Benjamin Spall

Why Impatience is a Virtue

Have you ever been told that patience is a virtue, that “Good things come to those who wait,” or that you need to slow down if you are going to get anywhere in life?

Impatience has been sold to us as a negative force; something that needs to be overcome. In reality, I have found that impatience is a virtue.

This isn’t true in all situations, of course. Being impatient as a senior citizen unloads her groceries in front of you in line at the supermarket isn’t helpful, neither is yawning and complaining while waiting for your child to appear on stage at their school play, then leaving the moment they’re off stage. But these negative effects of impatience are quickly overshadowed by the positive effects of this passionate way of living—and the idea of overcoming impatience quickly falls away when you realize just how much good an impatient mindset can bring you.

Keep reading to find out why impatience is a virtue, and why you should consider bringing a little more impatience into your life.

What is Impatience?

Impatience is a form of haste whereby you are unable to sit tight and wait your turn; instead favoring a more active approach. While impatience is often seen as a negative character trait, people who are considered driven, gritty, or otherwise motivated to achieve their goals often share an impatient streak.

In this article, I am going to focus on this latter meaning of the word; impatience as a form of persistence in the pursuit of greater human achievement.

What Causes Impatience

Impatience can be caused by a number of factors.

In the case of a desire for increased self-improvement, impatience is caused by an inborn need to not simply wait around for life to happen to you, but to, in the words of Maya Angelou, go out and grab the world by the lapels.

When you’re impatient, you reject the notion that patience is a virtue, as without impatience you feel that you will never get anything done—at least at the pace that you expect of yourself.

Reframing Impatience as a Positive Character Trait

I believe that this form of impatience is a positive character trait, a trait that should be encouraged in all of our kids and young adults as they begin to make their way in this world. Instead of looking into how to deal with impatience, whether our own or that of a young child or someone we care about, we should be looking into how to nurture this trait so it can be used for good.

Here are three ways in which you can reframe impatience as a positive character trait:

Impatient People Are Motivated

In my article about dedication I wrote about how reverse-engineering the steps to achieving your goals is the most effective way to prioritize the steps you need to take to achieve anything. As I noted at the time, “When you reverse-engineer the steps to achieving your goals, you feel like you’ve finally been put in the driving seat.”

Impatient people are motivated people, and motivated people (with few exceptions) know how to prioritize. Think of your impatience as you being ready and raring to go in one area or another, whether this refers to starting a new business, beginning a new workout plan, or even something a little more personal, like starting a family. You want to begin this journey now, so you’re prioritizing it above all else.

Impatient People Take Action

Being motivated is all well and good, but not much can come out of motivation unless you actually take the actions that you have ascribed for yourself. 

Patient people can slip into laziness, whereas impatient people take their energy and motivation to be where they want to be and give it everything they’ve got, day in and day out. They plan their route, they know where they’re going, and they do all of this in the name of getting to where they know they deserve to be.

Impatient People Are Persistent

Impatience, in the meaning of the word that I am focusing on in this article, is another word for persistence. As I noted at the beginning of this article, the saying “Good things come to those who wait,” couldn’t feel more alien to impatient people, as to them persistence is the key to getting what they want out of life.

Impatience is a virtue in that impatient people persist in the sign of obstacles and other setbacks. For better and worse all they care about is results, and they make it their mission to persist in the pursuit of their goals. While persistence is an admirable character trait, it can be taken to extremes; recognizing the point when persistence turns into annoyance is key to staying on the right side of this line.

Instead of spending your time figuring out how to deal with impatience, recognize that impatience is a virtue, and that reframing impatience as a positive character trait will help us get to where we want to be in life.

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Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio/Penguin). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.

How to Reference this Article

Spall, B. (2020, January 8). Why Impatience is a Virtue. Retrieved from