah Schnitker: Well, you know, I think David Bailey Harnett actually argues this that since the Industrial Revolution, and I would say it's gotten even worse, since the information revolution and our technological revolution, we have come as a culture to believe that any type of suffering or waiting means we failed. Our technology has failed us. And just through better technology, and technological innovation, we can overcome all suffering or waiting. Which I, and there are some people who actually believe that will ultimately happen, the kind of the transhumanists actually don't believe right, they're out there, they actually believe we will get rid of all suffering and waiting. Yes, but I think that's actually, there's not that many people that ascribe to that. And I think most humans, when they really sit back and think about it, the things that are most important in life, like deep relationships, spirituality, these things take time to develop. And that is actually part of our core human nature, is to learn to suffer well, and most religious systems. Spiritualities, have this as a component. Like Buddhism, life is suffering is one of the major tenants and you also see this in the monotheistic traditions of suffering is something you do that other prophets have done before. And I think all of our in our consumeristic society also pushes us towards this, that you have a problem, there's a solution you can purchase. Instead of realizing sometimes when you have a problem, or suffering are waiting, it really is a matter of you who asked to change. And that there's actual dignity and growth that can happen through these hard experiences. And I think, I mean, our medical system acts this way as well, right? We look for technological innovations, for health and kind of forget about the whole person and the way we practice medicine and all kinds of things. So yes, it's very, very interesting, how easy it is to buy into that philosophy that we failed. If we have to suffer or wait or be frustrated? That's just not the case.
Sucheta Kamath: Unbelievable. So I think it actually, it just now reminds me that. Yeah, being fast, being productive, and being fast, being not just busy, but being really something at creating something substantial or achieving goals, by setting them out and working towards them is the narrative that we are really all about. So our productivity is literally measured, measured through actions and results, not patience as an actions. Yes. And because patience almost implies inaction. Yes. Right. Yeah. Can you define it? What is patience?
Sarah Schnitker: Yeah, so patience, is the ability to be calm in the face of frustration, adversity or suffering. And when I talk about patience as a virtue, I say it's doing that for good reasons for moral ends. So it is seen that there is something worthwhile in the world. And as you are delayed in pursuing whatever this good thing is. You don't get inordinatly saddened or depressed or angry or irritable, as you as it takes time to get where you want to be. So and we find with patience in our psychological research, that for participants, I mean, sometimes it is really about waiting in line, or waiting in traffic, right. But that seems to be one particular type of patience, which we call daily hassles, patience. And that kind of patience, I mean, does predict wellbeing outcomes, probably matters for your kind of physiological reactivity and your health. But as far as kind of other well being outcomes, it's actually not as important as some of the other parts of patience. So we also see that there is a domain of patience we call interpersonal patience. And this is really important for relationship outcomes, and for loneliness, and how we are supported by others. So can I be patient with my spouse? As for the 100th time, he does the thing that drives me nuts, right?
Sucheta Kamath: I have a big, big smile on my face. Because I recently saw a cartoon in in The New Yorker, where there was like, you know, all the fireworks are going out at the dinner table when everybody's celebrating and saying, Hey, you have finally said the joke 100 times, the same joke. So I can see totally having, particularly with your spouse, and listening to that story, once again, as if it is brand new, and engaging in this pretend smile, because you know, other people haven't and you want to be respectful. But that requires a lot of patience, right? Interpersonal patience.
Sarah Schnitker: That's interpersonal patience, then I name another example, any parents know that interpersonal patience is required to parent while children are, are their own human beings, even though we sometimes want them just to do what we want to realize this as a human who, especially young children is learning how to regulate their own emotions and doesn't necessarily have the language or other types of capacities that an adult has. And so how to interact. And actually nurture good development and another human that requires an incredible amount of patience when you're dealing with a temper tantrum or same fight with your kid every day. If they're an adolescent, it's interpersonal patience is so essential, and it gives you that space doesn't mean you're never upset. But it gives you that space to respond, and to actually be cognizant of how you're going to engage.
