I haven’t always been good at waiting. I must not be the only one. In a society that values ever-increasing speeds, vast volumes, and packing more into every passing moment … waiting is often seen as wasted time. Worthless. Activity is held in high regard. Movement is seen as synonymous with momentum. Organizations feel the pressure in bringing a product first-to-market. The media feels the pressure of being the first to break the story. And this need for speed may be breaking all of us.
In such a society, individuals are likely to feel the self-imposed guilt from a period of inactivity. They may experience the judgmental inference of the busy people around them. Busy is often worn as a badge of honor. Just ask someone … how are you doing? Odds are, their short answer will either be the word (or contain the word) … busy! It’s most likely an accurate response. In fact, they’ll likely include descriptive modifiers like really, incredibly, or super. This is to insure you know … not how they’re actually doing … but, rather just how busy they actually are.
Because just being “busy” isn’t quite good enough anymore.
Even “busy” now needs a sense of volume about it. What’s interesting is that the word “busy” makes for a strange answer to someone who is asking the question, “how are you doing?” In most cases, the answer isn’t really an answer. It’s more a reflex. Reflexes become more unconsciously common when we’re really, or incredibly, or super busy. At the same time, while “busy” may very well impact how you are doing … it doesn’t actually answer the question.
Our moment in time, in this world, offers increasing options for busy. Just in the last 20 years, the exponential increase of opportunities to make yourself busy, is breathtaking. Anyone, who wants to be busy, can be. Yet just because you can be … doesn’t mean you should be. A lot has been lost in business amongst all the busy-ness. And a lot has been lost in life.
Somewhere in our mix of buying “busy as better” … we have wasted away the worth in waiting.
I’m not talking about passive waiting where “lazy” hides itself in disguise. Nor am I talking about just waiting-around for someone else to take-on a responsibility that is yours. Passive waiting cultivates anxiety.
I’m talking about active waiting. Sometimes we’re simply supposed to wait … and the worth of the wait comes when we choose to embrace our waiting. It’s hard to fully embrace anything when you’re on-the-run. Waiting is an opportunity that actually invites our embrace. Active waiting nurtures anticipation.
It’s not that we haven’t experienced the worth of waiting. I’m sure, in the end, most of us have expressed the sentiment, it was worth waiting for! It’s not so hard to see the worth in retrospect. It’s far more valuable to see the worth in the midst of the wait … knowing it is worth waiting for. Active waiting is a great teacher. It teaches us about patience, gratitude and the real value of what we ultimately experience.
Active waiting is not an excuse. It’s a strategy.
Embracing waiting takes practice. So let’s get practical. You can begin by embracing the next red traffic light you encounter. Red lights are literally a great example of the worth in waiting. Ignore the wait of a red light and you’re likely to be blindsided while also blindsiding someone else. Red lights can serve as a built-in accountability partner every time you encounter one. Let each red light simply ask you how you’re doing … at waiting! Let them encourage you to tighten your embrace around that which you’re actively awaiting.
Active waiting is a pause with poise. It’s the moment between what is and what will be. It’s only temporary if what we hope to be … is meant to be. The poise in our pause unleashes the freedom to find peace in our waiting. It’s in the poise that we begin to understand that active waiting is filled with momentum. All which happens in active waiting, often unseen, is a bit of a paradox. It trumps the accomplishments of busy-ness at most every turn.
Active waiting is not idle.
Most active waiting has an element of activity. The activity, however, is not designed to force a result. It invests in whatever you’re waiting for. It’s designed to create a better rhythm.
Periodically, I will work with a top executive on their delivery of an important presentation. It’s inevitable, in our work together, to discuss the gift of silence in their presentation. It’s the poise of the pause! It allows the presentation to breathe and the message to connect to the audience. At our 2014 National Speaker’s Association Convention, speaker and musical performer Freddie Ravel, did a masterful job of letting the audience experience the power of pause. He played a song which sounded quite nice. Then he explained the power of a pause in what he described as the space between the notes. Then he replayed the same song … with space between the notes. It was the same song, yet an entirely different experience.
The rhythm was enhanced by the waiting.
And so it goes in our rhythm of leadership and life. Are you rushing something you should be actively awaiting? As a leader, what we really may need to get going … is getting better at actively waiting. So let’s get started! What are you waiting for?
Editor’s Note: One thing worth waiting for … the release of John’s newest book, ROI: Return on Integrity, on April 19, 2016. It’s a message designed to help CEO’s unleash the most untapped and impactful resource of every leader.