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Are You Stuck in the Waiting Room? -- by Kathryn Lorenzen

As spring approaches, there’s a natural uptick in energy for many folks. This can be so much fun to have the sensation of a fresh start! And yet, some of my coaching clients have recently told me they just feel stalled out and can’t seem to get their motors started.

During the second year of the pandemic in 2021, there was a feeling most of us had, a pervasive sense of joylessness and inertia. Adam Grant published an article in The New York Times that named that feeling for us as “languishing.” Grant positioned it in comparison to “flourishing,” a condition in which we move through our lives with relative ease, joy, and purpose.

Some of us have moved beyond languishing and back into – if not exactly flourishing – at least a higher level of social interaction and moving about in the world, hopefully into more activities that bring us delight.

I came across another angle on this concept of languishing that’s related to how we do our work. In Designing Your New Work Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (2021), their concept of “The Waiting Room” illuminates how many of us fail to get into productive action, or into any action at all. See if you can identify with some ways The Waiting Room can show up in our lives:

  • Waiting “for things to go back to normal” before moving ahead. But what we know for sure is that time will move forward, not backward, and that what’s ahead holds many things but not a return to 2019.

  • Waiting “for conditions to be better” for waiting “for a better time.” In contrast, many people have found brand new opportunities over the past two years, remaining open for signs and messages that can lead them into new ways of being and doing.

  • Waiting “until I feel more confident.” Our brains try to keep us safe and out of the unfamiliar, resisting change. But small actions create confidence, step by step.

  • Waiting “until I have all the pieces in place.” This can result in a ton of action that’s uncoordinated and without clear direction. We tell ourselves we’re making progress, but that can be an illusion.

We all find ourselves in The Waiting Room at one time or another. How can we exit? Consider some ways of giving yourself attention and care:

  • Pause to think about and name what stops you or slows you down. Noticing and awareness are powerful tools to help us make mindful choices.

  • Journal about what you want for yourself in your life and your work. Setting intentions are one way to reassure our brains that we’re not in danger and that it’s safe to move ahead.

  • Talk with a coach about crafting an action plan, or with a therapist if you believe there are deeper issues to be resolved. Engaging with a professional in this way can create a new path.

  • Create a small ritual for yourself, daily or weekly, to make plans and celebrate small wins.

  • Take a look at how you might up-level your environment to reduce stress. This could include your sleep habits, what you eat/drink, and what media you consume.

  • Give yourself something to look forward to! Plan for something specific you want, an event you will attend, or a place you will visit. This one is my personal favorite and renews my energy.

If you are looking at ways to get into action toward your right work, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and I are offering customized coaching with one or both of us. A coaching engagement with us can help you create a vision, discover a new calling or direction, or get into action to start a new enterprise. If you would like to talk with us about this, you can schedule that here.

Meanwhile, we wish you the energy of spring to help you transform your Waiting Room into whatever brings you joy!

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