How To Stop Playing The “Waiting Game”

Stephen Hussey

(Photo: Derecke Sanches)

I’ve always hated waiting for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

I was recently listening to a podcast with the film director Kevin Smith, who had to deal with his own dreaded scenario of ‘playing the waiting game’.

He was talking about the moment when he had just handed in the script for his new movie Clerks 3, and was waiting for the studio executives to give him the green light and financially back him to make the film.

It’s that ‘on-hold’ period of utter torment, like those excruciating weeks when you sit around waiting for college application results. You peek at every letter that plops through the mailbox with your hands shaking, knowing that it’s either Acceptance or Rejection.

I’ve had that feeling many times in my life. Whether it was waiting for funding, scholarship results, job offers, college acceptances, publisher approval, or even just judgment from someone whose opinion I respected.

The worst part about it is the feeling that you’ve lost control over your destiny. You feel like your future is in someone else’s hands: they can either let you march on your merry way and pat you on the bum as you ascend the ladder of success, or they can pull it out from under you.

You just don’t know if all your hard work is going to pay off, and one thing is for sure: you won’t feel truly relaxed until you know the outcome.

So what do you usually do instead?

You watch movies to distract yourself, hoping that the troubles beguiling the Planet of the Apes will make your own seem more manageable by comparison. “Well shit me..” you think, “at least I’m not stuck in a barren post-apocalyptic energy-starved Earth trying to establish diplomatic relations with a bunch of damn dirty apes! My problems aren’t so bad”.

You bore friends endlessly about your stress and your fretting, hoping for reassurance that it will all work out. You even bring your family into your world of unease and anxiety. You feel stunted, drained of useful energy.

You just need to hear something before you can get on with your life. Until then, you’re stuck in stasis.

The Art of Productive Fretting

So how did Kevin Smith pull himself out of that place?

His answer was simple: He just got working on HIS NEXT movie.

After a day of moping and worrying and trying to take his mind off the upcoming phone call, he went ahead and BLAZED through his next film script (which has now been made and released this year).

The result was a miracle. He had a new movie to be excited about within less than a week and had much less worry over the project he was waiting to hear back from.

I love this revelation. Because it applies to so many areas of life when you feel controlled by others. I call it “Productive Fretting”.

Think about those moments your love life leaves you waiting in limbo:

· How many times do you get stuck waiting for some guy to make a decision, or to tell you where you stand in his affections?

· How often do you sit hoping he’s going to ask for a second date?

· How many days have you let slip by wanting him to realise that you’re there for him when he’s ready?

· How often do you hold off on making plans as you just hope that guy will text you asking you what you’re up to this weekend/evening?

Well, no longer.

From now on, whenever you feel like someone has control over your destiny and your placed in the recipient ‘waiter’ role, act like you have something better to be doing. Start doing something that will lead to an even better opportunity than the one you’re waiting on right now.

Date other guys. Get wrapped up in a cause, something that’s bigger than your own petty problems. Sign up and commit yourself to an improving activity, or do a Kevin Smith and sit down and start writing your next big project. Do anything that gives you a sense that you OWN your destiny.

This gives your POWER and CONTROL back when you need it. And when you have these things, you have confidence. You won’t feel like your self-esteem boils down to a single ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that lies in the hands of someone else.

Always act as if you have better things to do than fret and concern yourself with a decision you’re hoping someone else will make. You might just find it turns out to be true.

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54 Replies to “How To Stop Playing The “Waiting Game””

  • GREAT,! Love this one, Stephen,
    Love Kevin Smith too.
    I am currently working on the “have something better to do than fret” thing.

  • A guy broke up with me so I threw myself into a whole range of projects. Volunteering, writing, and meeting new people was the only way I could deal with the disappointment and the heartache. I got so much out of it but there are still moments when I slow down and it all comes back to me. While I’m genuinely committed to all the projects I’m involved in there is still a sense that they are distractions. It’s hard when you miss someone :(

    Thanks for the article, Stephen.

    1. I know how it feels at first Camilla, believe me. I don’t advocate just doing things for the sake of it, as yes, many of these activities can just be a distraction. But there is truth to the idea that it’s important to keep busy in these moments. It’s also a great time to connect with the people you love. I find if I spend time with people who love and care about me then it makes me realise what’s truly important and I worry less about some short-term problem I am stressing about.

      Thanks, all the best.

