I can’t say I’ve ever really been a patient person. A patient person probably doesn’t want to palm their steering wheel and yell obscenities into the ether while stuck in peak-hour traffic an hour away from home. Perhaps we all grow impatient when placed in the right context. But in any case, I’ve always felt a sense of restlessness that I assumed was my eternal duty to overcome – or, at the very least, minimise.
“It is hope that is turbocharging their rage” – Alain de Botton
A couple of weeks ago, on a mild summer’s day, I was walking down the street after having just enjoyed a rare solo day out in the city. As I neared my car, I observed several couples, loved-up and physically attached in some capacity.
Usually, I would feel resentful. Jealous. Wishing they’d keep their inclinations and enthusiasms private. But this time, three words strolled across my skull, and I felt instant defusion:
Wait your turn.
The internal reaction was amazing – I felt instantly calmer, and I almost wanted to nod my head, right there in view of everyone, because it all made so much sense. Any tension I’d been feeling about whatever aspects of my life felt inadequate or yet to be reached (read: most, if not all), dissipated. And I was happy for these loved-up couples. Because I’d been that person a year ago. I’d had my turn. Now it was theirs. And maybe next year the tables would turn – maybe next year they’d be waiting again, while I made my way around the maze.
Remembering this mantra has served me well recently. When the green-eyed monster has popped up, or the dissatisfied agitated red blotches under the skin threatened to invade, I’ve reminded myself of the whole not knowing what you don’t know idea, and it’s calmed me down. Soothed me. I feel like I can keep plugging away until it happens, and in the meantime be grateful for my current state, and its eternal malleability.
So, how exactly can we use this mantra: Wait Your Turn, and keep ourselves calm, pleasant and productive?
Well first –
STEP ONE: (Let’s) BREAK THE PHRASE DOWN(, shall we?)
So it looks like the word wait can have two, slightly different meanings. The one you want to focus on is that, in waiting, you are choosing to:
Remain in readiness for a purpose.
To delay action in general is hardly serving your desire to be a better, more productive individual. To remain in readiness for a purpose, however, is to be prepared. Which is what you must do: prepare, and wait for opportunity to cross paths with you.
While you’re waiting for your turn to come around, you need to do what you can. No matter how small. Focus on what’s in your control. And that’s it. To clarify, though: waiting is not the same as being passive and resentful when nothing changes. It’s about practising patience, and believing that what you’re doing is enough and will manifest into a future reality you can be content with.
Ask yourself, always: What is the next best step I can take?
It could be as simple as cleaning out your wardrobe, which would make morning decision-making more efficient. Or maybe tomorrow when you get home from work you know you’ll be able to churn out 15 minutes of writing to go towards your novel’s word count. Figure out the very next action you can take, write it down and have it ready for when you have time to achieve it.
I’ve recently downloaded the Nike Run Club app, and I absolutely love how you are given a virtual coach, that will adapt your training plan to suit your tracked behaviour. The goal remains the same, but the playing field is evened out depending on individual-specific habits.
STEP TWO: EASE INTO, AND ACCEPT, DISCOMFORT
Something I’ve become so conscious of this year is that advice is not supposed to be taken lightly. In the past, I have taken advice, agreed to it even, but not truly believed the words. If something is said by enough people to be hard, or challenging, then chances are it’s going to be hard. And if it’s hard, you’re going to feel it. You can’t shy away from the discomfort, or complain for too long before you’re sick of yourself. You just have to push through and, again, WAIT for your turn as the one at ease, the victorious, on the other side.
Like a lot of things, you can’t expect the feeling of impatience to go away for too long, let alone permanently. It’ll rear its vulnerable head whenever it gets the chance. There is scientific reasoning for this – a fact alone that, when reminded of, calms you down. If you can accept the emotion, you can come up with ways to deal with it while you’ve got it sitting in the corner, by itself, adorned with a party hat, snacking on a cookie and none the wiser about your grand plans to get it out of your house for the umpteenth time. If you’re skilled enough you might be able to knock it out to a point where it’s weaker the next time it pops over for a soul-sucking whinge. While you’ve got it in your corner, I suggest you…
Track your behaviour – watch from an external standpoint. Don’t attach emotion; be clinical, scientific. Note the improvements and adjust accordingly. Leave emotion for when you complete your tasks. Everything up to that point should feel methodical.
STEP THREE: GET READY FOR THE INEVITABLE OPPORTUNITY
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Law of Attraction, one thing that makes sense is the idea that your desires will pop up when you least expect it. Just like when you watch a kettle, waiting for it to boil, fixating on your goals will make the wait seem excruciatingly longer. Look away, or have a plan you’re content with following, all the while knowing your turn will come around. Life will move quicker, and you may even enjoy what’s going on around you. And sooner or later – but be prepared for it to be later, ACCEPT IT – what you wanted will come along. Figure out when the next opportunity might spring up, if that’s helpful. Look to things like competitions, experiences that you can sign up to, events you can prime for.
- an act of moving something in a circular direction around an axis or point.
- a change of direction when moving.
