“…of all the hardships a person had to face none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.” - Khaled Hosseini
Every one of us at many points in our lives and careers have waited—waited for the job offer, the promotion, the promise of love, the offer of marriage. Many wait to hear their medical diagnosis or the outcome of a surgery. Days, months, even years with the passage of time so excruciating and exhausting.
Then one day, the waiting ends, and the verdict arrives. Celebration or sadness immediately ensues. But regardless of the outcome, a developing awareness of what ‘waiting’ did to us follows. We reflect back on the uncontrollable emotions; or conversely, the infinite pause that took over, keeping us barely breathing and almost catatonic.
Why does a verdict we wait for have such power, hijacking our ability to live normally and be present? We face a dilemma when we wait: do we allow the difficulty of the pending situation cripple us with an outpouring of anxiety? Or do we become robotic, impervious, and let none of the situation’s implications even remotely come to the surface?
Who do we become when we wait?
The wise ones have learned a thing or two. They find ways to co-exist with an unknown future without letting the past fuel their self-doubt. They’ve built the muscles to experience all the elements of their ‘waiting’ without it crippling them with anxiety or paralysis.
A good friend, senior in her career and after decades of working diligently and being a top performer, finally received the promotion that she hoped for. Several years of talent reviews included her, only to come up empty. But she maintained her resolve even when it seemed utterly fruitless and unfair. She would stand back up after each disappointment, move forward, and ask, “What needs to be done? What’s next?” I was continually inspired with her ability to stay as strong as she did and lean into her self-confidence, even when disappointment must have felt overpowering.
“Every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.” - Aaron Sorkin
Merriam Webster defines resilience as:
- The ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change; buoyancy.
- The property of a material that enables it to resume its original shape or position after being bent, stretched, or compressed; elasticity.
A former teacher once told me that resilience allows you to dip your foot in your emotional river of Class 5 rapids and not let the water carry you away or under. With resilience, one can face the difficulty of a prolonged situation with an unknown outcome without falling apart or overly indulging in distractions.
Developing one’s own ability to be buoyant and elastic seems imperative especially in the last several years. With the recession and recent conflicts, so many have faced job losses, home foreclosures, pending insurance coverage, or the wait for a loved one’s return from war.
How do we find a way to live each moment unrestrained despite the looming, unknown verdict we face? I’m not sure. But this is what I have observed in those around me who are remarkably resilient. They have:
- A strong belief in themselves and their abilities
- Clarity in who they are and who they are not
- The agility to adapt to change without fearing the loss of their core goals and values
- Faith and trust in themselves
- The intuition to know when to ask for help or just let go
- A higher purpose that guides them that is bigger than their own personal gain
- A focus towards the future vs. an indulgence into the past
- An endless curiosity and desire for learning
These resilient ones make peace with the unknown and release their attachments to end-states and outcomes, over and over again. A few of them have traveled to Hell and back. And having survived and returned, they forge a path back into the world and are open to all forms of possibility and opportunity—with gratitude.
This is our human potential at its best. Lean into the wind and adjust your sails.