      Stephen x

  • I’m trying to get over being dumped too. He told me he didn’t want a girlfriend and then promptly started dating someone else. I took up a writing project, renewed my fitness goals, decorating my apartment and still dating. Nothing seems to work. So depressed. :(

    1. Like I said in response to Camilla in these comments, these activities won’t necessarily be substitutes for that sense of loss. It does take time and there’s no one-stop solution to moving on from heartbreak. One of the things that I find extremely useful as I said to her is to spend time with people who love and care about you. When i’ve had heartbreak and my family and best friends are there to spend time with me and let me talk about my feelings it makes it so much easier than trying to move on alone. So make sure it’s not just activities you busy yourself with but other people too.

      And yes, if you need to indulge yourself in feeling shitty for a while there’s no shame in it. Just know that you’ll feel better if you feel like you are taking care of yourself as well i.e. with exercise, eating well, looking ahead to your goals.

      Hope that helps. I know it sucks, believe me. I’ve been through it enough times. You’ll come out the other side and it will get a bit better every week.

      All the best Leona,

      Stephen x

  • This is a great article Stephen and yes I have learned this over the years. Not just with guys but with friends too. I have learned not to fret over waiting for people to get back to me. I just go on and keep myself busy with other interests and projects that always keeps my mind off it to the point where I actually forget about it.

    1. Thanks so much Beth, glad you found it useful. Fretting it always wasted energy, so the less of it, the better!

      Steve x

  • We all have times where we are waiting for a result or answer to a matter that means a lot to our life projectory. I like your term, productive fretting, very good. But this is not really a term I would use in reference to my love life. Maybe I’m arrogant or a hopeless romantic but I kinda think it’s more than a bit necessary to be swept off my feet. If I thought for a minute I’d have to sit waiting for a man to make his mind up on all the points you raised, I would assume it was not meant to be. It could slide towards the slippery slope of unrequited love and there’s nothing worse to sap all your self esteem and energy. Life’s too short, in these awful times we are living in, we have to seize the moment. Elizabeth Taylor never sat in statis waiting for an answer. She used all her feminine power and beauty to enormous effect and she had a wonderful certainty.
    Take care, lovely man x

    1. I love your mention of Elizabeth Taylor in your response to Steven’s latest post on Productive Fretting. I have a quote from Liz on my wall it goes like this.
      Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together. Thought you might enjoy that. Maryetta

    2. I agree Kathryn, of course you want someone who is totally certain about you and wants to sweep you off your feet. My point was that there are certain times when, for whatever reason, you don’t know 100% how someone feels (maybe after the first few dates, when you are both testing things out). As those points it’s important not to be in stasis and to fulfil other important needs.

      Your attitude is an awesome way to move forward though i.e. just have the certainty that you’re worth the best and move forward with that knowledge (though that of course can take a while to truly believe, which is why it’s useful to do other productive/caring things for yourself to help bring your internal feelings in alignment with that emotion).

      Thanks for your insightful comments, as ever!

      Steve x

  • Thanks for this article Stephen. Whenever I feel like I’m in a limbo state and have a head full of questions, I just think of this quote and it helps me move on :)

    “…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

    – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

    1. Thank you so much for sharing the passage Maria. Matt and I love Rilke so I’m always happy to add another quote to the collection. Love the idea of ‘living’ your way to the answers.


      Stephen x

  • Sounds good. And when he does call a day or a year later, I’ll be too busy with my new project. I don’t go back, just forward.

    Good stuff, Stephen!

  • This could not have come at a better time for me , Stephen! Started to see someone casually and realized that I was waiting for him to contact me with plans for the weekend. Realized this, ( and this was further made clear after reading your article! ) and went ahead and scheduled a few things I had been wanting to do, such as spending time with friends, spa day, working on a presentation, and revisiting fitness goals, as well as a few things for next week! Of course if he does call to ask me out, I have a bit of time available for that too. ;)
    Thank you for the great article!
    Warmest Regards ,
    Shev x

  • Lovely as always Stephen (who looks are so deceiving) my version of this overall article is a quick saying i learn about 6 years ago is “i ain’t got time” simple and getting to the point.
    Especially when someone has got the worst of me or when things aren’t going as plan this quick saying puts my mind back on track

    Y’all have a great weekend Hussey Brothers!!

    1. Love it! Great to have a mantra to trigger your positive emotions in these situations.

      Thanks Raquel!

      Stephen x

  • The first line cracked me up because I have been trying to get your brother to mentor me and he hasn’t said no but he hasn’t said yes just let’s see if something come up or something like that. I just wonder, how does he know what my strengths are if he doesn’t meet with me…

    1. Well I know Matt’s more CRAZY busy that ever these days so not sure what his policy is on the personal mentoring front. Thanks for reading the article :)

      Stephen x

  • Timely advice! It is better to use that energy for something far more productive. This idea can also be applied to becoming one’s most avid supporter -sometimes we expend so much energy against ourselves; we might as well channel it into something more productive and life-enhancing.