Sucheta Kamath: So is oh, sorry, go ahead.
Sarah Schnitker: I was just gonna say, I was just gonna say the third type of patience is the life hardships patience. And this is kind of the patience I was describing in my personal journey earlier, have a long term chronic illness that you will always have to deal with that might never resolve in this lifetime. Dealing with systemic racism across your entire lifespan. and knowing, hopefully, we'll make progress, but it likely will not be fixed in this generation. So that kind of patience to is the kind alongside interpersonal patience that's really predictive of the psychological well being outcomes, and will take that long view knowing that you are going to have to continue in the suffering.
Sucheta Kamath: So it's very, so you know, it's so interesting, as you were mentioning, all three types of patience, and I definitely see, I guess the greatest rub is, I'm much better with daily hassles. And long term, it's the interpersonal gets to me. And, you know, reminds me of this beautiful poem that once I read, it's called, and God said, No, I don't know if you've heard this. You, right? It says, I asked God to take away my pride. And God said, No, he said, I was not. It was not for him to take away. But for me to give up. I asked God to grant me patience. And God said, No, he said, the patience is a byproduct of tribulation isn't granted, it's earned. And I just love that because I think I almost feel each conflict conflict ridden situation where I exercise patience will guarantee that patience will continue throughout my life and it doesn't. So is patience a process? Or is it a product? Is that even a good way to think about it?
Sarah Schnitker: I think you could think about it both ways. I tend to talk about patience development, and my work, right. So you could think of it as a product like virtue, there's a product, there's an ideal form, but honestly, I don't think anyone's going to achieve that. Yes, we're humans, and an even saints like, no, they weren't patient. They're like. And so I think I like to think of the process of becoming more patient, or becoming less page. So I like to think of each person on a trajectory across their lifespan, and even moment to moment, are they cultivating and setting up their life in a way that can enhance their patience and help them to grow? Or are they in a environment, the context they've created, that actually is undermining their patience and decreasing their ability to practice this core strength of being a human? And so right, I tend to think about the process and kind of liabilities for patience and assets for patience development. I love that in our contextual, our social environments, in our physical environments. You know, sometimes it's a matter of moving around things. So like, like, for example, I think a lot of us use our good old phones, right? Mine's right next to me. As Yep, exactly like we've got right here. I think I forget what the number was, the number of people who sleep with their phones in their bed is like, way higher than you would hope. But sometimes phones can be great because they can help us pass time when we're waiting. But it also might be a crutch, that you don't learn to just be calm and still and sit with the waiting. And so like sometimes for myself, I'll be in a line or you know what, I'm not going to get the phone out and look at the internet or check social media. I'm just gonna sit and breathe for this moment and kind of practice this waiting. And I think right there's ways you can think about your, how you engage the world that can help you cultivate patience or undermine it.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, I think the the real important thing you pointed out for me through the work that I kind of started reading rather reading your work is, is one patient is a absolutely worthy virtue to engage in absolutely worthy rather than because I used to think so much about productivity and and really efficiency and efficiency. Pursuit of efficiency definitely made me more impatient, because it's almost like a barrier to become efficient, right. So showing patience is almost like not committing fully to goal attainment. Right. So can you talk a little bit about you have a great way to one measure it in a in a experimental setting? Yeah, but also, it is such a good insight for people to cultivate. Yeah, that patience also can be is parallel goal to pursue. Yeah, not just the goal that you're pursuing. Right.
