How easy or difficult is it for you to wait to get information, results, or other kinds of responses?
When it comes to waiting, our society has been evolving over time. Before the telephone, people relied mainly on letters or other forms of written communication to find answers. In John Adam’s day, especially when he was in Europe for his work as Ambassador he often had to wait for months to receive information on negotiations. He often had to wait 6 months to receive a reply to the letters he sent to his wife, Abigail. (from John Adams, by David McCullough)
Contrast that to our lives today. We have learned to expect instant gratification. Not only do we have telephones for voice mail, and texting, we have e-mail and social media. I’ve often heard people say, “I just texted him/her and it’s been 10 minutes—why haven’t I gotten a response yet?”
Long lines or traffic delays are other aspects of this malady. We seem to have little tolerance for waiting in almost every area of our lives. We have developed anxieties as a result of expecting instant responses. In essence, we feel a loss of control. When you look at it from a historical perspective, It’s easy to see this as a more recent viewpoint, the result of technology and other advances that have taught us we don’t need to wait for almost anything.
What effects have you noticed in your own life? How difficult is it for you to wait? In what instances is it easier? What is the impact on your mind, and emotions? What do you notice about the effect on your body? For example, do you start to judge others–or yourself (mind), do you get anxious or irritated (emotions), does your body get tense or tired or do you get headaches (body)? Have you stopped to think about any of this? What could be the possible benefits from learning how to wait—comfortably!
What is the worst-case scenario you imagine by allowing yourself to wait? That means in a reasonable perspective, not checking your phone for texts or e-mails more than 3 times a day.
It means finding ways to occupy your mind with positive or productive thoughts while waiting in line or in traffic, instead of getting frustrated, angry, anxious, or simply fuming.
We have become addicted to instant gratification. When we try to delay gratification, we undergo symptoms of withdrawal: anxiety, frustration, loss of control/helplessness. Our bodies and our minds begin to experience distress.
Contrast this to what happened with John Adams, when he had to wait to hear from another country regarding an important negotiation or treaty, when he had to wait months to find out how his wife Abigail was doing. He had no expectations of a quick response. In essence, it gave Adams time to think, to ponder, to learn about other things that might make his life more meaningful and productive. He even had many periods of philosophical thinking. In short, he learned and grew as a person, and was able to bring a better quality of life to his existence (It’s worth reading the very well written entire 600-page book to understand this better).
Think about what you could be doing instead of checking social media, texting or agitating about the call or e-mail you are waiting for—when you get past the anxiety and preoccupation with immediate gratification. Make a list—write it down, so you can really think about it. Pick one thing you could do and would like to do instead–and do it. It could be an activity, or simply spending time thinking about something really important to you.
Take a moment to be with your own thoughts.
Here’s an example of how to avoid Impulsively checking your phone.
(from David Gelles, NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/well/mind/how-to-be-mindful-with-your-phone.html
How often do you impulsively reach for your phone? “It’s like a huge magnet draws your hand toward your pocket, as if spending 40 seconds with your own thoughts is impossible.” — Bill Duane, a Google executive who meditates.
If you are drawn to your phone, ask yourself:
Am I checking the phone for information I need?
· To make a connection?
· Out of boredom?
· To escape the present moment?
· If you don’t really need to check your phone, just leave it alone. Notice the urge to get online arise and eventually subside.
These questions can also be applied when you have the impulse to check social media.
For some people, it is easier to make the shift all at once—such as checking texts, e-mails or social media three times a day—or once a day, or not at all!
You don’t need to go cold-turkey. You can cut back gradually. Start by checking e-mails, social media or texting by ten percent. Pay attention to the value of what you are doing instead.
Some suggestions: spend that time thinking about ways to improve a relationship in your life, making your work more productive, do some exercise, read a good book, learn to do something new, and engage in mindfulness meditation. And just maybe, have a phone conversation or in-person meeting instead. Research shows that we derive more satisfaction and better communication from in-person meetings. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/unconscious-branding/201407/why-email-is-only-7-percent-effective-talking
Think about one person you’d like to get to know better, understand better, or to improve your relationship.
The ultimate goal is to reduce your need for immediate gratification. It will pay off in more productivity, satisfaction, peace of mind, and quality of life!
If you have questions or would like some additional tips, let me know.
Feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested.