I was reading a mystery recently in which an impatient character chided her partner for not getting out and doing something to solve a murder. Her partner coolly replied, “I am doing something. I’m waiting.” A valuable perspective, especially for all of you who can’t sit still and insist on charging into the future—or eating because there’s nothing to do.
The point is that waiting is doing something. Waiting is what comes before one action and after another, a doing sandwiched between two actions that move you forward, one in the past and one in the future. Sometimes you can’t know what the second action will be because you must wait for a reaction to your first action. Waiting is as important as taking action, but most of us do it poorly. It’s difficult because it makes us feel passive and at the whim of fate, because it churns up our helplessness and powerlessness. Standing still can make us feel paralyzed, dead in the water, inert, so we tell ourselves we can’t stand not doing something, that we must take action, and end up even more anxious to get a move on it.
Waiting is an art, a skill. Your ability to tolerate it depends in part on how you were taught to view waiting—as a natural part of life, a breather, an assessment period of previous action, a time to ponder what’s next, or as an impediment to achievement and an unnatural part of reaching your goals. How did your parents view waiting? What lessons did you learn about it growing up? What are your beliefs about it now?
My guess is that your beliefs frame waiting negatively, as if it’s something to be gotten through and done with. If you held more constructive beliefs, think of how time spent between actions might be for you. You’d be a great deal less anxious and calmer. You’d be more in the moment and present to your world. So try on these beliefs: Waiting is a natural part of life; I am patient and in the moment; I value waiting as much as taking action; Waiting is a form of doing as much as pushing ahead.
Perhaps the major problem with having to wait is wanting to make things turn out all right ASAP. It’s not the waiting that’s the killer but the not knowing. In order to tolerate waiting, you’ll have to make ignorance and uncertainty acceptable and believe that whatever happens, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to make the future okay: you have to have faith and confidence that you will be okay when you get there. Consider your views of waiting and reframe them whenever you feel trapped between actions. Sooner or later you’ll have learned a new and valuable skill.