by karen porter
The hospital waiting room was full. Across from me was a middle-aged woman who fretted with items from her purse and struggled to sit still. Worry was visible in the deep lines on her forehead. Two chairs down from her was a young mom trying to engage and entertain a toddler full of energy.
At the end of the row, a grandmother sat in a wheelchair crying softly; her pre-teen granddaughter rubbed comforting circles across the old woman’s shoulders. In the corner, a quiet cowboy stood patiently first on one booted foot, then the other and turning his hat round and round in his hands.
Near the windows, a man in a business suit tapped fast messages on his phone, feverishly taking care of business while waiting.
Waiting is hard — and sometimes feels hopeless. Like the people in that waiting room, we may worry and fret like the woman, lose ourselves in caring for others like the young mom, cry like the grandmother, retreat into our thoughts like the cowboy or frantically try to work like the businessman.
Have you ever wanted to quit because the waiting is too hard or too long? Maybe you’ve tried to lead your organization to reach a new goal or expand the business or ministry, but the timetable you planned has stretched into months, perhaps years. Waiting, which is postponed again and again, leads to quitting.
Permanent weight loss is slow and tedious. Starting a new venture requires hours and hours of planning, and delays are inevitable. Finishing your education program seems never ending. Methodically training for a marathon leads to disillusionment. Leading your company or ministry to a new level is as if you take one step forward and two steps backward.
Most of us want answers and solutions quickly, so when we enter the waiting room, we want to quit — to move on to the next big plan.
What can we do to keep our motivation for the work? Research suggests three actions.
First Action Step. Celebrate small victories.
Your brain needs to receive an award. One of your key leadership tools is to remind your team (and yourself) how far you’ve come since you started. Keep a journal or a log. Review it often and as you see small wins, communicate them to your team. One group committed itself to healthy living, eating right and exercising. The leader wisely reported the total pounds lost each week. Everyone was motivated to keep trying. Paul wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Second Action Step. Let failure or mistakes go.
If the team didn’t meet a deadline or everyone was late to a meeting or didn’t read an important email, let it go. Start again with new enthusiasm. Failure is amplified with inner dialogue and self-blame. Instead learn to take a step forward past the disappointment and focus on the goal.
Remember, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). One group leader realized that every team member was weary because they had worked too hard on the project, and the weariness contributed to mistakes. She told each group member to take a weekend off from the work of the project and to take a nap on at least one day of the weekend. The team came back to the task on Monday with vigor.
Third Action Step. Discover who feels overwhelmed and offer help.
Feeling overwhelmed may be the reason most people quit. When we are too busy, we feel overwhelmed. When we don’t sleep, we are easily beaten. When we eat too much sugar and carbs, we become exhausted. Without exercise, we are sluggish. Spend time with your group discussing how God’s will fits into the plan. Remind the group that God’s priorities should become our priorities.
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:29-31).
Restate the vision for the group. Share your heart’s desires and motivations. When one leader saw his team lose its energy and vision, he called the group together and read the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10 aloud to the group. They discussed the busyness and frustration that Martha felt and then asked hard application questions about their current work. Then they imagined what it might have been like for Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus, even though there was work to be done. Then they brainstormed ways the team could re-energize by spending time in Bible reading and prayer. They set aside a time each day for spiritual reflection and renewal. The productivity of the group expanded so fast, they finished the project ahead of time.
The hotel tycoon, Conrad Hilton said,
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
Next time you enter the waiting room, instead of quitting, try these action steps: Celebrate small victories, let mistakes go and spend time for spiritual rest and renewal.