Stories mirror real life. A good story should have several turning points. So too, then, should a good life. I often like to think about how much time I have left on this planet if I’m lucky enough to live to the average female life span. So far, I have 48 years left. That’s a long time for nothing to change. A long time to wallow. This puts things in perspective for me.
Just remember, like a board game – your turn is COMING. Growing up, I would just play boardgames with my sister, so my turn would come around super quickly. Now, when I’m at house parties and a game is cracked out, the inner rage starts to brew as I’m waiting what seems an eternity for everyone to get their turn over and done with. My turn is inevitable, though. It’s coming, no matter what. Instead of wallowing or raging, I could be strategising my next move. Thinking: how am I going to make the most of things, maximise my time when it comes? That’s how we should deal with life as we’re waiting in the shadows for our time to be called onto the stage. Think of it this way: imagine waiting all this time for your shining moment, then falling on your face when it arrives? That’s why we need to PREPARE. And be as ready as we’ll ever be if it comes, when it comes, which is not a time we necessarily know.
Just because we can look towards self-imposed deadlines, doesn’t mean our big break is right around the corner. Those deadlines may just be stepping stones to the big thing. We need to take those stepping stones, reflect on what we learned, and out of these learnings create actionable next steps to get us to the next stepping stone, hopefully higher up towards nirvana.
Back to the board game metaphor for a moment – think about how you’re going to deal with the obstacles that pop up. Chance moments; people skipping over you, enforcing injustice, being inconsiderate, doing things that block your way, your initially decided upon path. Prepare for the worst. It often won’t happen, but if it does you’ll be ready.
While you’re waiting – reflect on your own choices, observe the choices of others, amalgamate these two things and decide upon your next best move. Repeat.
I’ve used the mantra a few times since. The other day I was in the Target change room, not particularly impressed by my reflection. The thing is, a year ago I had lost a bit of weight. That had been my turn. It’s not my turn right now. But as I wait for my turn to come around – which will hopefully be in 7 months, when I go on my trip to Italy – I can prepare for the arrival of my opportunity to shine. Gradually build up good, healthy habits that allow me to maximise my time in the Italian summer – feeling light and energetic. If I miss that opportunity, there’s another opportunity in 6 more months – the Australian summer. Like with any opportunity or game turn, it’s cyclical. It’ll keep coming around.
I often feel this way, before I was visited by the mantra, post-relationship. I feel myself wanting to retreat, go under construction, and build a stronger, next-level version of myself for the next time I look for a suitor. I like metaphors.
STEP FOUR: REMEMBER, NOTHING REALLY GOOD COMES EASY
Perhaps the one thing I’m most fixated on and impatient about is finding the relationship that’s going to be my foundation for building a secure and promising lifestyle. Turns out you’re not that likely to find your best friend on a sticky, tumbler-strewn dance-floor in the inner suburbs. Even if you go there as often as every three weeks. It’s just not the environment to properly shine or form a connection. Swiping on an app in the hopes that you can sidestep the awkwardness of real-life interactions is also probably not going to do it for you.
If you want the relationship to put all the other relationships to shame, you have to come to grips with yourself, and get used to the uncertainty of dealing with other human beings.
If you want a lifelong beach body, you need to push past the withdrawal symptoms, the constant temptation, the cunning voice in your head that tries to tell you that feeling great isn’t worth the effort.
If you want a well-selling novel, you need to sit through doubt and a lot of crappy words before you manage to shape your work into art.
I don’t know about you, but I know that I want my life, this one chance I have on this planet, to be lived to the max. I want to design the realisation of my wildest dreams and see them to fruition. Above all else: I don’t want subpar. Which means I’m going to have to put in the work, and feel the threat of exhaustion.
STEP FIVE: DON’T STOP BELIEVING
If you think about the void between your goal and your reality as simply biding your time for the inevitable, you’re allowing faith to come through. The belief that it’s 100% going to happen, just not exactly when you want it. Seeing your vision on the horizon keeps you sane.
In a recent post, Heather Havrilevsky answered a question in her Ask Polly column from a reader losing faith in her ability to find love. Her response has stuck with me.
You will find it. People who believe in life-changing love are the ones who find it. Keep believing. You can embrace reality and keep believing. You can honor death and keep living. Say this to yourself: I will believe in love until the sky falls. This is how I choose to live. When I believe, the stars shine more brightly, the birds sing together in chorus.. Love will come to me in time. My job is to be patient, to try to take the obstacles in my path less seriously, and to savor the sweet, sad wonders of this day.
I kinda want to put that on a flashcard.
Believe in consistency, persistence and determination.
In dreams, desires and imagination.
In you, your support network, and humanity at large.
Believe, you guys. Wait your turn, humbly and stoically. More than anything else: be ready for when it finally comes around.
Hey, would you look at that! You have stumbled across Your Turn! No more waiting for you!
Please comment below on your own experiences with impatience. Have you found ways to deal with it?
If you find your impatience a trigger for overwhelm, join my 31 Days of Conquering Overwhelm challenge! Have a go and see if it makes a difference.