“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ~Johann Wolfang von Goethe
Silence. Not a word.
Another day is over. The news you were waiting for didn’t arrive.
Everyone else around you keeps moving. They know where they’re going.
You don’t. You watch the days go by and think of all the things you could have done. You feel like you’re wasting your time.
It seems pretty pointless. You’re not where you want to be.
Sometimes we have to wait. You left one job, but the next one is not yet here. You want to go back to the soccer field, but your injury is not yet healed. You’re stuck in a city you just want to leave behind. Or you just simply don’t know what to do next.
In May, my husband and I moved across the world from Germany, my home for over twenty-five years, to Canada, his home country. We had already applied for permanent residence for me months before we came.
Give it a few weeks and it will arrive, we thought. Then I could start looking for a job. Start my career. Move forward.
Weeks became months. August came and I was still hopeful. I checked the mailbox every day. Maybe today we would hear something. But still nothing.
The heat of summer started to fade and I became more anxious. I was expecting to hear the big news any day, but the leaves turned colorful and pumpkins popped up in the stores and I still hadn’t received my permit.
Over the course of a summer and a fall, I was watching my friends moving forward. Applying for new jobs, preparing for interviews, getting promoted. Friends from Germany I graduated with were starting their careers. Some of them started a family.
I was waiting. And the longer the waiting continued, the more anxious I got. As a twenty-seven-year-old graduate, I felt like I had no time to waste.
Even more, I was ready to work. Apply what I’ve learned. Improve my skillset. Learn new things. Contribute to a cause. Be part of something. Instead, I had to wait. I felt slowed down. Left behind.
But as fall came, something in me started to change slowly. I started to come to terms with my circumstances. My situation hadn‘t changed; I had. I realized that there were five things that, with the help of my husband and family, helped me turn this waiting period around.
1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
This first point is crucial.
Some mornings you might not even want to get out of bed. What for? Even if you do, you feel no motivation to get anything started or done. What’s the point?
It might seem like life has hit the pause button, but life is still happening. And it is still up to you what you do with your circumstances.
So focus on what you can do. Live. Right now. Every day. Don’t make this all about the wait. Make it about you. Then there is really no reason to feel sorry at all.
2. Watch your mouth.
Words are powerful, even if they aren’t said out loud. The way you think and talk about your situation will determine how you feel about it.
In the evening, when my husband asked me what I did that day, I quite often said, “Nothing, really.” Of course I had done a lot of things every day. What I really meant was: “I did a lot of things, but they don’t count.” They didn’t count in my head because it wasn't what I wanted to do. It’s not what I though I should be doing.
Silly, I know. And my husband would call me on it, which eventually changed my language. And that eventually changed my perspective on things.
Share your crappy feelings with people. Be honest with them. But make sure these are people who help you. Who challenge you. Who don’t let you sit in it.
Guard your thoughts when you are alone. Don’t allow yourself to sit in your negative feelings. Put a visual reminder on your desk. A quote maybe. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Have a copy of it in your wallet.
You might not be where you want to be in the long run, but that’s life. It takes time. As long as you are on the right path, every step counts. And if you don’t know where your path is going, you were just given the perfect opportunity to find out!
3. Don’t make excuses.
It’s easy to find reasons not to do things. Especially when you’re waiting. Because what you really want is just around the corner. The present is just a weird in-between-space.
Wrong. Now is the time to try new things. To step out of your comfort zone. To discover new passions and gifts.
In the past months, I taught myself more about cameras and video editing, I took a guest blogging course, I started to take on a few creative projects around the house, I connected to new people in the city, and I explored my new home.
Some of it might help my career. Some of it was purely for enjoyment. But everything I did helped me to learn—what I enjoy, what I am good at, how I want to live my life.
So pick one thing you want to do. A creative project. A class. Your own book. Start it. Commit to it. Don’t be scared that it’s going to take you a lot of time. Let it take you out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to know yet where it’s going to take you.
4. Don’t compare.
So you’ve tried all of the above. You’ve done good work. You feel great.
But then you start comparing yourself to the people around you. Friends, family, coworkers.
Of course, you pick the ones who aren’t in a similar situation. Those who know exactly what they want. Those who just did the big move out of the city. Those who just got a job.
Don’t. I know it’s hard, because it feels like it’s being rubbed in your face: you’re not there yet. And the whole cycle of feeling sorry for yourself, negative words, and cheap excuses starts again.
Be happy for these people. Remember that one day, it’s going to be you. It’s just going to take a few extra steps. That’s fine. Because until then, there are plenty of opportunities and lots of life to live.
One thing that helps me is to stay away from certain people and groups on social media. I don’t blame people for posting about all the awesome things that happen in their lives. I just know my weak spot. I know I instantly compare myself. So I unfollowed a bunch of people to avoid it, for my own sake.
5. Keep moving.
You know that exercising keeps you healthy. It makes you strong and helps you stay in shape. But it also improves your mood and your sleep. It reduces stress and anxiety. It helps your brain to function better.
You, of all people, want a functioning brain. For all the reasons listed above. That’s why you need to move your physical body in this period of waiting.
Find the way to workout that works best for you. I used to run a lot, so I bought myself a new pair of runners. When I am overwhelmed with my situation, I put them on and run it off.
It can be as simple or fancy as you like—just do it. Sign up for a gym class. Join a soccer team. Go for long walks. Do yoga with the help of some YouTube videos.
Of course, this point will look differently for you if you’re waiting is caused by a physical injury. You’re doctor and physiotherapist have probably told you already what exercises and how much of it will help your body to recover.
In any case, commit to exercising. Make time for it. Stick with it.
You Can Do It
Waiting sucks. Especially when there is no end in sight and you’ve done everything you can.
But changing the way you approach this waiting period can make all the difference.
Imagine achieving a goal taking one step every single day.
Imagine learning a new skillset that will help you when you can finally take the next step.
Imagine discovering a new passion that will determine the way your life is going.
Start by trying one of the steps above tomorrow morning when you get out of bed.
Try a different step every day. Keep those that work and lose those that don’t.
You can make this period of waiting in your life a personal success!