“Waiting is for losers. Bad things come to those who wait. Good things come to those who don’t take no for an answer. Stop waiting for something to happen, and start hustling for it instead.”
These are just a few of the sentiments that Google threw my way when I began researching for this week’s podcast. I’ll be honest, I found it kind of terrifying. It would appear that we have a dreadful relationship with waiting.
We have a chronic wait problem. And in this episode I talk about why this is an issue, and what we can do about it.
“We’ve got to do something!”
This is the plea of anxiety. When the mind needs to act but it doesn’t know what to do. There is no rational grounding at work. It just needs to keep busy and feel like it’s at least doing SOMETHING, even if that something is completely ineffective, or worse, more destructive.
If you’ve ever been on an aeroplane then you’ve seen this kind of anxiety at work. When everyone jumps up at the end of the flight and grabs hold of their case from the overhead locker. Despite the fact that they are not going anywhere, they’re not going to get out faster than anyone else, and they’re actually going to have to stand in an uncomfortable position for longer than necessary. Blind anxiety takes over. We feel we’ve got to do something, because we hate waiting.
Waiting and Meditation
If you meditate then you’ll have experience of waiting. In fact, meditation IS waiting. People think they’re waiting for something to happen when they meditate. But the waiting IS the thing they’re waiting for. The thing that is going to happen is the thing that is happening. Stillness. Silence. Solitude. And the impact of learning how to wait well, permeates the whole of our lives. Meditation is training for how to wait well.
Highly Sensitive People and Waiting
For HSPs, waiting can be our superfood. But if we don’t know how to consume and digest it, it can also become kryptonite. It can create anxiety, overthinking, second-guessing, and overstimulation from all the feelings that bubble up when we’re unsure of what is expected of us next.
Learning how to wait properly and well is vital for our self-nurturing.
When Are We Required to Wait?
1. When we are not in control
We need someone to make a decision. We’re waiting for results to come back from the lab. For pay day. For a tree to grow. Or for someone to get home.
2. When we are in transit
Travel is waiting. Both in a physical and metaphorical sense. When we are awaiting arrival, travelling from one place to another. Gaining a qualification, getting fit, or visiting Australia. Movement between places and moments is characterised by waiting.
3. When we desire something we don’t have
We talk about waiting for love, happiness, peace, or wholeness. And this gets attached to finding the right person, discovering our passion, or having an experience that we believe will unlock the door to whatever it is we think we’re waiting for.
4. When we anticipate
Ever said something like, “I can’t wait to go on vacation”? Or “I can’t wait for Christmas“?
We get excited or afraid about things in the future. But time doesn’t care that we want to be there now. It might be something you’re dreading, which you “just can’t wait for it to be over and done with.”
What happens when we refuse to wait? When we spend life looking for ways to avoid waiting?
We Get Bored
We become irritable, frustrated, and uncreative. Looking for things outside of our control to solve our discomfort with the in-between. Searching for a constant stream of entertainment and distractions. We may end up running a red light, stepping out in front of traffic, or prematurely ruining something that promises to be amazing.
We Act Irrationally
Subscribing to the notion of endless hustle, where we believe doing ‘something’ is better than waiting. So we run to the Eurostar, while the plane we’re booked on flies over our head (listen to the show for the rest of that story).
We Seek Quick Fixes
We want to get to where we’re going, and we don’t care how we do it. Choosing options that compromise our integrity, and make choices that are not sustainable in the long run.
We Miss The Beauty That Comes From Waiting
When we see waiting as the enemy, we miss out on life. Because it is in the waiting, the in between moments, the pauses, that life truly happens.
“To be bored is an insult to one’s self.” – Jules Renard
Boredom is good for us. It teaches us how to cope with waiting, it provides space for creativity, and it builds our capacity to grow. When we’re bad at being bored, we blame other people and things for being boring. We feel frustrated that nothing is keeping us busy, entertained, or occupied.
Gustavo Razzetti has written a really interesting article called, Why Boredom is so Powerful in Life. I unpack it in the episode.
Nietzsche referred to boredom as the “unpleasant calm that precedes creative acts.”
In this sense creative acts are anything that changes the old records that play in our minds. Creative acts are our new thoughts and responses that replace the ones that no longer give us value or satisfaction. Boredom stems from the dissatisfying thoughts we have about life. Creative acts are either new ways of thinking, or they are new ways of doing, seeing, hearing, and engaging with the world.
No More Distractions
We overcome boredom, not by finding things to distract us from those thoughts, but by actively learning how to deal with boredom within ourselves. By learning how to wait, and how to engage the in between moments of life, without needing to fill them with external stimuli or comfort.
As Dr. Sandi Mann, the author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom is Good, explains: “The more entertained we are, the more entertainment we need to feel satisfied. The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.”
It’s time to start fighting our chronic wait problem. By doing so we can become more creative. Less dependent on things to entertain us and keep us distracted. We become more self-aware, self-accepting, and comfortable in our own skin (and heads). Waiting breeds patience, focus, and energy. It makes us more observant and intentional about what we choose to do and why.
These are the moments that truly matter. Right now. As you wait for the next thing, reading these words. Find joy in the mundane, ordinary, normal moments, and you will discover meaning in little tasks, every day chores that you ‘don’t have time for’. When we learn to wait well, these are in fact the things that matter more than anything else.
When waiting becomes the thing, we can see the beauty and value in the in between. And it is the in-between where true life happens. The unseen growth, the change of seasons, and the flourishing from a bud into a flower.
Just you wait…