One of my favorite books to read to my boys is Dr. Suess’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go. If you’re a fan of this book like I am, you’re probably familiar with The Waiting Place. It’s an imaginary world where everyone is just waiting for something to happen so they can move on with their journey.
When I get to this portion of the book, I always tend to get a little anxious. The energy in The Waiting Place is just wrong. There’s nothing happening. There’s no happiness, or even sadness. There’s just a looming sense of stagnation.
I’m struck, however, by how often I’ve found myself at exactly the place in my life I believe Seuss was trying to describe. I’ll bet you’ve been there to…
When I get a raise, I’ll be happy.
When I’ve saved enough money, I’ll be able to make that career change I’ve dreamed about.
When things calm down, I’ll find time to exercise.
When…, when…, when…
Even the most driven among us tend to slip into the pattern of waiting every once in a while. The problem is, if we aren’t careful, we end up waiting for a perfect time that never comes.
The next time you find yourself stuck in the waiting place, ask yourself these three things:
1. Is this just an excuse, or do you have a valid plan?
I’m a big fan of planning, and I’ve written before about the fact that waiting is sometimes an important part of your journey. But, sometimes, waiting becomes an excuse. It’s a way to put off doing something you know is right because it seems difficult, or scary, or uncomfortable.
So, ask yourself – do you really have a plan? Are you actively saving toward a goal that will allow you to make that career change? Have you scheduled exercise on your calendar after that impending deadline passes? If not, it’s time to make one. Otherwise, you risk using your wait as just an excuse to stay stuck.
If you find making a plan difficult, it’s time to ask yourself…
2. Are you hiding?
Often, waiting is a way of hiding – from fear, from change, or from anxiety. Sometimes, the next move in our lives is a big one. It requires us to move beyond our comfort zone, or to embrace a new vision of ourselves. Such moves can cause feelings of fear, doubt and anxiety. So, we construct barriers that tell us we aren’t quite ready to step forward yet.
While staying put can give us the illusion of safety and control, it also keeps us stuck. We don’t grow. We don’t progress. Ultimately, we begin to shrink. The good news is that admitting you’re hiding, and getting clear about what’s driving your fear or anxiety is often all you need to get moving again.
3. What are you giving up by waiting?
While waiting seems like the safe play, the truth is, it comes at a cost. For every day you’re not moving forward, you are missing out on opportunity. For every moment you allow yourself to hide, you lose the chance to attain valuable skills.
Being honest with yourself about what waiting is costing you can provide a powerful incentive to get yourself beyond the waiting place.
If our lives are the product of what we regularly do, we owe it to ourselves to stop spending time needlessly waiting. Building lives we love depends on us taking action regularly and consistently toward our goals.