The art of waiting

The other day Linda and I stopped for a quick bite at local pizza joint. As Linda went to use the ladies room, I walked outside to claim a spot at one of the “al fresco” tables. I didn’t have my phone to check email or play a game while waiting for her, so I watched the people go by and the clouds move across the sky.

Not actual clouds I saw that day! :o)

One of the clouds looked like a little alien guy. The clouds were moving pretty quickly, so he moved and morphed into something else in just a few seconds.

And then he was gone. My little alien friend was now a hippo, and in a few more moments he will be something else.

And that’s okay. And here’s what is really ironic… If I had had my phone to take a picture of my alien cloud-dude friend, I probably wouldn’t even have seen him, because I would have been looking at my phone and not up at the sky.

The art of waiting. I get it.

Today technology and systems have made waiting more than just an inconvenience, but a most undesirable event. We have become conditioned to hate to wait because we think we’re missing something.

But what are we really missing?

Without the opportunity to wait, we lose the chance to build anticipation, and to experience and appreciate the moments between the moments, which is often when the really cool stuff happens.  Sometimes we are so consumed with getting to the next “thing” that we completely fumble the time in between.  Guess what?  You can’t get that time back, either.

If I had been so anti-waiting the other day, I never would have met my little cloud alien friend.

Maybe it’s the difference in outlook between spending time and wasting time. Some would say I wasted a few minutes where I could have answered an email or updated Facebook. I say that I spent the time taking in the world around me, and that has value, too.

I read a quote by Lao Tzu recently that really got me thinking about waiting and spending time. He said, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

Let that sink in. I’ll wait.

This concept of being so busy and unable or unwilling to wait is completely brought on by ourselves. A desire to always go faster and never waste a single second can only go so far. There will come a time when it’s not sustainable, and a lot of people have reached that point. That’s why you see successful business people leaving the business world behind to become a farmer or a trades-person mastering a craft. It’s the old rat race, and you can only stay on that little wheel for so long.

Here are three tips to rediscover the art of waiting:

  • Unplug. Turn off your phone or leave it in an unreachable location. Don’t even make it an option. Spend time doing something completely non-technical.  It may take some time, but you will literally feel yourself unwind. One of my favorite parts of going on some cruises is that there is no cell reception or 3G access.  Oh well.
  • Not everything is urgent. Some things are, and they need to be taken care of quickly.  But some things just aren’t. Some things can WAIT! Define what is urgent versus important in your life and business.  Prioritize accordingly.
  • Say no. No one will respect your time until you do. Being available 24/7 to everyone on the planet may sound like a necessity in a “global, uber-connected” world, but having the courage to say no actually opens more doors than it closes.  This may mean setting specific times that you are available or saying NO to things you found unimportant.

Thanks for spending a few minutes with me!


About the author:  Matt believes there is one major way that leaders and employers WASTE time… we waste time training our employees, especially if we aren’t going to SPEND the time training and preparing our Supervisors.  Take some time to see what you can do about that by clicking here.