Waiting in line. Waiting for dinner. Waiting for a train. Waiting for a package to arrive.
Waiting for test results. Waiting for your teen to get home. Waiting for guests to arrive.
Waiting for a phone call. Waiting for a headache to subside. Waiting for the storm to stop.
Waiting for coffee to brew. Waiting for an answer. Waiting for the light to turn green.
Waiting for your turn. Waiting for your flight. Waiting to hear about that job.
Growing impatience. Growing boredom. Time slows to a crawl. Sometimes fear sets in.
Maybe Tom Petty had it right when he sang…
“The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card. You take it on faith; you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.”
Why is waiting so difficult for most people?
Because waiting feels like it serves no purpose.
Because it seems like a waste of time.
Because we hate that we can’t control the situation.
Because it often comes with an unknown outcome.
Because we don’t want to miss out on anything.
Because we really don’t have to wait for much anymore.
Our on-demand culture certainly emphasizes the futility of waiting, of having everything “Your Way Right Away.” After all, we run full tilts on instant messages, fast food and push notifications. Unfortunately, waiting and getting what we want right away all the time only hacks away at our ability for patience in every area of life.
“The need for round-the-clock connection not only makes people more impatient, it also robs them of time for quiet reflection or deeper, more critical thinking. They tend to want constant stimulation, have less impulse control and get distracted more easily.” (Instant Gratification & Its Dark Side by Ronald Aslop)
My family went on a Caribbean cruise last spring. We turned off our phones and locked them in our room safe for the 10-day cruise as soon as we got on board. Many cruisers did not but instead opted to pay the significant fees for limited cell phone access. If a Caribbean cruise can’t lure someone away from the always-connected pace of life, might there be a significant problem at play?
We all know someone like this, right? We get frustrated when they can’t seem to part with their phone, when they pause a face-to-face conversation to have a virtual one. We easily recognize the vanishing effort to slow down our fast-paced, ever-connected lives to spend time simply breathing and thinking and existing… in others anyway.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Do they really? If this is true, why don’t more people seek to develop patience and their ability to wait? Why do they allow their impatience to drive them? Why do they let technology constantly drive their gratification in every area of life? Why do they think they need success in short order rather than after hard work and long-term effort?
Can we admit that sometimes, this “they” we’re talking about could be our kids, our spouse and maybe even ourselves? Can we see that instant has tainted — maybe even ruined — our ability to patiently wait?
If we take just a few moments, better yet an afternoon or a day, to let go of instant, I think we’ll realize that when we get whatever it is we want right away, we’re never really satisfied because there’s always more to want and have. If we take longer, say a week or more of vacation — a slow-paced one, not a frantic, see-everything one — and limit or eliminate instant as much a possible in our lives, we might discover a part of ourselves longing to get out more.
Learning to Wait Again
Read a book. Make meals from scratch. Take walks without your phone; let it play dead. Play games. Talk. Look people in the eye. Ask questions, then really listen.
At first you’ll likely feel the itch to get back to instant. Resist the urge. Refuse to give in. Your patience has been dormant a while and may need time to stretch before it can move about again. As time passes, you’ll discover that simplicity, quiet reflection and critical thinking offer something you’ve longed for unaware. You’ll see that real connection happens face-to-face. And you might even create a desire for a less-instant life, one that comes only when pursued.
Learn to slow down and wait again. Teach yourself how to enjoy every moment. Let life’s pace decrease, so you can discover the good that comes through waiting and patience.
What small steps can you take toward less instant life today? What results do you hope to see in the pursuit of learning to wait?