Sarah Schnitker: So, and this is something that kind of in my early work on patience, I knew we had to address pretty quickly that there's these myths about patience. So I think so many people think patience is passivity, that yes, it's just given up. Being lackadaisical, lazy. And it's interesting, a lot of my reading, when I first started to look at patience was in philosophy, or theology or these other disciplines, because we weren't looking at it very much in psychology at the time. What I quickly realized is that in philosophy and theology, if you go back to kind of some of the older guys who pay back when they actually so like Aristotle, has this idea of the golden mean, in virtue development, that for virtues like patience, you can have a vise of excess and deficiency. So we typically think about the deficiency of patience. So not enough of it, and you're impatient, you're reckless, and you're pushing forward and overly emotional like, right, we all know that feel, yeah. But especially kind of the Desert Fathers in the Christian tradition really talked about. There's also too much patience. And that is a vise that is not a virtue. So I use it like a sloth. Yes, and is so and the word they would use is Acedia or Kedia, which is translated as law. But it's more than like just laziness. It's also really disengagement, that you are so apathy, apathy, right? You're really you. And really, what happens is, the goal becomes so hard that you just give up, right? And we've seen that, right, someone who it's resignation, that you know, what, parenting, this child through temper tantrums is too hard. I'm just gonna let them do whatever they whatever they want, and not try to actually help them grow well, and develop their own emotional and self regulation. Right? It Yes. Right. So patience is really at that golden middle, where you don't become overly emotional disregulated. And you don't start to like lash out, but you also don't disengage that you can sit with that discomfort. And that not quite there yet, but still trying and just kind of embrace that we're in the middle, and we're not going to be done. We are we might suffer for a little while, I might continue to put up with the frustration. And so as I read about this idea, I said, okay, so scientifically, then when we look at patience, right, it shouldn't, it should be distinct from assertiveness, and it shouldn't be associated with passivity. And that's indeed what we found in our early work, that the measure of patience we created, it actually was independent from assertiveness. So just because you're a patient, doesn't mean you don't actually go and ask the person to do the right thing, or actually stand up for justice or set boundaries with other people. Right, so we would not call someone who is allowing them their abusive boss at work to continue to treat them poorly. If they're patient, they would be able to be calm during this, then maybe go talk to HR. So it is not separate from taking assertive action, but it is having kind of that equanimity and that presence of self to decide what to do instead of being emotionally driven, to do something that you might regret, or to just disengage and allow that abuse to be heaped on you.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, it reminded reminds me of this development of emotional agility that there is that period where things are uncertain, because you have to be patient for HR to do its filing of papers. Yeah, and your power boss continues to be obnoxious. Well, you have to tolerate that. Yeah. But you also don't want the boss to know you're complaining. So it is an incredible tense conditions in which you have to exert Do your patience. But apathy or disengagement will be, you know, this job doesn't matter anyways, why bother? Or aggression would be to say and walk out on the job, which you very much need. Yeah, so sounds like the incredible emotional maturation process.
Sarah Schnitker: Yes, exactly. And really, emotion regulation is such a key skill. That I argue is one of the key things to develop to have patience, there's others as well. But that agility, the ability just to first of all, be aware and identify your emotions. So absolutely, you can't really start to regulate them if you don't even know what they are. And then to be able to practice kind of those different skills to help you regulate as you navigate these types of situations is really important.
Sucheta Kamath: And you know, I'm not I don't want to jump, but you you will talk about how to kind of mitigate this problem with lack of patience. But one thing, I have begun to notice that, for example, when you witness other people's lack of patience, it reminds you so clearly, about how the patience can be valuable to them to relate to you. Yeah. Not necessarily honor them with your own patience. So there are lots of benefits your work kind of shows incredible benefits of patience. Can you walk us through those benefits?
