Getty Images
December 29, 2014 2:30 PM EST

Answer by Ruth E. Smith on Quora.

Play the Prefer Game.

Impatience is often a demand that things be different from what they are. These are said to oneself, almost without realizing it. They’ve become a habit.

That person is too slow, they should hurry up. I must get to work NOW. He/she shouldn’t say that to me! This package shouldn’t be so tough to open. Cooking supper shouldn’t take long.

Note how each of those has the demand should or must attached to it. These words have a tendency to increase tension.

I don’t know what pushes your impatience buttons, but if you substitute the words would prefer or rather for should, ought, and must, you will be amazed at how you relax over such things.

I would prefer that person hurry up. I would prefer to get to work sooner. I would rather he/she didn’t say that to me. I would prefer that this package be easier to open. I would prefer spending less time cooking supper. These words take the emotional levels down a few notches.

If you are an angry impatient driver, like many around you in the traffic jams, then you get to join the tension and frustration. Then you get home/work in a bad mood because you’re stressed out.

If you play the Prefer Game, though, you begin to relax. That guy ran the red? You would prefer that he didn’t run the red, but there it is. Okay, next problem. You would prefer that the traffic not be piled up so you can get home. But there it is. You can choose to rail at the situation, or relax and enjoy your time.

I discovered myself, many years ago, that when I relaxed and enjoyed the required time in the commute, I got home at the same time. Only now I was in a good mood, unwound from work, and able to enjoy the short time I had at the end of the day with my family.

When I stopped fussing over the way things should be and just dealt with the way they are, I was a much happier person. And more stuff got done — I was able to come up with ways to make home cooking easier. My commute to work was downright enjoyable — music and audio books that I had no time for otherwise — and I began to find the traffic almost entertaining. Those poor benighted souls fuming away when they could be happy.

My aunt, who is very difficult to get along with, became easy to handle. It was as though all my buttons she would push were disconnected. My relationship with my husband and family improved — amazing what will happen when you relax.

I hope you manage to find more peace (and patience) in your life — it’s worth the effort.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do I improve my patience?

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at

Read More From TIME
You May Also Like