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holding pattern, holding patterns

After a conversation with a client recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about holding patterns. Holding patterns can be the most frustrating part of navigating change. Nothing is happening, at least as far as you can tell, and it feels like you’re stuck. However, this is different than the stuckness you felt before you decided to make the change.

A holding pattern often shows up after you’ve made some progress in the changes you’re trying to make. You’re moving steadily along and suddenly things come to a crashing halt. It’s frustrating because you know you were making progress and now you can’t figure out what to do next.

It’s a gift and it’s protection

The thing about holding patterns is they are actually a gift. It doesn’t feel like it when you’re in one and I get it. Consider, though, the significance of a plane that is in a holding pattern.

Usually, an airplane goes into a holding pattern just before it’s supposed to land, typically because a runway is not available. For whatever reason, the pilot cannot safely land the plane. So, it goes into a holding pattern until something changes on the ground and it can land.

A holding pattern is there for your protection. For whatever reason, your journey can’t go forward. But just because you’re not moving doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. The ground is being prepared; your runway is being set up so you can come in for that landing.

There is no timeline for your holding pattern. That information is reserved for the Divine. Your job is to trust that even if you can’t see what’s happening, the path forward is being prepared for you. To make the most of your time while in a holding pattern, here are three things you can do.

Resist the urge to control

For those of us who like being in control (both hands raised here), the instinct to grasp for control will be strong. When you’re in a holding pattern, you have to resist that urge.

Rather than planning or scheming trying to force something to happen, you need to practice staying present to the moment you are in here and now. Mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga are good tools to help you stay present and release the need to control.

Celebrate small wins

During a holding pattern, it’s easy to feel like nothing is going right. The key to combating that feeling is to celebrate the wins you do experience. Rather than ignoring them or pretending they don’t matter, make them a big deal.

Maybe you cooked a great meal for the first time in forever. Celebrate it! Maybe you got the courage to write the first paragraph of that thing you’ve been putting off. Celebrate it! Almost every day, if you look for it, you will find something worth celebrating. Name it out loud and celebrate those small wins. They give you the courage to keep holding on.

Practice joy

One of my favorite practices that came out of the pandemic is naming something every day that delights me. I call them Daily Delights. The practice of looking for, noticing, and naming the things that brought joy to my heart kept the spark of hope ignited amid the sameness of every day during the pandemic.

A holding pattern feels like that sometimes. By practicing joy, by naming a daily delight, you shift your attention from what’s not happening to being with what is happening all around you. Those moments keep hope alive and hope is needed when you’re in a holding pattern.

I’ve been in holding patterns before. Some have lasted a few months, some for a lot longer. Every time though, once things shifted and I came in for my landing, what was on the other side of it was more wonderful than I could have imagined.

Your holding pattern is not a punishment; it is a protection. Trust that all is happening FOR you, that the Universe is conspiring on your behalf. If you can trust the process, what you’ll find on the other side will be better than you can imagine. It’s not easy and I can promise you, it will be worth it.

From my heart to yours,



P.S. If you’re struggling to know if you’re in a holding pattern or simply stuck, let’s talk. Schedule a complimentary call with me and together we can figure out what is needed to move you forward. It’s a free, no obligation call. Click here to schedule. 

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