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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56 Responses to How To Stop Playing The “Waiting Game”

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  1. Candy says:

    Love this Steve. It’s so true so thanks for reminding me. It also reminded me what Eckhart Tolle (?) teaches us “Be here now”.

  2. Lakshmi says:

    Trees give a lot of meaning too I love trees and grass Otherwise I agree with the rest of it

  3. Toni Richards says:

    This guy I was dating, our souls connected and with him every problem was none existent, I felt safe, I felt like we already knew each other and I just found him again. But these weren’t things I said. But he constantly reminded me that I was right, that I made him feel loved, needed, appreciated. We haven’t dated very long but this is someone I want to settle with and so does he. We really need each other and that’s how it’s felt everything he was around and when he was gone my soul felt like sort of it was missing. I’ve dated many guys, got my heart broken before but I never had this feeling for anyone. Now he left and he told me he has a lot on his plate and he doesn’t want let me down but he needs he is to take things slow. Then he went on to reminding me it’s not me it’s the fact that he just got out of a violent and controlling relationship. So I agreed to give him time. But he hasn’t been really communicating, and it’s hurting it’s been 2 nights now where he hasn’t said anything. I’m hurting over this, I never expected to be, but I also never expected to get that connection. He assured me that it’s not me. But I’m scared of losing this person. He makes everything better. He has a huge heart, he’s caring, he’s just right and I can’t stop crying. I just want to know how much time I should really give him. I tried doing other things and stop texting him. But I seem to can’t be able to move on. The little memories I have is riding my mind. My heart feels burdened now that he’s not here sleeping by me. Or just telling me how much I’m worth and that he’s lucking. I love this man and it’s hard to explain but I don’t want to loose him. I pray that he comes around and we make it happen. Everyone else I meet. They aren’t him and I don’t want anyone else.i really need help. I really need him to come home. Where he is, id rather be.

  4. Maribel says:

    Thanks for this!! Is funny because while I was reading this I just started laughing caused I saw myself in it . Waiting and waiting but not anymore. Glad to realize that I’m not the only one going though this.

  5. Melisa says:

    Hi brather. You hev seeing very good thinks for single people. Bat onesli merid people are very proud to have everything hu meik in the religion wey to liv people bikoz not aer izi to bi father ,in other said aer beautiful. Bikoz i wyl not spik o bat this thinks ,frst fil dan du wat you ken best.beliv evry thing cheinj in laif, esk your mam of dad. Vant people aer singel ken vryly duit end difficult think bat so ouders you mast duit wat aer best for evry things ,bikoz komt very differences with families.

  6. Ally says:

    Right on point as usual. This is a good reminder as I’ve been waiting on some new work contracts and this message has Come at the right time thank you

  7. Heather Howington-Barr says:

    How do you a get a guy to communicate or like sex and want to be touched!!! I’m very aggervated right now! I’m thinking of leaving him!

  8. Michelle says:

    “Productive Fretting” Sooo,simple and VERY EFFECTIVE!!!

  9. Katja says:

    Love it, Great advice!

  10. Nina says:

    I am exactly at this point. It’s so good to know that we have a way out of this. Still need your suggestion as I am confused a bit…you see… I am desperately waiting for the man i am currently dating to ask me out again but he just doesn’t do it. And I don’t want to ask him out because that will make me look too needy. Sometimes I feel he has lost interest in me. However I must mention that he is in the military so I understand that he is busy but waiting for just a text from him frustrates me sometime. Am I reading too much into it or am I just being played with. Please help.

  11. M says:

    Best article ever

  12. Crown says:

    Nice one.

  13. Mary says:

    Thank you, Stephen, for this reminder. It was exactly what I needed today!

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  15. Emily Shepard says:

    I love this. I mean, I think it can be really hard, especially when what you want to accomplish requires working use of your brain but it’s completely taken up with what you’re fretting about. It takes practice, and doesn’t always result in great success. But even if you’re not slaying dragons with your diverted resources, it’s still worthwhile just to be diverting them! And just doing *something* makes you feel like a useful human much more than doing nothing but fretting does–which tends to lead to its own positive side effects.

    I once heard a quote that has stuck with me from a jazz festival colloquium I attended (about institutionalized oppression, I think, but we could extrapolate!), attributed to Duke Ellington about what he did when things weren’t going his way: “I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.”

  16. Perpetually says:

    I’m all mixed up. The article and some of the responses were uplifting. Yet Im saddened to read that many of us feel bad for not being contacted or never seeing that guy we found interesting, attractive, etc.

    I wonder if guys also have a forum where they express their disappointment for being rejected, romantically speaking. A forum where they also comment on the times they had to wait to be called, texted, and so on and it never happened.

    Maybe I’m a little tired of basically never being the cup of tea of the guys a like. It’s tiring knowing that or believing it.

  17. Obviously People says:

    Magnificent site. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And certainly, thank you in your sweat!

  18. Emilie says:

    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…

  19. Beth says:

    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!

  20. July says:

    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.

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  21. Mystique says:

    Hey Stephen
    Just what i needed to hear.. thank you so much for such amazing insights!

  22. Shae says:

    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!

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  23. Maryetta Jones says:

    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

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  24. Manjit says:

    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.

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  25. Jill says:

    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…

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  26. Raquel says:

    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!!

    • Stephen Hussey says:

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

      Thanks Raquel!

      Stephen x

  27. Shev says:

    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

  28. A. says:

    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!

  29. Maria_Canada says:

    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)

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  30. Kathryn Green says:

    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

    • Maryetta Jones says:

      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

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  31. D says:

    Hi Stephen—On a positive note – I really like this idea of “Productive fretting” & I agree with this idea wholeheartedly. On the other hand – Nobody likes getting too many rejections, whether it’s guys rejecting them or other scenarios…The fear of rejection might be a reason why some girls prefer to get to know a guy quite well & become friends with him, before risking anything by flirting with him etc. (I hope that doesn’t sound negative). Would love to hear what you think.

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  32. Beth says:

    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.

    • Stephen Hussey says:

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

      Steve x

  33. Leona Lovequest says:

    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. :(

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  34. Lorine says:

    Thaaaaaaaannnnnkkkkkk youuuuuu :)

  35. Camilla says:

    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.

    • Stephen Hussey says:

      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

  36. Leecis says:

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

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