    1. Definitely Manjit! Your energy is precious, better to use it on something that is always driving you forward or helping you connect with others, rather than fretting and worrying.

      Thanks :)

      Stephen x

  • Playing the waiting game has never been easy for me, and probably most others as well. Steven your sound advice along with your word smith ability always resonates with me. “Productive Fretting” is possibly one of the best coined phrases I have heard in a long time. It also illustrates take personal action, use your energy and diversify your matrix. As you say, “do anything that gives you a sense that you own your OWN destiny.” Between your writing posts and the IMPACT Modules that I am currently studying-my STATE is improving in small shifts daily and I dare say, “I think I am finally becoming the Gal I wanna be.” Thank you for your continued inspiration, you are one of my role models. Now Can I borrow your “Productive Fretting” phrase? Good! Thanks Maryetta

    1. Glad you like the phrase Maryetta, your welcome to borrow it! I also think you describing it as ‘diversifying your matrix’ is a great way to think about it i.e. seeking out validation in many different areas rather than resting our whole ego on one potential rejection.

      Thanks for your very kind words :)

      Stephen x

  • I needed to hear this again, and am grateful it was written when it was =) We can get so caught up with bruised egos and hurt feelings that we lose sight of the process itself.

    You’ve done a brilliant job at reiterating how we shouldn’t be surrendering our power, peace of mind, or diminishing our drive to accomplish something simply because we’re not someone’s cup of tea. We can be channeling that energy and anxiety into something wonderful. I do think that some fretting is in order, but not excessive emotional investment.

    Keep up the lovely work!

    1. Perfectly said Shae! Not being someone’s cup of tea is no reason to wallow and fall into the trap of berating ourselves. I’ve noticed one tendency of really strong people is that they don’t take rejection personally and are able to use difficult moments as triggers for improvement/ self-care.


      Stephen x

  • Amazing! Just what I did the last days.. I was frustrated that I did not get response from a guy I was seeing a couple of weeks ago. I was travelling, afterwards he got sick some days, so we didn’t meet again and suddenly there is z.e.r.o. communication made from his side. Sad, cause I really like him, even if we don’t know much about eachother yet and despite I’m also dating others, but I find he is an awesome kind of person, that I would like to keep in my life, even if “just as friends” (which I really say very seldomly, as I usually think that those “friendships” are not working out well..).

    However, on Saturday I decided that this would not be a reason to bring me down.

    I enjoyed a 40km-ride with my bike first, watching the busy streets of Berlin and afterwards sat down on my balkony with my laptop, enjoying the sun and started reading through different blogs with regard to personal development, as I really want to change my life in a way and become who I want to be and find ways to do more of what I love.

    And guess what happened? I’ve been lifted! And I did it myself. :-) Now that is a reason to be proud and self-satisfied.

    1. So inspiring! Your day sounds incredible July! Thank you for sharing. Taking care of yourself is often the best way to move forward (whilst also becoming more desirable in the process).

      All best,

      Stephen x

  • This is a great article Stephen and so true! I use to wait around for my friends to give me an answer to if they were going to go to a restaurant with me or if they were going to go out with me to the movie and I would miss out on going. Now I just don’t wait around anymore I either go to the movie on my own or I will go to a restaurant on my own because I am not missing out on life because they can’t make up they’re minds what they are doing! Or if someone asks me to go I go with them instead cause I am not missing out!

  • I agree D, which is why Matt and I recommend the White Handkerchief Approach to flirting with guys, which we talk a lot about in the GettheGuy book, and which Matt talks about here:

    The trick is to be pro-active/flirtatious when you meet guys but by starting conversations in an indirect and subtle way so that you come under the radar e.g. “you have great shoes! Where can I buy a pair of those for my brother?” – we cover loads of these playful examples of fun interactions you can have in the book (and on these blogs) if you need more examples.

    Thanks D!

    Steve x

  • I’ve followed Get the Guy for a long-time now, and I have an amazing full-filled or rather fun-filled life. And it is thanks to you guys. A guy asked me recently how would I have time for a boyfriend in my amazing life…and do you know what if I met someone of course I would make them top of my priorities, but only if they showed me they had earned it. My problem is taking love-life risks – a guy who I really like shows me he likes me, and I do all I can to sabotage it…I know the theory, but run from the risk taking…I am worried now he is backing off because I don’t take the risk of showing I care more than just friends. Alas we do hold all the power but only if we use it…

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