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There are a fair number of things in life that we have some degree of control over.
If you want to lose weight, you could follow a nutrition plan and work with a personal trainer. It might take time, but with consistent effort you would be guaranteed to see changes.
Or maybe you decide to go back to grad school, but you’ve got to take the GRE first. So you buy the prep books, enroll in a class, and take practice exams until you feel positive that you’ll ace the test.
And if you feel the urge to up and move to Colorado, you could save money, hire movers, rent an apartment, and haul yourself across the country. No need to wait on anything or anyone to make that happen.
But there are just as many things that we have no control over — things that matter to us a whole lot that we can’t guarantee or force to happen at all.
Finding a dream job. Meeting your life partner. Having your business take off.
It’s waiting for these things — the things we can never guarantee, that could potentially never happen — that drives us nuts.
While we’re waiting, it’s SO easy to start wondering:
“What am I doing wrong?” and “Is there something about ME that’s making this not happen?” and “What if this just isn’t in the cards for me?”
Cue instant depression, hopelessness, and malaise.
PASSIVE WAITING TOTALLY SUCKS
When we’re passively waiting, we feel completely at the effect of the world.
No control, no choice, no power. We’re at the mercy of whomever, or whatever, to deign to grant us what we want.
And let’s face it: humans are really bad at feeling out of control.
When we feel powerless, we get grouchy and lethargic and stuck. We start looking around at what we do have and feeling resentful of it. Passively waiting brings out the worst in us, in that way.
Personally, when I was waiting around for my business to take off, every day I’d wake up and think, “Oh look, another day of not being successful. Yet another day that PROVES nothing has changed.”
That’s what’s so insidious about waiting around … you start to see the lack of what you want everywhere.
Day by day, your mood grows worse and worse because each day that you don’t have what you want is just more evidence that you won’t get it.
WHAT YOU WANT IS NOW ON A DIFFERENT LEVEL THAN YOU
And of course, that’s the irony of it all:
Because you’ve done such a good job of “proving” to yourself that it’s not coming, you make it SO much harder for that thing to actually show up.
Think about your mood as a radio tower. When you’re broadcasting Grouchy, Depressed, & Hopeless FM you’re ONLY going to see, hear, and attract things that are on the same frequency as you.
Which means that positively anything — clues, signs, opportunities, people — related to what you want can’t reach you because they’re not on your station.
They happen to be playing on Jazzed and Fulfilled and Passionate FM … and you can’t exactly listen to two stations at the same time. You feel me on that?
LET’S CHANGE THE STATION, WHY DON’T WE?
Passively waiting sends us spiraling into a funk because it lacks purpose. It feels pointless, like we’re wasting time and spinning our wheels.
Which is why the best way to wait — and to move ourselves up to that higher frequency station — is to wait actively.
The biggest difference between passive and active waiting is this:
Instead of skeptically doubting whether what you want will ever show up, you assume that what you want is inevitably coming, and you start preparing accordingly.
WHAT ACTIVE WAITING LOOKS LIKE
I have a friend who’s been waiting to see money and clients consistently flow in to her business. It’s happened, but more so in fits and starts.
The other day she told me that she’d finally got her LLC paperwork sorted out and established a real business bank account.
And that same week, within 24 hours of each other, she got two new clients who are really eager to start working with her ASAP.
She could have complained that what she wanted wasn’t coming … but instead, she got serious about her business being a solid landing place for clients to arrive, and then they did.
I know a woman in her 30’s who’s enthusiastic about the prospect of getting married and starting a family. But she’s single, and she doesn’t want to rush into a relationship — or marriage, or pregnancy, for that matter — and be one of those women who settles because she feels victim to her biological clock.
She’s also not interested in online dating … so what’s a girl to do?
Well, she went and hired a personal trainer at the gym. (Wait, say what?)
To her, this makes perfect sense because: A) She’s interested in being part of a physically active partnership, and B) She wants to be in great shape for chasing a future munchkin around.
A lot of people might call her crazy or overly wishful, but I LOVE her approach.
She’s focused on becoming the kind of person she wants to be when she has what she wants.
The fact that she’s not bemoaning what she doesn’t have is getting her WAY closer to actually having it.
Stop lamenting that what you want isn’t here yet & start preparing for its inevitable arrival.
HOW CAN YOU START ACTIVELY WAITING?
If your dream job were to land in your lap tomorrow, is your résumé the kind you’d want your ideal employer to see?
If you want a spouse to share your home, do they have enough space in your closet for their stuff? Or do you maybe need to get rid of some junk?
If you were randomly offered a trip to Europe, could you go next week? Or would your passport be out of date?
If you want more money, how well are you taking care of the money you already have?
Once you start actively waiting, you’re naturally going to lift up to that higher, jazzy frequency.
You infuse hope, excitement, and expectation into a subject that’s typically made you feel completely powerless.
And that newfound sense of purpose you’ll feel? That’s what will get you through the waiting.
I’d love to hear, in the comments, how you can start preparing for the inevitable arrival of what you want.
Rachel (& Kristen)
P.S. This blog was inspired by a post by Danielle LaPorte called The Principles of Active Waiting vs. feeling-like-a-loser, losing-your-mind kind of waiting. I totally recommend you read it! She’s one of the few people I read religiously, without fail.
Submit your question for a future episode of Dear Krachel
Hi Rachel (+ Kristen),
I’ve been following your blog and getting your email updates for about 2 years now. While you bring good perspective to the table, I feel like this one caught me at a particularly key moment in my life. I’m about to go to Europe to present at a International Studies conference for the first time. I feel like I’ve done everything I could to be able to commit to research full-time, but instead I’ve only been able to commit part-time because I haven’t gotten a callback about any jobs I’ve been applying for in my field. After a professor recommended I submit a proposal to this particular conference, I was accepted as an individual almost immediately (which is almost unheard of, I think, as most people apply as professors, or something).
