On a trip home to Florida a few months back, I was forced to come face-to-face with a very bad flaw I’ve maintained my entire life: I have no ability to wait… on anything.
I left work that afternoon a total wreck. I was irate. My integrity had been challenged at the office and someone was going to pay. I wanted to call that person immediately and flip out on him (not Jeremy, promise)! I wanted to write the nastiest response e-mail and cc half the universe! I wanted to instantly mend my broken feelings while verbally (and physically) destroying the opposition. Instantly is the operative word. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do while sitting in the passenger seat just one hour into a seven-hour trip.
Then something happened: I fell asleep.
I woke up nearly two hours later and felt… different. Still hurt. Still angry. But not irate. I was finally able to use actual words to convey my feelings to Jeremy and rationally discuss the options for how to handle the situation. Then it happened again: another hour, two hours, three hours went by and I was still unable to do anything to immediately resolve the circumstances.
Would you believe that being strapped inside a car going 75 mph for seven hours was the best possible solution for me? And that my immediate, knee-jerk, emotionally charged response would have only escalated the situation into something worse?! (Go figure.) In the end, a ‘higher-up’ who was cc’d on the original e-mail handled the situation for me by the following Monday. I never had to respond or let anyone know how the accusations made me feel. I simply had to wait, which was harder to do than any of my other options.
Being forced to wait in that situation helped me re-evaluate the way I handle many day-to-day interactions. In the past few months I’ve been able to recognize the truly majestic outcomes of ‘just waiting.’ In fact, I recently created a six-month plan for re-directing my career goals. Although I have many action steps in place, a lot of waiting will be necessary for my plans to come to fruition. Before my “waiting epiphany” I wanted everything to change immediately. I wanted to buy today. I wanted to quit tomorrow. But it turns out that more often than not, outcomes are so much sweeter when they’re waited on. Waiting allows for the right people and events to take place in the meantime so you can get the best possible result.
In closing, I’m not suggesting a nap for the next time you’re in an excitable situation. Sometimes you won’t be able to leave the room, the office, the car, etc. But you will be able to control your emotions and wait. Wait for your heart to stop racing. Wait for the perspiration on your brow to dry. Imagine me going ballistic on my colleague and know that you don’t want to be seen like that.
Wait long enough to:
1. consider your options
2. be able to effectively communicate your response plan to someone else first (ie: mom or boyfriend, not another colleague)
3. remember that punching someone is assault and you can be arrested, then the other person wins and you don’t want that