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Senior Correspondent

"I can think. I can wait. I can fast." — "Siddhartha," by Hermann Hesse

I’ve only had my word of the year “wait” for a few days, and I can already tell you that waiting is not such an easy thing to do. Even so, my word has already taught me some valuable lessons.

I’ve used it while meditating to bring my attention back to quiet alertness. I’ve used it to remind myself to listen more and speak less. I’ve used it when poised to do something or say something that, after waiting a moment to take a few breaths, I thought better of.

Just this morning, I was about to call a company that recently provided some services at my house. I was irritated about something and intended to complain. Instead, I waited until after I had a cup of tea. I wrote an email to the company and rather than complain, I asked questions about what I was concerned about. The company had someone at my house within twenty minutes who looked at what I was concerned about and took care of it immediately, with assurances that they wanted me to be completely satisfied. Wow. My concerns were addressed and everybody felt much better than if I had opened the conversation with a criticism.

Of course, it’s true that I might not have gotten such a good outcome, but regardless of the company’s response, the point is that I was so much happier with the approach I took. And the approach I took was a direct result of waiting before acting on my initial impulse.

In another example, I have been thinking about a decision I need to make. It’s not urgent, but I have been pushing myself to decide just to get the issue resolved. Yesterday, I realized that waiting for more clarity will lead to a better decision. The only urgency is my own impatience. I put it aside.

As a bonus, because I had put it aside, I was able to make a more pressing decision on another matter with much more focus and confidence because my mind was not cluttered with needless distractions.

So although my initial reaction to my word was sort of a disappointed “Really?” I’ve come to see fairly quickly that I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of this humble word. Just “wait” and see.

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