The Power of Pause



We’re in it now. The fast and furious push before summer. Five day work weeks. Projects in full swing. Spring cleaning at home. The kids in final exams. We are buckled down, on our to-do lists, getting things done, going full speed.

That’s why there is no better moment to stop, at least just for a moment. Build a pause practice to fly ever faster ahead.

Now I’m not the kind of person that sets out time to meditate. I zoom, weave and groove my way through life – like you. But I am a big believer in small, digestible pauses. In moments of transition: office to meeting, car to home, shower to bed. Taking a moment. Three deep breaths.

This is the pause that allows you to think about how you’re showing up.

We are human beings. Not human doings. And yet, we spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what we need to do. What did I leave out of the report? What do I need to say in the meeting? What do I need to pick up after work? Do. Do. Do.

What if we spent the same amount of time considering who we want to be? What impact do we want to have? What do we want to accomplish? Who is walking in the room when we are walking in the room? It’s about reprogramming the brain to be more rational and less emotional. More proactive and less reactive.

In a Harvard Business Review blog, Mindfulness for People Who Are Too Busy to Meditate, Maria Gonzalez offers two ways to pause. When doing a micro-meditation, simply stop, notice how you are breathing, and endeavor to bring your breath into your belly. This takes less than a minute and can be done routinely throughout the day. In mindfulness in action, instead of adding a new routine, just experience your day a little differently by paying attention in a purposeful way. In your next meeting, try to only listen for seconds at a time. Only listening is surprisingly harder than it sounds.

Consider extending this mindfulness to the digital realm where we spend most of our waking day. Read an incoming email twice before composing a response. Or notice how you are holding that phone in your hand. What is the quality of your grip? Loosen it ever so slightly. Too much force exacerbates tension.

So what’s it all for? With a pause practice in place, you’ll find that three things will happen. Your ability to concentrate will increase. More time in the zone and less time zoned out. You’ll see your situation with greater clarity. With clarity, your judgment will improve. And you’ll also develop equanimity. Self-possession reduces stress and enhances creative decision making.

One of my coaching clients is a partner in an advisory services firm. He spends many hectic hours in the office. For most of these hours, he’s sitting at his desk. Take a deep breathe if this sounds familiar. Here’s what he recently shared:

“I have chosen walking as my pause practice because as you know, you can walk anywhere and anytime.  About mid-day I try to walk around my office building, or around the block if home to get some fresh air and to literally break away. I try to reflect on all the things I have to be thankful for, which there are many!  The result is a little extra energy and a little less stress to navigate the many challenges of the day.”

Our computers work better when we reboot them. Why wouldn’t we?

Like my client, I believe you’ll too find that the implications are profound. One of my core beliefs is that every change starts with you. This change ripples out. Build yourself. Build your home. Build your community. Build the world. This incredible passage from the 19th century professor Israel Salanter says it all.

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.

I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.

My family and I could have made an impact on our town.

Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

What’s your pause practice? Share it here. Who knows? Maybe it will change the world too.

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