Life Might Just Be Telling You to Wait

· May 6, 2016

Sometimes we think life is depriving us of something that we want, when in reality it’s just telling us to wait. It pains us to acknowledge that there is a time for each situation and event, and that the world seldom follows the same rhythm that we do.

We’ve normalized and internalized the idea of wanting something and wanting it now. So when something that we really long for doesn’t come when we want it to, we must realize that there is a time for each desire to be fulfilled, and that rushing things does nothing but crush our hopes.

We should make an effort to live in the here and now, to develop our capacity to wait and be patient, because this will help us enjoy the process of life in a meaningful way.

We should invest our efforts in reaping the harvest of success, achieving our goals, and fulfilling our desires. Only by failing, falling, and getting up again can we savor the reward when it finally comes.

heads turning into butterflies

The same thing happens with love, which comes not when you look for it, but when it feels like it. This is something that we can’t understand and makes us feel absolutely hopeless. In fact, when we want love and it doesn’t come, we end up feeling less valid, less deserving than those who do have it.

Wait: things pass, things come, and things change

Telling ourselves to wait for things to happen requires a great deal of self control. That is, as you’ll see in the next video, if someone puts our favorite type of candy in front of us and asks us not to eat it until a certain time, we’ll try not to focus on the candy so that we can make it through the waiting period.


We’ll use strategies of self-control that allow us to suppress the temptation to eat the candy or sweet (in the video they use marshmallows). It’s endearing to watch a child handle this situation. The ones who are able to last the entire waiting period use strategies like singing, dancing, covering their eyes, playing, etc…

This experiment was originally conducted in the sixties by psychologist Walter Mischel from Columbia University. When he followed up on the children who participated in the study later in life, he found that the ability to control impulses during childhood is closely related to self-control in adult life. The ability to wait and exercise self-control starts to develop since birth, becoming obvious around 4-5 years of age.

Now let’s move on from this metaphor and think about how delaying gratification is something that we do every day (for example, going to work so that we can get money at the end of the month). The fight between our desires and self-control (or between instant gratification and delayed gratification) is settled through emotional learning that starts when we’re young.

foggy apple tree

Taking our time allows us to tolerate frustration

Sometimes when gratification is delayed, our impatience can start to unravel the situation, to knock down the castle walls that we so carefully constructed.

The things that are truly worthwhile require a great deal of effort, an enormous capacity to wait, and the ability to withstand emotional and physical defeat. Sure, we won’t be able to understand why our moment of glory didn’t come, and we’ll collapse under the weight of uncertainty.

However, we’ll learn important emotional lessons along the way that we’ll probably never forget:

  • The things we really value are the things we put our heart and soul into, or the things that take effort and perseverance.
  • Nothing will improve if we don’t take action.
  • Working responsibly and consistently is the only way to achieve the things we desire.
  • Everybody should be the captain of their own ship, because if you don’t guide yourself, you’ll never end up at the right harbor. You’ll just navigate aimlessly, lost at high seas for the majority of your life.
  • It’s important to always try to improve yourself based on what you know, what you think is right, and what others with more experience tell you.
  • There’s no need to do everything well, because perfection does not exist.
  • While you’re waiting, great things can happen.
  • The things you want will come eventually, but you can never get back lost time.
rainbow trees

If we don’t ultimately get what we want, we should always remember that nothing that has happened to us was a mistake. Every decision and every feeling seems to be right at the time.

That’s why we shouldn’t give up on making sense of everything that happens to us, because, as Viktor Frankl said, “life is meaningful up to the last moment, the last breath, thanks to the fact that meaning can be extracted even from suffering.

Main image by Christian Schloe