The Art of Waiting
rather it is “timing” it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”
– Fulton John Sheen
My star-rating as a passenger with Uber dropped from a perfect 5 to 4.5 last weekend. ‘What did I do wrong?’ I cried. The answer, as it turned out was that I kept my driver waiting outside a London hotel for ten whole minutes.
My intolerance to ‘waiting’ meant that I ordered a car ten minutes before I was ready to leave.
Society’s intolerance to ‘waiting’ and technology’s ability to overcome the injustices of standing idle, meant that my driver was sat outside said hotel before I’d even left the app.
On my way to the airport, I used the ‘dead’ time to do some mobile banking, check-in for my flight and order a next-day Amazon delivery – three tasks that would have otherwise seen me waiting in queues and ‘wasting’ time. On arrival at the airport, I discovered that my flight had been delayed for four hours and all I could do was wait.
On seeing my flight delay on an airport departure board, my instant reaction was one of anxiety, stress and foreboding. I couldn’t understand why though.
Yes, I had planned a two-day itinerary and was meeting a client, but not until the following morning. I had no dinner reservation, no hotel check-in time and no-one waiting for me at arrivals who would be inconvenienced. I had my laptop, my phone and an airport full of shops to browse and places that would feed me. So why did I dread the wait?
The simple answer is that with every tap, pinch, and swipe of our mobile devices, we’ve altered our behaviour, heightened our expectation for instant gratification and become less tolerant to road-blocks that bring us crashing to a halt.
Technology has accelerated our pace of life and we’ve relinquished the art of waiting as a consequence. Yet learning to wait is an important skill, especially for an event planner.
It teaches us patience, not only with ourselves but also with others. It teaches us to stay calm, to stay focused on the bigger picture, and gives us the ability to problem-solve more effectively.
When we wait, we see things more clearly (Google the duck-rabbit graph if you need proof. Whichever animal you see first, wait and you’ll see it change).
When we have patience we can better plan events, as opposed to merely reacting to the demands and requests of clients and suppliers in real-time. That in turn allows us to optimise the use of our resources by giving us time to think about what will provide the best event solution or greatest return on investment.
Learning to wait allows us to make better decisions, it improves our health and it makes us mentally stronger. There’s confidence and equanimity in being able to just be. The more we have this feeling of composure, the less likely we are to seek comfort in immediate action, in a perceived need to restore order when something (like a delayed flight) feels uncomfortable.
So how did I spent my airport ‘waiting’ time?
I sat, I watched, I became aware of my calmness of breath, I felt present and I even reevaluated an event logistical issue that had been stumping me before coming up with the perfect solution.
And then I wrote this, to remind myself that mindfulness is a powerful addition to the event planners tool-kit and if we lose the art of waiting, it is detrimental to so many more important things than my Uber star-rating.