You’re probably saying, “okay, then, what’s the problem?” Well, it’s kind of disheartening to be accepted into a conference immediately, but to not get so much as a callback about future employment. While I realize doing things like presenting at a conference is beneficial to where I want to go, I still feel like I’m throwing things at the wall and nothing is sticking. Tuning the radio and brainstorming things I can do to improve my situation to get to where I want to go is a perspective I haven’t yet thought of, but I do feel in some respect I’ve been actively waiting. How long do you actively wait until you’ve waiting long enough? Sometimes i feel like just being complacent at my current job that doesn’t really do anything for me would be a lot better than trying to throw myself out there again, because it just hasn’t been working.
What are your thoughts?
That’s a really good question, and one I’ll try to answer as best I can here (though I think there’s a limit to how well I can answer it without having a deeper conversation with you).
First of all — It’s normal to feel disheartened. I can’t tell you how long Kristen and I threw stuff against the proverbial wall, trying to see what stuck. It can take YEARS of that, and after a while it certainly feels exhausting … to the point that you start considering settling, because it’s easier.
There are so many reasons why something can feel like it isn’t working. One is that you’ve been trying to make something work that just isn’t right for you. So, is getting into this field what you *really* want? Or is it what you think you *should* be doing? I can’t tell from your comment, of course, but often things don’t work for people because they’re trying to do something that they don’t really want to do, or they’re pursuing it for the wrong reasons.
If you believe this *is* the right thing for you to be pursuing, and you really do want it, then I wonder if THIS opportunity … you getting to speak at a conference … is the turning point you’ve been waiting for. Maybe what you’ve lacked up until this point is the experience, respect, confidence, and/or leverage that presenting at this conference will grant you. Maybe you’ve finally hit the “top of the mountain,” so to speak, and you’ll gain momentum from here. Everyone has that moment — when they crest the most difficult part and finally start to pick up speed. Have you considered that this could be THAT moment, for you?
I hope something I’ve just said resonated with you, or gives you something more to think about! 🙂
I love this approach! For so long I felt stuck in my current job field and I felt so hopeless about it. It wasn’t until I started actively taking steps towards a career that I really want that I started to feel more joy, purpose, and hope that this current state won’t last forever. It’s not easy and my schedule of often hectic but I am satisfied that knowing that I’m being active and not passive anymore. Thanks for this great article!
There’s something about starting to take action that *creates* a light at the end of the tunnel, where there wasn’t one before. I’m glad you figured that out, Keshia!
It sounds like common sense, but how many of us actually think to do this? None probably! Thank you for making perfect sense! This was a DUH! moment for me! Why didn’t I think of this? Awesome!!!
I know, Krista! It seems so obvious but you’re right, I don’t think many of us actually *do* this. I know I was guilty of not doing this up until VERY recently. Glad this has helped you shift your perspective!
This is a great post! It seemed to come at the perfect moment in my life as I can totally relate (and honestly, who can’t?). Thank you for these uplifting and inspirational words!
You’re welcome, Kara! I love hearing that our blogs came to someone at just the right time. 🙂
I was just thinking about this with my own creative spin that I’d like to share with you. I’ve been struggling a lot with negative anticipation before I see the results of big risks, which you hit on in here with the radio station metaphor. I improvised a parable to deal with it that went sort of like this: if you were driving for 2 hours from your home to an unknown place, if you spent the whole drive saying “this might suck,” “this might not work,” or worse, “this is going to suck, nothing’s going right,” you’re going to feel like absolute crap for the next 2 hours. On the other hand, if you were to say,”something incredible might be about to happen,” or even “something incredible is about to happen,” even if you were to arrive at that destination 2 hours later and see disappointment, if you embraced your power to make something incredible come out of it, you’d be on a different route to what you wanted immediately.
Loved this post. It’s nice to read all these posts from two interesting women that I have intellectual synergy with so often.
I agree, Michael. There’s a LOT of truth to the old adage “What you see is what you get.” If you’re looking, or seeking evidence, that things are going to go badly … your brain will comply with that request and find all sorts of thoughts or “evidence” to latch onto. And the same is true in the reverse! If we choose to believe (and it’s DEFINITELY a choice) that things could go well, we’ll be obliged to try to figure out how, which makes it easier for us to start gaining momentum in the positive direction. It’s all about training your mind to be able to focus on the better perspective, which is often easier said than done!
This is so awesome thank you!
Just what I needed 🙂
You’re welcome, Lara! I love hearing that!
This is exactly what I needed too! Thank you!
You’re welcome, Nathanael! Thanks for reading!
Wow ! I shared this with all my friends. Absolutely love y’all blog posts, so down to earth.
Thanks for the great compliment! 🙂
OMG this blog is exactly what I needed, it appears to be a variation on ‘The Secret’ which, I also love. Right now I have a job I’m just OK with which results in tons of goofing off at work. I WANT to land a job at a major agency I love. Any suggestions on Active Waiting?
Additionally, I want to feel independent and strong beyond my relationship with my boyfriend who sometimes makes me feel down. Need some of that free-spirited Pocahontas energy, ya know? Love some advice, ladies!
As always, love your blog. I’m going to start a ‘Fractured Fairytale’ photo series you guys might like on my blog here soon at http://www.ashleylunt.com
Thanks for the blog .. I was in a really worst state..this post gives me some calm to my anxiety..and idea of what to do next … hoping for the best 😃
So glad to hear that, Priya!