According to a Timex survey conducted last year, Americans spend an average of 32 minutes waiting each time they visit the doctor. We spend 28 minutes waiting in security lines at the airport, and almost as long (21 minutes) waiting for our significant other to get ready for an evening out. We spend 13 hours each year on hold waiting for a customer service agent, and 38 hours annually waiting in traffic – that’s actually closer to 50 hours for those of you in big cities.
To wait is to “stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens.” When we wait, we’re standing by, marking the time, and holding back until some circumstance outside of our control is satisfied. It’s this lack of control that makes waiting so infuriating. There’s something we want or need to do, but we’re forced into inactivity because of something or someone else. It’s no wonder that we hate waiting.
What if we didn’t have to wait? What if we could take back control of our time and our future? What if we could do that simply by changing a single word? The next time you find yourself in a holding pattern, mentally change the experience from one of “waiting” to one of “anticipating.”
To anticipate is to “regard as probable, to look forward to, and to take action in order to be prepared.” The state of anticipating is the opposite of waiting. We’re not standing by; we’re moving forward. We’re not marking time; we’re making use of it. We’re not holding back; we’re pouring ourselves into activities so that, when the circumstances we can’t control work themselves out, we leap forward without hesitation.
Think about the days and weeks leading up to a vacation. You’re likely looking up hot spots at the target destination, and researching fun things to do. If it’s a road trip, you’re cleaning out the car and addressing any necessary maintenance issues. You’re going through your closet to make sure the clothes you have are appropriate and desirable for the trip. Hopefully, you’re making sure everything at the office is up-to-date so that you can leave for vacation without leaving any loose ends behind you.
You’re not waiting for the start of your vacation; you’re anticipating it. The calendar is out of your control. There’s simply nothing you can do to make the days go by faster. However your mental focus is on maximizing the things you can control. And by anticipating the coming start of your vacation, you ensure it’s as rewarding as possible.
Contrast that approach to the “waiting” we do at work. There’s so much we depend on other people for: information from customers, resources from coworkers, approvals from supervisors. How do you spend the time that passes while they are in control? How much time do you spend waiting on others vs. anticipating their eventual involvement?
I spend far too much of my time waiting. I get frustrated when other people or departments aren’t moving as fast as I feel they should. Instead, I should be anticipating. I should be moving forward in expectation that my actions are propelling me closer and closer to success. When the parts outside of my control fall into place, I’ll be ready.
Robert Kiyosaki had this to say about waiting. “If you are the kind of person who waiting for the ‘right’ thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It’s like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip.”
Let’s adjust our mental focus and engage in more anticipating. What are we waiting for?