I just came from an appointment that started a hour late. Most of us would have left within 15 minutes with a annoying taste in our mouth. We usually associate being late with disrespect of the person’s time and unreliability.
While this may be true in some situations and in some cultures, I would like to suggest something else. A big part of our reality is that we wait a lot. We wait in queues, we wait in traffic, we wait for the game to begin and so on.
While waiting for my appointment I pondered on the act of waiting. I don’t like being annoyed, so I tried to understand waiting. It is much more enjoyable exploring something.
Waiting can be dealt with positively on a practical level. We can carry a book with us and read it whenever there is a queue. If you have a smart-phone you can brows the internet or you can chat to the people around you.
But on a different level, waiting opens up a door to character strengths. Martin Seligman and his research team identified 24 character strengths that is part of our make-up. These signature strengths (unique to you as your signature), are the building blocks of our psychological resilience.
If you are interested to know more, go to http://www.authentichappiness.com and look for the VIA Signature Strength test.
Two of these strengths came to mind while I was exploring waiting – Self Control and Prudence. Two strengths that protect us against excess. After the 2008 economic crash and burn, I think you would agree this is quite relevant.
The presence of self control or self regulation helps us regulate what we feel or do. It is about controlling our appetites and emotions, it is about being disciplined (see my post on Marshmallows).
Prudence is all about being careful about our choices, not taking undue risks; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted.
For me personally these strengths are not very well developed. I have to concentrate hard to wait for my needs to be gratified and I do not always think about my choices. But the fact is, these are strengths that can be used.
The question is, how do we use them to help us function optimally?
I suspect waiting might just be a good tool to use. While waiting, we can evaluate the true need behind the one we want to have gratified “yesterday”. Understanding what we really want helps us achieve our true potential.
While waiting we can consider the consequences of our planned actions. Try and see how it fit into the bigger picture and re-evaluate alternatives. Sometimes the first alternative is the best, often a second or third alternative could just take us further. All we need is to do is contemplate a bit, while we wait.
In the end I enjoyed my meeting. Walking away with a sense of gratitude and excitement. Grateful that I was not dependent on taxi’s to take me and my children where I want to be. Exited about the potential of someone that wants to make something of her life. So waiting an hour brought me a gift.