Staying patient in the waiting game


Considering how much of a ‘now’ society that we live in, waiting is sometimes regarded as a burden or an inconvenience. — Photo from

WAITING might be especially challenging for those who are more emotionally reactive, and in most situations, we are the ones ‘standing in line’ rather than the ones ‘controlling the line’.

David Maister, a former Harvard Business School professor, provided a straightforward formula in his widely shared article ‘The Psychology of Waiting’ to explain satisfaction with the waiting experience: ‘Satisfaction = Perception – Expectation’.

His main argument is that our perception of how lengthy a wait is may not always match the amount of time it actually takes.

Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits. We wait for the GrabFood delivery driver more patiently when there is a thunderstorm, than when the sky is clear.

Also, would you rather wait more patiently at a stall for the salesperson than a doctor at the hospital? The more valuable the service, the longer we are willing to wait.

Additionally, unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. It is not random to have an opening band before the main concert event and mirrors placed near the elevator as distractions.

Rather, they are attempts to manage the waiting times.

Despite my extreme impatience and dislike of waiting, I want to talk about how having patience can make you happy, whether you are waiting in a queue at a mall, or waiting for something life-changing to happen.

The idea of embarking on a journey that looks nothing like what we expected can be frightening. As cheesy as it sounds, there are moments when I question my place in life, and if everything I thought I knew and expected to happen might not be true.

If you are on the same journey of expecting and waiting, I hope this discussion helps to calm the anxious heart.

Not everything in life goes as planned. Some of us have ended up pursuing careers that were quite different from our initial plans, and many of us are attempting to achieve our life goals.

However, how do you cope when everything is against you and nothing is going your way in life?

When I need a little extra hope, I like to think back to these words from the Bible: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is yet to be revealed to us.”

Generally speaking, hope means having an expectation that something good will happen in the future, or that something bad will not happen. When we want something to happen but are unsure whether it will or will not, we employ hope.

Yes, patience can be difficult, but joyful expectation serves as the fuel that propels hope forward, and hope gives buoyancy to situations that feel overwhelming, whereas buoyancy refers to a person’s ability to overcome obstacles in daily life and pass hurdles.

When life appears to be throwing everything at you, and you feel overwhelmed, it is time to think about what’s in your control.

It is common knowledge that ‘patience is a virtue’, but why is patience a skill that has to be learned?

The reason we should develop patience is that we have to wait everywhere. One of the most important traits in a person is the ability to wait for something without losing their cool.

When we are forced to wait for something we truly desire, waiting can be challenging, and time can feel excruciating. But ultimately, waiting will benefit you rather than harm you; “What’s meant to be, will be.”

Considering how much of a ‘now’ society we live in, waiting is sometimes regarded as a burden or an inconvenience. I understand how frustrating it may be to wait for something you want right now.

However, there are times we need to understand when patience is not a virtue; thus in those cases, what are you actually waiting for?

It is silly and hardly a sign of patience to wait for things that will never come. Just remember that patience is a virtue when there is an end to the means.

It is difficult to get good at the waiting game when you are sitting there in the unknown, and you have this overpowering sensation that if you just do anything, you can make time travel more quickly in order to reach the destination of your desired journey.

It is an acquired skill. It requires some guts and self-control.

However, you get more enjoyment out of the journey when you quit pushing things forward too quickly; things become more interesting.

Slow down and worry less. Scaling too quickly may result in an abrupt decline in performance because of missteps made along the way.

Until life throws us a curveball, we rarely consider the need to be strong. At that point, you have two options: either you let it consume you, or let it motivate you to be stronger.

How can I be strong? Playing the waiting game can also be about learning how to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. You already possess inner strength; all you need to do is tap into it.

As hard as some waiting days are, it is the challenging ones that can really bring tremendous growth in your life.

Do you find it difficult to be content with your situation, whether you are desiring a career, a partner, or a healed heart? Good news for you – you do not have to wait until you have achieved everything you want before you can be content.

Contentment lies in the gratitude for what you do have, not hating what you do not have. It shows respect for the realities of the present day.

How can you be content in this moment if you are always waiting for a better set of circumstances to appear?

The future will arrive at the present moment. You will lose it if you are not ‘here’ right now.

You will keep dreaming of a better future, which you will never truly see.

* The writer is a psychology graduate who enjoys sharing about how the human mind views the world. For feedback, email to [email protected].