Sarah Schnitker: Yes. So I mean, we find it related to so many things, positive aspects, life satisfaction, hopes, self esteem, regulated behaviors. You were mentioning goal pursuit earlier. And actually one of our studies and actually studies we're conducting right now. We are we actually looked at this idea is like, is patience gonna undermine your goal pursuit. So as a person who's patient on particular goals, are they actually going to fall prey to the flaw the Acedia does not progress and move forward. And we actually found that is not the case. So in one study, we looked at college undergrads across a quarter of their academic semester, and ask them, okay, for this semester, what 10 goals are you working on? And then we ask them all kinds of questions about each of those goals. So how patient? Are you in the pursuit of goal, one goal to go three? How much effort are you exerting? How meaningful is this goal to you? And how much achievement are you experiencing on this goal, and we followed up with them every two weeks. And what we found is that, across time, when people who are more patient, they actually exerted more effort two weeks later, so it really seems an actually had more achievement. And there were these even bi directional relationships. So you're patient, you exert more effort, more effort allows you to be more patient. And so it was really exciting to see this process play out that, contrary to I think some of our gut intuitions, as people in the United States and probably other Western contexts that patience will undermine your effort, and actually facilitated that goal pursuit process. And we're finding this now, as well with our lab. Some studies, my grad student, Juliette Ratchford, is going deeper and creating more robust measures for these kinds of goal pursuit studies. And we even find that patience. How people pursue their goals with patience really is negatively correlated with their more reckless pursuit, and also correlated with less passivity. So we're really seeing the theory play out and how people pursue their goals, which I think is just really helpful for me because right I love to pursue goals and be efficient and to say, no stop, actually, over efficiency is bad. That using patience, even though I think it's good in its own right, but it also actually helps with long term other goals I care about and that my gut intuition is wrong. And pushing ahead too far, is not going to help me.
Sucheta Kamath: You know, as I was listening to you, you know, I grew up in India and part of a history lessons were was, of course, India's effort to gain independence from commonwealth. And Mahatma Gandhi's, you know, Ahimsa movement, the non violence movement was such a symbolic of this this process that you're talking about. And it absolutely was. I mean, of course, every part, you know whether we did literature or history or you know, a community service, this was like a common theme. And it just made so much sense. Culturally, there's a great emphasis on patience. But one thing that stands out as you were talking about this is this idea that it's not inactive, it is full engagement. It is also kind of your incredible emotional even keenness, kind of, I think it creates incredible unrest in other person because they have never exercised it, they have used aggression, to counter you and kind of intimidate you. Or when they see you don't back down, but you're not addressing it, it actually makes you absolutely uncomfortable to look like a horse's ass, because you're just odd and weird to respond to somebody's calmness with aggression. So it kind of promotes introspection in the other person. And, and so I'm wondering, as you're talking about this, the patience that you're demonstrating in the process of goal pursuit, particularly multiple goals that you're pursuing, this almost reminds me of Kristin Netzwerk of self compassion. Yes. Right. Like you're saying, I'm not going to aggress towards on me for not accomplishing all the goals at one time. But at the same time, I'm going to have incredible respect for my myself for the decent ambition I have for myself.
Sarah Schnitker: Exactly. I think that work. I know I personally use that often. But I think, right, that's one of those ingredients of, can I be patient with myself, and you have to have compassion, with kind of these inner firt personal forms the patience, that really helps if you empathize, and we can direct that towards ourselves as well of I'm only a human. Yes, I'm a reasonable expectation that as a human being, I would be able to continue forward without rest humans must sleep. Humans must. Yes, I mean, and that is, I think such an interesting cultural phenomena that we almost want humans to be robots, and to not have human needs. One of my colleagues at Baylor University, Michael Scala, and is a sleep researcher. And it's just great to always have him in the room and be like, sleep is so important for the brain, like, let just pushing sleep constantly, because right, even when you sleep, which seems like you're not doing anything at all, your brain is doing so much. And there's so many functions that happen during that non active time of your day where memory is consolidated, where insight can be gained. And I think it's a more of a respect for these less agentic forms of activity to realize there are other forms of activity that our bodies and our minds do that are not quite as agentic, but are so important and are not passive, just because we aren't kind of pushing them forward.
Sucheta Kamath: Have you studied influence of one's own patience and other people cultivating the same for themselves?
Sarah Schnitker: We have not I would love to do that. I think I think it'd be so fascinating to do kind of like almost a social network analysis. So yes, right. Because we do find this like with other virtues like gratitude, yes, yeah, I can create this upward spiral in a group so I start expressing gratitude to my spouse that builds bonds, they might actually start expressing it back to me and you kind of have this upward spiral I expect hypothesize that we would see that with patience so right spouse is a great example your eyes start to be more patient with my spouse. They will notice that right and it might start to be reciprocated and they will be rest reactive. And it's really interesting. I don't know if your, your your listeners are familiar, like with John Gottman's work. Marriage right and in his work is all about the emotions, and how we regulate our emotions and conflict and do that with our partners.
Sucheta Kamath: Emotional contagion,
Sarah Schnitker: We try, we pick up. So right when each person can have, you can work on cultivating your own patience that can really change the whole dynamic of how we engage with kids to I've seen it with my own child. And especially I think for many parents during the pandemic, yes, with each other all the time. So, right, realize that when I realized my patience is thin, in a particular moment, sometimes it helps to just even name I know with my daughter, like, even when she's three, four, she's five now, like, I will say, like Mommy's having trouble being patient, right? Now, I might need you to help me that I need to step back and just using that language, I think can really help because we have a higher order goal that we're both it's not me versus you, it's we're both trying to be patient with each other. And having this kind of language can be really helpful. For those moments.
Sucheta Kamath: I noticed that, you know, my son called me using FaceTime, and he wanted to learn one Indian recipe. And he was holding the camera, this is literally nothing big, okay, it was not even about the recipe. The way he was holding the camera was half the pan was not in the view. And I could I mean, I saw myself getting so annoyed with the way he was holding the camera. And I completely lost the perspective that here is a young man trying to cook, he called and he wanted to actually learn something, instead of just kind of, you know, offering that support and, and just learning opportunity here I was criticizing the camera holding, which is something very hard when you're cooking. And so I just told him, Can you call me back in two minutes. And then I got up, I washed my face. And I took the face time again. And I said I'm going to try being very patient, and it literally changed. Didn't matter how he held the camera. I just said, when you have a moment, it can you adjust the camera, and and boom, you know, it changed the way we interacted with each other. So I cannot have this conversation without you kind of helping us. So yeah, how can we build our patience? We can? No, no children and adolescents?
Sarah Schnitker: Yeah, we can. That is good news. Absolutely. We can build patience. This is the good news of all this. And maybe we weren't sure when we started, right. We, as a scientist, I want to see, it could be that patience was something some people just have and others don't. But I had an inkling early that I think this is something you can cultivate, because you see throughout history that there are people who have intentional practices in their life. And those seem to be working for them. And somehow they become more patient. So it's a lot of our early work, right? Wanting to see, are there interventions? Are there activities that we can do to build patience. And across our studies, I find I kind of have, they're not easy steps, but kind of three steps I've identified that I use often to think about how to build my patience, and how others can as well. So I call it the identify imagine sake, as the steps. So identify, we mentioned this earlier, just identify as about first realizing what I am feeling. So in your example of the camera being off center to realize I'm frustrated right now. And I'm frustrated because this stupid camera is not centered.
Sucheta Kamath: And it's not showing me the pot.
Sarah Schnitker: Right and once you name that, identify it. That in itself takes you a step back and says what's going on here. And you might even it sounds like you reflected like, this is maybe a little silly that I'm so upset about this. So then what you want to say and then let's now imagine this situation in a different way. So we know what's happening. I'm getting frustrated. And I heard you do this Even in your example of well, I can reappraise the situation, it's really hard to cook and hold the camera. Like, let's think about this from the other person's perspective. So engage in some perspective taking, or imagine kind of what are the benefits of this. So really, we call this in psychology, cognitive reappraisal. And learning to think about the situation in a new way that will help to alleviate the emotional burden of the situation. And there's a lot of research showing this is one of the most effective ways to regulate emotions. But then that third step of thinking, it's thinking with your purpose. This is the step I think a lot of people forget. Yes, and this is something I think you need to do. Even outside of when you're frustrated. So something we need, we need a reason to want to be patient. So we can identify our emotions we can imagine do reappraisal, imagine the situation differently. But why am I even trying? Right? So we need a higher order purpose that provides deep motivation. So with your son, it would be kind of loving him, yeah, I have a purpose as a parent, to cultivate him, help him develop his executive function to make him a contributing human being to society. For some people, their purpose even in volved, spiritual activities to help him know and love God, or be part of the higher order, the universe, right? There's these higher levels of meaning that those can be really diverse for what those are. So some people, it's in traditional faith, and religious traditions. For some people, it's very much personal spirituality, but we all are spiritual people. And maybe it's about environmental, I mean, we all have these really big ultimate concerns in life. And what we find is that we're still testing this, how this works, exactly, we don't have it all figured out with our science. But the theory is that when you're able to activate on a regular basis, these higher order purposes, and then connect them to your daily suffering, and your interpersonal counters and your long term life hardships. This gives you kind of that, oh, that energy to keep sustaining the practice of patience.
