January 13, 2015

Step Out of the Waiting Room & Start Living.

Hartwig HKD/Flickr Creative Commons

The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live.

~ Seneca

A few weeks ago I had to sit in a waiting room.

I had injured my finger some months ago and was going for my final session to see the hand specialist.

I had to wait a long time. It was a very busy clinic, but I always have a book and my ideas journal with me, so I managed to do some reading, and the inspiration struck me to write a post about waiting rooms.

I even got in a few minutes of meditation.

It was a very long wait.

I started to wonder about the amount of time we spend waiting. It’s a very compelling metaphor for how many of us secretly live.

We’re always waiting for the perfect moment to begin something, and until that moment arrives, we stay comfortably seated in the waiting room and read magazines about other people doing cool stuff.

We are so inspired by all the obstacles they had to overcome to achieve their goals and dreams, and then we talk about them at parties and read books about them, but somehow they are special and we are not.

The same rules don’t apply for us.

Excuses are waiting rooms where they never call your number.

I have a small wooden box I keep on my desk.

It’s right next to the tic-tac-toe set I made for my dad when I was in the eighth grade that I reclaimed after his death. I write down every good excuse that I hear, and place it in the box.

In my work, I’m someone who has the great fortune to hear some pretty amazing excuses, as people I work with are attempting to squeeze through some narrow spots in their lives, or untangling complicated knots they have spent years tying, so I take them seriously.

I’ve never heard a good excuse I didn’t like, for within each and every one of them is the seed for success.

My job is to help people discover better excuses for walking out of the waiting room, so I just love to hear a juicy reason why something can’t work.

And sometimes, they are even true.

The Hall of Fame Excuse.

I was recently hired by a busy entrepreneur to coach and support some of her staff as she was about to wrap up a year working on a very intense and stressful new project that had fallen behind schedule, and was causing a stress and uncertainty for the team.

I got a call a few minutes before a scheduled appointment with one of her senior people. A sheepish voice came on the line and apologized profusely for not being able to make the call.

No problem.

Everybody gets one “get out of jail free card” with me.

Of course, I was excited to hear a potentially new excuse, so I asked him what came up.

His calm reply was,

“Oh, my house is on fire.”

“Go big or go home” did not apply here as his house was on fire and he was rushing to get back there.

I was deeply moved by his ability to stay balanced and upbeat, in spite of this great hardship he was enduring. We even had a laugh as I told him he had just entered the hall of fame for the best cancellation excuse I had ever received.

This experience showed me he was a perfect example of someone who was not living in a waiting room.

He took it in stride and found a perspective on it that allowed him to be grateful. He wasn’t happy about it and he wasn’t in love with what the moment had presented, but no one had been hurt and it saved him from having the extra work of having to de-clutter.

It turned out to be a moment of great clarity for both of us.

Life happens and sometimes in very dramatic ways.

Whenever I find myself making an excuse, I’ll open the box of most wonderful excuses and read a few. It always cheers me up and motivates me to keep walking my path, as steady and true as I can.

I fall down, and I veer off course, but as long as I keep coming back to it, I’m not in the waiting room.

I heard a classic a while back from someone I met at a social function.

She told me she would never work with a coach like me because she was afraid she might start living the life she had only dreamed of for years, and what if the dream turned out to be not as good as she thought it would be in her head.

That is living and thinking inside the waiting room.

It may seem odd or even absurd, but excuses are often very irrational on the surface, and deeply embedded in beliefs and patterns of thinking.

The “Once-in-a-Lifetime” Excuse.

If we are honest, we can admit many of the rituals and ideals in our culture are what I call “once-in-a-lifetime” moments.

We prize these moments, as if the rest of the moments don’t mean much, they are just fillers.

Filler is another way of saying,

“Please take a seat, we’ll be with you shortly.”

Most likely, everyone has been to a wedding. But every once in a while, you show up to a really spectacular one, one that is much more fun than 99 percent of the rest of them.


Is it a big budget? Nope. That is no indicator it will be memorable.

Size? Nope. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Catering and location? Sure. These details play a part but they are not the magic ingredient for me.

In my mind, the spectacular weddings are the ones that are not treated like they are some kind of fairy tale.

They didn’t try to make it “extra special.”

The hosts set out to throw a good party and really enjoy themselves, and they stop worrying about whether the wedding will live up to the impossible expectations of a “once-in-a-lifetime” event.

Every moment is a “once-in-a-lifetime” moment.

You just had one reading that sentence.

We so cherish this idea that it paralyzes us in many ways.

We have two choices: We can get off the fairytale bandwagon or find new waiting rooms to sit in.

If we don’t begin something, we have less chance of being disappointed, and so the waiting room becomes a fall back position for us, as there is always a reason, often a very compelling reason, to not begin living quite yet.

It becomes a very startling choice with each passing day you are alive.

The great tragedy in life is not in the operating room, it’s in the waiting room. It’s where human potential goes to wither and die.

Achievement starts long before you achieve anything.

True happiness must begin before you succeed, not after.

Leland Francisco/Flickr

The moment we decide to walk out of the waiting room, we have engaged in the process of living.

Whether you’re about to leave your parents home and start at university or you’re a parent sending your kids off to college; if you are about to retire or just beginning your career; whether you’re on the winning team at this moment or still learning how to get into the game, this is it.

This is the moment you work with, and you build what you wish to experience into it.

The biggest, most repetitive and achingly sad excuse is always—the time is not quite right yet.

While I agree the outer circumstances may not be quite right, the inner game is not something that needs the right timing.

The time is always right for training your mind, and when you work with your mind, you create the foundation for the rest of it to unfold.

Start where this moment has placed you.

Use the resources you have right now.


Personal development is not about making life a plastic, problem-free existence, but to give ordinary life the deep value and meaning that is hidden from view by expectations and fear.

We often spend so much time focusing on outcome, we leave joy by the side of the road, and forget to savor each step, as we would savor each bite of a delicious meal rather than just gulping it down so we can eat our next meal.

Balancing your achievements and desires with being mindful of the moment is a lifelong practice.

It will always be a juggling act, but those that do it well have more fulfilling and content lives, for they have made the connection and stop living in an imaginary future.

Look around at your world, at your work place and you’ll see it isn’t hard to spot the people who are living in a waiting room.

Experiment with letting all your moments be equal and sacred.

This is good news.

It means “not” achieving something is only a step towards eventually achieving it.

I think it’s the only way to cut down on the time you spend in the waiting room.


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Author: David Frank Gomes

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor:Renee Picard 

Photos: Hartwig HKD/Flickr, Leland Francisco/Flickr


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