With the promise of spring in the air, my thoughts drift to the long-awaited ground hog and his shadow. The notion of waiting has always intrigued me, because I’ve never been very good at it. I pay close attention to the ways in which people wait or don’t to do what they say they want to do. Some people need only one reason to take action, while others find a thousand reasons not to. Our tendency to wait idly or act meaningfully is determined by our relationship to external circumstances. Do we stop short because of what’s going on around us or find a way to keep moving even the slightest bit forward?

We all know people who consistently create short-term solutions while working toward long-term goals and others who lose heart at the slightest bump in the road. This might not be the best time of year to make lemonade out of lemons, but there are plenty of ways to adapt and thrive while we anticipate better conditions: Weather, job, finance, relationship, or health. We always have a choice: Wait for opportunities or create them.

I find it easier to exercise patience and flexibility with larger challenges than daily delays and frustrations. Years ago I read a book by an older woman who warned against waiting our lives away. I refer to her as “Do-It-Now Doris.” Doris kept a treadmill close to her front window. Whenever she waited for a ride, which became more and more frequent as she got older, instead of seething with impatience she made strides toward fitness. In this electronic age, there are endless ways to stay focused and committed even when the trains don’t run on time.

The job market has left many recent graduates waiting and wondering about the promise of their diploma. They might have done all the right things to be sitting at their dream job but high GPAs and impressive resumes don’t change financial realities. I imagine these young adults have been reminded one too many times of the distinction between “a” job and “the” job. Many have accepted a job in order to make good use of their time and take positive steps toward the job, a move that Do-It-Now Doris would approve of.

When our kids were young, we took a summer vacation on Lake George, where we water-skied, kayaked, and ran around like monkeys that had just escaped from a zoo. A few weeks later, another mom complained to me that bad weather had ruined her family’s summer vacation. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that we vacationed on the same lake during the same two weeks. (She won’t be reading this because she finally took matters into her own hands and moved south.)

My thoughts circle back to Punxsutawney Phil and those of us hoping he wakes up to a cloudy day. Instead of hanging our hopes on legend and lore or conditions outside of our control, remember the old adage: There’s no time like the present. You don’t want to quit five minutes before breaking through the barrier or the burrow.

Ground Hog illustration by Kathleen Jordan