Sucheta Kamath: So can I ask you a question about this particular step? It's so important, because I think this cannot be activated until you have some regulation of your emotion. Yeah. Because if you're losing your marbles, you cannot really see a purpose. The purpose is to get angry in school. That person Yeah, right. I mean, I was so hung up on on the camera, blocking the part, which I if I didn't see, I couldn't help him. And I was getting a little righteous that look, here I am to help you, and you can't even help me. You know, I mean, I was getting all all that which is such a tiny example. But is this purpose. I mean, I can see the layers of purpose, you know, like, I can take aerial perspective on my own life, and its meaning I can take a perspective, as a mother who's trying to help young man cook, I could say, I'm a decent human being, who should be helping people because it's their need, or I should be just a nice person and not be such a witch. And first of all situation, right? So which kind of purpose should I be activating? Or is there like a distinction between these passes?
Sarah Schnitker: And I think this is an area where you need to research I think, I think a key point here is when you try to do this, so with patience, I talk about training and not trying. So I think we want when I think about the process of developing patience, I encourage people not to wait until they're upset. Instead, have moments or habits or practices throughout your daily life, where you take time to try these out and do them before you get upset. So for example, a common religious practice or spiritual practice people have is pausing before a meal to either engage in prayer, but it doesn't necessarily have to be it could also just be pausing to be thankful for kind of just in general to the other people. Well, who prepared this to the animals and plants that gave up their lives for this meal for I mean, the people who grew the crop like, so there's like, this is something we do in our family, and it has religious overtones. But it doesn't have to be Yeah. And we actually say, this is a practice, we're going to intentionally include in our lives that when we sit down to eat, we aren't going to start until we've engaged in this practice. And first of all, for a kid, they want to have the food, right, the food is there, can I start, right? But I'm saying Nope. First of all, that's a practice of waiting, and you have to regulate, but also to connect it to the bigger things in this world and to say, we are grateful to God, or to these, this thing that's bigger than ourselves. So I think the defining feature here is it needs to be something beyond the self, we call that transcendent. So not just like needs to be connecting you to something bigger, and that is really potent. So I think, finding ways in intentional practices to do this regularly, where you're reminding yourself, there's something bigger at play that or even like, in a relationship, like with a child, like, I know, for us, it's that bedtime, and the teken of calling out the importance of why we're together and talking to my kid about I'm proud of the way you were patient today. And mommy really loves you for who you are, and like So incorporating these daily practices into life, and even doing that and community. So this is one of the thing I think religion in our study of religion provides well is it provides a lot of structure. So for example, in Islam, there's also seasonal activities. So in Ramadan, when there is this whole, multiple weeks of fasting throughout the day, and then breaking that fast when the sun goes down, and having spiritual special prayers and activities to really think about what does it mean to practice waiting to eat and drink? And we do that together? And how does this connect us to our higher purpose? It's, we have data right now we are analyzing it as we speak, my postdoctoral researcher Merve Balkaya-Ince, in Ramadan, this past year, we actually conducted a experience sampling study with adolescents. So that means two or three times a day we pinged them as they were fasting or breaking their fast and looked at kind of how patient are you right now? And what kind of spiritual practices have you engaged in, in what's going on. So trying to really look at this process, in the moment of how engaging in the spiritual practice of Ramadan, and all the spiritual practices that are part of that, how that changes you and builds your patience and changes your gratitude, and I think there's some real richness provided by various spiritual traditions. To do this well and right, it's doing it ahead. It's not waiting till you're angry with your spouse, it's trying to give yourself the opportunity to build this muscle of patience and doing the workouts so that way when you need that strength, in the moment, when your emotions are high, and you're hot, you want to just scream, you've practiced so you're ready for it.
