I’ve noticed lately that many of us fall victim to the waiting trap. This is especially common among us ‘go with the flow,’ ‘take life as it comes,’ ‘laid back’ types. We pride ourselves on being very thoughtful and reflective and not impulsive or overzealous when it comes to making a decision, especially the life-changing ones. But could our passive approach to life be one of the main things that hold us back from having what we want? How many times have we strongly desired change in our lives; a new job, more money, to start a business, to take a class, to get more clients, only to find that months or even years later, we’re stuck in the same problem?

What gives?

Goals We Never Meet

Someone many years ago once told me that the reason I didn’t have what I wanted is because I hadn’t fully committed to it. I was still on the fence, still “figuring things out,” waiting for something to change while not actively going after it. Even when I did take action, my level of commitment was not consistent and I eventually fell back into old patterns. Does this sound familiar?

With the start of a new year, I know many of you set new goals, new intentions, and new promises for yourselves. But the truth is, a year from now, many of us will find ourselves in the same situation. Even with good intentions for change, only a fraction (just 8%!) will actually achieve what we set out to do this year.

What is really going on here?

Fighting Change by Waiting

Here’s the thing. When it comes to making change, deep down we fear it. We fear that if we take control and become active in pursuing what we want, we might actually get it. And that scares us to death. As humans, we are frightened by the idea of change. We crave comfort and predictability in our routine and environment, so daring to make changes rings the alarm of discomfort and risk.

Most of us avoid making change by entering the waiting trap. Waiting is passive. It keeps us stagnant, stale, and locked into a holding pattern that looks a lot like our comfort zones. Our tendency to wait things out is oftentimes fueled by fear.

Waiting can show up as:

  • Indecision
  • Procrastination
  • Uncertainty
  • Hesitation
  • Wait-and-See

Waiting can rob us of joy, happiness and fulfillment. But it often manifests itself in sneaky ways. Beth Grant coined the term the Passive Yes as something we use to stay in Waiting. This is when you pretend to take action but you’re not really all-in. An example can be that someone claims they want to grow a new skillset, signs up for a seminar or workshop but doesn’t show up or do the exercises. Another example is when that same aspiring professional claims they don’t have the time or money to work on their goals. We can be really effective at keeping ourselves busy with other things that we claim are important or necessary but really just serve as distractions from what we truly want.

This mind trick can keep us in a perpetual state of Waiting. We search for answers and evidence but become overwhelmed with the possibilities before ever making a decision or taking action.

So what is the alternative?

Steps to Take to Escape Waiting

It’s important to recognize what Waiting truly is: a manifestation of fear. Sometimes all it takes is acknowledging that when you find yourself procrastinating or locked in indecision. Ask yourself what’s really going on and you may find your fear of what could happen if you make this change is dictating your life.

Listen to your fear, and understand where it is coming from. The thing we most fear, that worst case scenario, rarely manifests the way we think it would. Even unlikely worst case scenarios can teach us important lessons.

Once you recognize this, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What would happen if you stayed stuck waiting for something to change?
  2. How would you feel if it was a year from now and nothing has changed?
  3. What are you willing to risk and explore in order to keep going forward, and what do you have to gain?

Enlist help and support as you work through this. Partner with someone who will not hold you back and commiserate with you but will empower and hold you accountable to take action.

When you take action, and this is very important, make sure it is an action that gets you out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be a super huge action that terrifies you. But it will make you feel a little uncomfortable. If it does, that’s a good sign that it’s a move that will help you grow.

Now it’s you’re turn. Ready to get out of Waiting?

A version of this article appeared on Ariane Hunter’s blog here. Follow her on Twitter @arianehunter.

Ariane Hunter brings 10 years of professional experience in marketing, research & analysis, visual arts, and entrepreneurship. She worked as a data analyst and launched her own photography business before becoming a certified career coach. She helps individuals thrive in their careers and gain greater fulfillment from their work. Learn more at www.arianehunter.com.


  • brittany

    This is what is happening to me now. I am in between of leaving my current job and pursuing what I really want to do as a career. What is holding me back is the financial insecurity I have with my current job. Sure I can do both make money while pursuing my goals, but my job takes up too much of my time that could’ve spent on what I want to do. I dont know how to go about this.

  • Katy

    Wonderful article, Ariane! I can relate to the Career Waiting Trap, and mostly feel stuck. You provide a clear action plan, and I can’t wait to try it!

  • alsi

    I’m actually living in this limbo-atmosphere. last year i had done nothing but fear my future and i couldn’t find any job anywhere. I was hesitant about whether pursue a career in academia or leave it after my PhD degree and find a job in industry. because of that i couldn’t apply to neither academia nor industry fully. I couldn’t commit. wasted 1 year of my time.

    anyone reading this, don’t do this to yourself, really seriously after one year all these depression, anxiety, procrastination, etc seems so unnecessary, take a road. any road, that is better than waiting in purgatory

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