Learning To Wait With Grace

My own state of mind is the determining key, for I am only the reason I let myself be.

The man fretted. He hated to wait. He was pacing back and forth as his wife was about to deliver a baby anytime soon. A friend told him to chill out, to slow down. But the man said, “I’m nervous.”

His friend asked, “Why?” The expectant father replied, “I know this other man. When his wife was at this stage of her pregnancy, she was reading ‘The Tale of Two Cities’.” His friend said, “So what?” The expectant father said, “Well, she had twins.” “And then another fellow, whose wife was reading ‘The Three Musketeers,’ she had triplets.” Again his friend said, “So?”

“Well, my wife is reading ‘Birth of a Nation’,” the man replied.

It’s hard to wait… very hard. Some people get angry, drum their fingers, or fuss about the delay. Other people push the elevator button several times, hoping it comes quicker. Still other people carefully study the checkout lines at the grocery store to find the shortest one, but if they pick wrong, you see them race from one checkout line to another.

If that describes you, you’ve got a stress problem. And you may have a work-life balance issue as well.

Over the last few weeks I’ve given you several strategies for managing, reducing, or eliminating the stress. This week I suggest the following:


In other words, SAVOR every moment — every day, week, month, and year — of your life… to make the best of where you’re at. One person said it this way:

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we LIKE to get old is when we’re kids? If you’re less than 10 years old, you’re so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

“How old are you?” “I’m four and a half!” You’re never thirty-six and a half. You’re four and a half, going on five!

You get into your teens. Now they can’t hold you back. You jump to the next number… or even a few ahead.

“How old are you?” “I’m gonna be 16!” You could be 13, but hey, you’re gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life… you become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. You BECOME 21. YES!!!

But then you turn 30, Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk. He TURNED; we had to throw him out. You’re no fun now; you’re just a sour-dumpling. What’s wrong? What’s changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you’re PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes; it’s all slipping away.

Before you know it, you REACH 50… and your dreams are gone. But wait! You MAKE it to 60. You didn’t think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You’ve built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that, it’s a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80’s, and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you Turn 4:30; you REACH bedtime.

And it doesn’t end there. In the 90’s, you start going backwards; “I was JUST 92.”

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you BECOME a little kid again. “I’m 100 and a half!”

Interesting perspective, don’t you think?

The great economist Adam Smith once asked, “What can be added to the happiness of a man who is healthy, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?” I can answer that. He also needs some skills to manage the day-to-day stresses of life that eat away that happiness.

So what can you do when you’re forced to wait?

=> 1. Get a proper mind set.

Most of the things that happen at home and on the job are not life and death matters. So what if you’re forced to wait in line. It’s no big deal. Don’t sweat the small stuff. As one older gentleman said, “The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.”

Personally, I like the “Today” poem. It’s empowering and allows me to remain relatively stress free. It says:


Outside my window, a new day I see and only I can determine what kind of day it will be.

It can be busy and sunny, laughing and gay, or boring and cold, unhappy and gray.

My own state of mind is the determining key, for I am only the person I let myself be.

I can be thoughtful and do all I can to help, or be selfish and think just of myself.

I can enjoy what I do and make it seem fun, or gripe and complain and make it hard on someone.

I can be patient with those who may not understand, or belittle and hurt them as much as I can.

But I have faith in myself, and believe what I say, and I personally intend to make the best of each day.

=> 2. Look for the humor when you’re forced to wait.

After all, a truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour. And finding the humor will help you do that. As Rabbi Moshe Waldoks says, “A sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the unbearable.”

I find humor all around when I’m forced to wait. For example, I’ve flown millions of miles over the years in my speaking business, and I’m delighted when the flight crew makes their travel announcements in an entertaining fashion.

For example, on a Continental flight, the pilot said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.”

On a Southwest Airlines flight, one flight attendant said, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. And if you can light ’em, you can smoke ’em.”

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington D.C., a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!”

And from the pilot during his welcome message: “Delta Airlines is pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

And finally, one pilot talked about the time he made an especially hard landing. In fact, he was so embarrassed that he found it difficult to look the passengers in the eye, bid them goodbye, and thank them for flying his airline as they exited the plane. Nonetheless, everything went okay until the last passenger, a little old lady with a cane, passed him by. She asked, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?” Why, no, Ma’am,” said the pilot. “What was it?” The little old lady said, “Did we land, or were we shot down?”

=> 3. Do something constructive… or at least interesting… if you’re forced to wait.

Write a letter to a friend, memorize Scripture, bring your calendar up to date, or learn something from a conversation you strike up with a stranger. There’s always something constructive you can do when you’re forced to wait.

You can even be prepared for those inevitable moments of waiting. Bring a book with you. Reading can make a wait in the post office line almost pleasant. Just make sure you read something that is interesting and makes you look good… in case you die while you’re holding and reading the book. Just teasing.

Like I said, do something constructive… or at least interesting… when you’re forced to wait. Growing up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, we learned how to do that. While we waited for spring, we had a snow fest or a winter carnival every winter — which is basically a celebration of bad weather. Now that may sound strange to those of you who live in warmer climates, but it’s a brilliant idea. People learn to have fun in the worst of weather instead of griping about the long wait for spring.

Waiting is inevitable. Stress is not.

Action:  When it comes to waiting, where do you get the most stressed? Waiting in a line for a concert, waiting for the traffic light to change, or waiting for the elevator to come? Maybe you get stressed out being put on hold or having to go through some company’s tedious voicemail system. Pick one situation that is particularly frustrating and think of something else you can do the next time you’re in that situation.