The Lessons to be Learned by Waiting

Written by: Christopher Sell

Primary Source: The Wednesday Wake Up

waiting

In a world saturated with social media and unlimited interruptions, many of us struggle to focus on what’s in front of us. I know I do. With so many voices vying for attention, it’s hard to know what’s worth our time.

We end up tuning it all out, the good with the bad.

The surprising solution to our distraction confronts us every day. At the shopping mall. In long lines of traffic. Even sitting in the lobby of the doctor’s office.

Every time we wait is an opportunity to slow down and be present in an increasingly noisy world, to listen to the voices we sometimes lose in the static. And as we embrace the wait, we learn to appreciate the delays and postponements that teach us some things in life are worth waiting for.

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Life was meant to be more than the daily humdrum. It was supposed to be enjoyable, full of purpose, not just stress and worry. So where has all our satisfaction gone? Where is the pleasure, the joy?

We search for it on road trips and weekend getaways, dreaming of the life we’ve always wanted.

We seek out meaning in our jobs and other success pursuits. We even reserve feelings of joy and satisfaction for major events like marriage and parenthood. But often we’re disappointed with what we find. (Note: this is not to suggest that my wedding or daughter’s birth weren’t incredibly happy occasions for me — they were).

Sure, we may be happy, but we are far from complete. Even the best job, the best spouse, and the best vacation have their flaws. What we were hoping for, what we dreamed would be a larger-than-life experience, ends up looking a lot like morning breath and spreadsheets.

I mean, who likes morning breath, anyways?

We continually subscribe to the flawed notion that the grass will be greener on the other side of the pasture, when in reality — in many cases — the grass over yonder is actually spotty, brown, and loitered with those wretched patches of moss and clover that won’t go away.

We are constantly looking for the next promotion, the next house, the next city. We become so preoccupied with what’s next, we miss out on the opportunity to take pleasure in the now.

So we keep searching, and we wonder why it’s becoming harder to sit still and just be. All the while, what we’re searching for sits in front of us, hidden in normal, everyday inconveniences.

If we reserve our joy only for the experiences of a lifetime, we may miss the life in the experience.

Such experiences are everywhere, waiting for us to see them. But first we must learn to open our eyes and recognize the gift of waiting.

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Eventually, all waiting must end. And when it does, we are left with what we did with the time in between the beginning and the end.

Watching a tree grow will likely drive you crazy. It’s a boring process if you stand there, impatiently tapping your foot, waiting for it to do something. But if you step away and come back later, you’ll be surprised to see something beautiful emerge.

The fact is the plant is doing something; it’s growing. Just not as quickly as you might like.

Our culture has conditioned us to expect instant results and overnight success. But life doesn’t always work that way.

Our cultural impatience runs so rampant that we dress it up in terms like “productivity” and “efficiency.” But what’s really happening is we are conditioning ourselves to get what we want now, all the time. Such a mindset robs us of the lessons waiting can teach us, causing us to miss out on the slow but important stuff of life.

Most growth happens this way: slowly over time. You don’t even notice it. In fact, sometimes the circumstances feel more like inconveniences than opportunities, but then one day you wake up, amazed at how far you’ve come.

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When it comes to waiting — for anything, really — we have a choice:

We can try to bypass the delays to get immediate gratification, or we can embrace the “long game” of life and invest those days, months, and years in the slow but intentional growth that leads to lasting change.

What would you rather do? Keep constantly searching for the next thrill or achievement to “complete” you? Or find a way to tolerate — dare I say enjoy — where you are right now.

If you struggle to focus, like I do, but want more out of life, try the following:

  • Make a gratitude list. Write down three things you’re grateful for today. Try repeating the process next week (ask Rachel Wood about this — she’s fantastic at documenting her gratitude on a weekly basis).
  • Stop the comparisons. Instead of comparing yourself to someone you admire (or envy), consciously choose to celebrate their success. Lose yourself in recognizing others’ accomplishments — you might learn to take pleasure in the present.
  • Shut out the distractions. The next time you’re tempted to “check in” on social media, to lose focus on what’s right in front of you, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that this moment won’t last forever and you should make the most of it.

Learning the virtue of patience can teach us quite a few lessons. And most importantly, it may enable us to see all of the magic in the mundane.

That’s something worth waiting for.

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My name is Christopher Sell and I'm an educator in higher education. At my core, I'm passionate about creating synergy and connecting people to opportunity. I place tremendous focus on collaboration, strategic planning, forward-thinking, and teamwork in any professional environment. As an alumnus of Western Michigan University (WMU) and Michigan State University (MSU), I'm equally committed to leveraging relationships with industry and students/graduates to retain & attract talent in the state of Michigan and contribute to the economic revitalization of the "Mitten State" that I love so much. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Pure Michigan campaign.

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