“Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if
he is able to think, if he is able to wait...”
― Hermann Hesse
If you ever went to a church youth group, undoubtedly you’ve heard a lot about “seasons” in life. Season of waiting, season of singleness, season of scarcity, season of abundance, season of blah blah buzzword blah blah whatever. I've always hated this phrase -- specifically the waiting part. Let me explain.
A season of waiting implies the world is happening to you. That God, fate, the universe, whatever, controls you in some kind of Westworld VR simulation. And that’s just not true. Obviously. We have free will. We make our own choices. Things may come to us from up above, sure, but we have the power to respond to it. So what are we waiting for?
When I’m sharing online — a blog post, Facebook share, or an Instagram photo — I always post after the fact — not in the moment. For safety reasons, mindfulness, but mostly just to let it sink in. To react to it fully. To better understand what the experience means to me and why I think it’s worthy of sharing. Like everything in life (online and off), the learning comes later and through the experience. In the in betweens.
In the waiting.
Waiting. It’s important. But the big question of life, and something I think about constantly is — when do we stop waiting and start doing?
So like every high schooler who doesn’t know how to begin their essay, let’s start with some definitions. Waiting is defined as “the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.”
Uh, no. This is not what I want to be known for. I don't want to stay in the same spot or delay anything.
Waiting seems to be all passive — but I’m realizing that sometimes not only is it not passive, but it’s necessary. The important part is understanding that I make the choice either way. It's the ACTION of delaying action. Trippy. If I choose to wait, and be still — great. But I know that I made the active choice for a greater purpose. I trusted myself enough.
But what if I’m just scared of the unknown? What if I'm waiting around out of fear? When should I wait? When should I act? And how do I know the difference?
When to wait
Guess what? Some things DO only happen over time. They can’t be rushed. They take not only time, but great effort, skill, and patience that -- guess what -- can only be accumulated through time. And yeah, this is one of those things that seem really obvious, but I think we need to remind ourselves of it.
I often feel like I’m forcing things. The ol' square peg in a round hole problem. In work, relationships, money — I sometimes try to force things. I’m very controlling. I rush. I want to be active, and doing all of the time. It makes waiting hard. I feel like the things I want are passing me by.
As I'm sure you've noticed (and been annoyed by), I start at least one sentence in all my blog posts with “The older I get,” which sounds kind of (a lot) obnoxious as a 31 year old, but it’s true. I know so much more now than I did 5 years ago. Even one year ago, yesterday, or even this morning. It’s the natural cycle of life. Even when I rush things, I look back over time and learn from that experience. It’s in the waiting that the learning and growing occurs. In the quiet. When I'm not rushing and striving and doing.
It's the reason you get the best ideas in the shower -- your brain is freed up from it's normal focus. It can free associate and wander through the stillness. And come up with something great.
When to act
Your life is NOW — be active. Hustle. Sleep when you're dead.
We’ve all read a version of this on some fitspo instagram girls feed — but it’s not just an empty #motivationalmonday sentiment.
Don’t wait around for some possible future date. It’s not coming. There is never a perfect time for anything (except ordering a pizza — it is always the perfect time).
We miss out on so much by constantly waiting for something more, better, etc. If something isn’t working — you have power. You can change your circumstances. Quit playing the victim. We have agency — and how cool is that?
A lot of the road trips I go on are last minute. Which prompts a lot of questions. “Why did you go to ______” “You mean you just casually drove ____ hours?” “But why?” etc. To any of these questions, my answer is always the same: I just wanted to go. There’s no perfect time, so that was as good of a time as any. It’s that simple. Really.
So often we think in terms of, when _____, _____, or _____ happens I will _______. No! You can do it now. And let’s be honest, if you're waiting for x, y, or z to happen, you probably won’t do The Thing when they do anyways. Instead you’ll just come up with another list of if’s and when’s. Shoulda coulda woulda.
“The Thing” — whatever that may be for you in this moment — may not be easy (hey, nothing worth having is), but you can do it. Waiting around begets more waiting around which — lets be honest — leads to inaction.
If you're making excuses, or putting something off until some future boxes are checked -- you're doing it wrong. Don't wait.
How to know the difference
So I've told you to be still and wait. But also to stop waiting around. To realize learning and growth happens in time, but also that there's never a perfect time — yeah I'm confused too. How do I know when to wait and when to act?
I used to work with a new teacher who was always complaining. Everyone complains sometimes, I know. But this was different (and way more annoying) because it was always about things in her control. At every meeting, when anyone would give her a new suggestion she had “already tried it”, and “it didn’t work” — not realizing that doing things once, especially with 12 year olds, isn’t enough (let's be real, 50 times is not enough but I digress).
Did she do her due diligence? Execute the suggestions correctly? Over time? With buy in? Probably (definitely) not. And not only was she frustrated, but we all were listening to it.
In this situation, she would have benefited from the waiting. Giving the situation time. Not jumping to conclusions about what works, what doesn’t, or making spurious connections between her abilities as a teacher and the problems in her classroom. Be still. Learn in the in between's. Understand that that's where growth happens.
So as I constantly tell the kids in my class, “just chill out for a second”. Seriously. Just chill. Then put in your due diligence. But after that, don’t be afraid to stop waiting for change and make it yourself.
And most importantly: trust yourself and your intuition to know the difference.
Fear of making the wrong choice
If you're constantly afraid of doing the wrong thing, or making the wrong choice then you don't trust yourself. But this isn't something you can just start doing. Again, it's a process that happens, you guessed it -- over time.
I tell the kids in my class a lot — there are a lot of ways to get to the same answer. It might take longer, slower, more work, or less — but we all get there. So maybe you will make the wrong choice. Maybe you wait for something that's never coming. Maybe you rush into something you shouldn’t. But, ultimately, the awareness of this dichotomy puts you in a better place than most people.
Self-awareness. Mindfulness. The examined life yada yada whatever you want to call it — just think about what you think about. Think about what you do. Ideally before you do it. Then trust yourself.