Sucheta Kamath: Oh, that's so brilliant. You know, I grew up in India and, and my mom lives with me and I've mentioned her many times on my podcast, but she fasts at least two days a week. Yeah. And and it three days sometimes. And I fast a once a week and one one time a week, my husband and I we take no food and we fast together. And yes, those kinds of bonding mechanisms of just having this understanding you're going into this day and you will not be consuming food is a it's such a good understanding. So if you are feeling hungry, you know the solution is you will not eat. And and that kind of having clarity really helps because it's not that you're hungry, and then you start looking for food and you get irritated, which is what most often happens to me when I'm hungry. And then my husband reminds me that you have been You haven't eaten only for four hours, so just chill. But, but as you were thinking about this, a story comes to my mind, you know, my when my son was 10 And he and I went to a Barnes and Noble, because Lemony Snicket you remember him a series of unfortunately. So he was coming to sign his seventh book. That was the, it was all the rage in my house. And we waited, we went there after school at four o'clock in the afternoon and we didn't get his book. He didn't sign the book until 1am. And so this young, you know, my son who was only 10 years old, was so amazingly patient, we didn't get to eat, we just stood in line, there was no food there. We looked through the aisles, and we had amazing books. And fast forward. You know, 10 years later, he, when he was in college, he went to, you know, Columbia, New York City and Saturday Night Live tickets were going to be, you know, they were going to be available. And then he and his friends stood in line in the middle of winter, for 23 hours, and they got the ticket. So I feel like okay, good, you know, patience can actually help you, if you have cultivated it over time, and it can become a lifestyle, it can become something that you learn to wait for good things, and teach yourself to entertain yourself, you know, kind of figure out ways to create a little, you know, a little protective layer on the streets when you're sleeping the night there, you know, so yeah, I think you make such a good point that it like, it should be training, not trying, I really think it's a profound statement. So Sarah, thank you for your amazing insights. Before we end this conversation. You are an inspiration, some curious, what is it that you're reading recently that has inspired you or you recommend that our readers explore it as well?
Sarah Schnitker: Well, so the book that got me into all of this work, is a book by David Bailey Harned called Patience, how we wait upon the world. This is how I got into it. As a grad student, I just started with Bob Emmons at UC Davis, and I was getting ready to go home for Christmas, big break, and he hands me this book says you should read this, this could be interesting. No one's looking at this. And he's a Christian moral philosopher. And just makes this argument of how we have abandoned patience in our society. And he talks particularly about Christian theology and philosophy, but it's broader kind of for a lot of Western culture, and especially the US. So I think that's a really interesting work. Kind of seeing the history of how this was much more important and kind of fell out of favor. Another book I really enjoy, and patience. Well, it's kind of one of the vices that we talked about Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris. Oh, wow. And she really connects kind of the spiritual aspects of this disengagements law of disenchantment with the world and helps us think about how patience can help us stay engaged spiritually, stay engaged in quest for justice, and goodness and love. And it's just a really kind of personal journey she has with some of this kind of struggles with this feeling of on we are acedia. But also some really wonderful reflections spiritually, that I think she writes come from more of a Catholic tradition, but I think really transcend a variety of spiritualities that are just really lovely work.
Sucheta Kamath: Beautiful. Well, I have I ordered the first book that you told after listening to you and your reading about your approach to your work, but I have not read Kathleen Norris's book. So that's going to be on my list. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. And if you loved what you heard, please, please share this episode with your friends, your family, and spread the joy and invite them to cultivate the habit and this virtuous quality of patience. Together. I can only imagine if all of us make this commitment or what a beautiful world we will create for ourselves. So thanks again for joining us today for this wonderful conversation and stay tuned until the next episode. Bye bye