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The Art Of Proactive Waiting

When I began mentoring small business entrepreneurs, and those with strong enough personalities to chase down their personal development goals with ferocious determination, a common thread became immediately apparent: these people don't like waiting!

Now in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess to exhibiting these traits myself, once. It's fair to say I fall into the Type A personality category and, in the past, I was not at all equipped to deal with waiting; everything had to be done five minutes ago, yesterday, long before now. My teeth would itch waiting in line at Tesco, for a new movie to be released, or for a longed-for holiday to arrive. I was definitely wishing my life away by not living in, and enjoying, the present moment. This is one of the paths towards anxiety and depression, and I was on a fast track. It was at this point I caught myself on and gave myself a good talking to. I had to change the way I was thinking, so I could change my reality. If I kept doing what I had always done, I was always going to get what I had always gotten: frustration and irritability.


I began by looking for the value in those times of waiting (be they moments, days, weeks, months or years), and how they might offer me an opportunity, if only I looked resolutely enough. Rather than experiencing waiting as a negative delay, I made a determined effort to dismiss those thoughts and looked for the positive; in many cases I had to create the positives. For example; waiting in line for petrol following a mentoring session with a client, could have made me irritable and impatient. Instead though I chose to spend the time dictating my session notes. I was able to download all of the discussion points and future session plans I had for my client, whilst it was still minty fresh in my mind. I made the petrol buying delay work for me. It would otherwise have been dead time, winding myself up, becoming increasingly annoyed and having nothing to show for the time spent and gone forever. Instead I engaged in the art of proactive waiting - waiting for petrol, but getting stuff done.

Negative + Negative = Negative

Negative + Positive = Positive

If you stand or sit there focusing only on how inconvenient or undesirable the waiting is, you're only going to stew in a downward spiral of frustration. Why would you do this to yourself? Too many people fail to understand how they are the master of their own thoughts, and render themselves hostage to their own mind - it's completely unnecessary, if only they'd reclaim their innate and natural power.


I have been working with Joel recently who, amongst other things is waiting for a huge promotion in his career. Joel has felt stifled in his current job for a couple of years now, which spurred him into looking for something more challenging and rewarding. Joel has been able to secure himself a wonderful new opportunity with a huge, national corporation, which is actually creating a brand new position, so they may be able to offer him a lucrative position. Naturally, Joel is delighted, excited and itching to get started, but is feeling thwarted and frustrated because a start date has yet to be agreed. All Joel is focusing on is the future, he wants to dispense with the here and now and just "get on with it". Perfectly understandable, we've all been there, but this mindset is not serving him well.

I've encouraged Joel to reframe his thinking. In his current job, Joel is coasting, he is exerting precious little energy and achieving zero growth - it's all too easy and meh. Joel has been doing his current job for many years and can complete it backwards, sideways, complete with Swahili subtitles. The new job however is going to challenge him, and he will need to grow and develop his skills to execute his duties as well as he needs to. He will be surrounded be all kinds of new: new town, new company, new people, new tasks, new skills, new company culture, which is going to be exhausting to begin with, as his mind begins to absorb it all. For its part, the company needs time to create space and resources for Joel (i.e.: an office, a company car etc), divert existing personnel towards his project and begin the recruitment process for his support staff, in readiness for his arrival. These things take time to evolve and effect, something Joel hadn't previously considered.


My advice to Joel was this, take this interim time to reap as much from this coasting period as possible. If necessary, ring fence specific time and resources towards the preparation of your new job, but otherwise live in the present moment. Joel has paperwork and i.e.: pre-employment medicals to complete, but there isn't much else to do before his start date, so I'm urging him to enjoy this responsibility-light phase of his life. Once Joel has actually started his new job, it will be all systems go and lift off, with his feet barely touching the ground for the foreseeable future. He would therefore be wise to take this coasting time to charge his batteries, in readiness for his huge and imminent life shift. He will be far more effective if rested. He will be better equipped to process all of the new coming into his life if rested, so it's wise to treat and consider this coasting phase as a gift, rather than a frustrating annoyance. Change your thinking, change your reality.

In Joel's example, passive waiting would simply have meant waiting and stewing over the start date delay. Nothing positive would have come from Joel constantly looking weeks into his future, wanting the present day to hurry up and be gone. By shifting his mindset to proactive waiting, Joel is now enjoying his coasting phase because he is mindful of being able to take things easier, that he can go home at night without work responsibilities and enjoy his responsibility-free weekends. Yes, over the long term past Joel has become bored and restless without sufficient challenges to stimulate him, but now he knows those challenges are on their way and he is proactively waiting, resting and preparing for them.

Proactive waiting is not the ability to just hang around and wait for life's dominoes to fall into place, it's about the action you take whilst you're waiting for life's dominoes to fall into place. No great thing is ever suddenly created. Oftentimes things need to unfold in their own time, but you always have control over what you choose to think and do in the meantime. Make it proactive - make it count and serve you positively.


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