This Tiny Skill Is Mighty (& Changes Everything)
Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and freedom.
Viktor E. Frankl
There is a micro-skill that can truly transform your life.
It’s truly changed mine.
It’s a big statement, no doubt, but for real, this skill delivers, and this article is an invitation to incorporate it into your own life as well.
What’s the skill?
Stay with me.
First, some truth telling.
While this micro-skill has been integrated into my life in my ways, it has taken practice. And, in some seasons or situations I still practice with considerable intention.
Because I’m the kind of girl who rolls through a stop sign — I do slow down, but stopping is painful. Let’s just keep on going…
And run on sentences — yes — all my English teachers called me out on this one. Periods and commas are free but I just forgot to use them.
And my brain, it never stops. And sometimes my mouth follows this pattern too just spilling out without interruption.
So learning to pause — as Viktor Frankl invites us to do in the quote above, is an important concept it has has been tricky in practice.
Yet, learning to do so has changed everything.
It has opened up CHOICE.
Pausing, hands down, is the skill I’d love to offer all the women I know and work with. (And you too!)
But, years ago I’d have laughed at that. A pause? Really? A pause is transformative. Whatever. But it’s the truth.
Here are some of the real life ways it has made the difference.
10 Ways Pausing Has Changed My Life
1) Halts overthinking
I’m a chronic over-thinker, and I often notice a belief within myself that I can think myself through my problems. And while we’re inside my confessional booth, I’ll admit sometimes it’s fun letting things tumble around in the mental spin cycle of my mind. And, it rarely helps.
So by inserting a pause I can stop the mental tumble, halt the overthinking and do different (reach out to my coach, go for a walk, make an imperfect decision etc.)
2) Less reactive parenting
I’m the mother of two boys. One day they’re acting or looking like men, the next moment they’re half their age, leaving things everywhere, wrestling, pushing buttons — mine and each other’s. Sometimes the energy of younger humans is crazy and destabilizing and it’s oh so triggering…
So as the inner tension mounts, I reach to press pause. It helps me step outside or take a deep breath or escape to go the washroom. The pause has been a savior in motherhood.
3) Switch out of work mode
It’s in the afternoon that my work juices always flow — like REALLY flow and even though I’ve usually done “enough” during the day the feeling is glorious and I want to stay in it. Meaning — I want to keep on working! And, I know this pattern is part of how I end up overworking.
By pausing I can for a moment or two breathe and set the work down. And then I can breathe again, and choose to close off for the day, or to return to the work later.
4) Trust my intuition
I’ve always felt I’m intuitive yet haven’t always trusted it. Just because your intuition speaks doesn’t mean your brain moves over to accept said wisdom. Nope.
But the more I practice pausing and notice in those tiny moments I’ve got a hit of intuition, the more I am able to listen to it and consider it.
I often have fantasies about escaping the fullness of my life — like walking out of the door and driving to the airport or canceling all the appointments on my calendar starting with now and … When my fantasies start showing up in the midst of my full life they remind me I need rest. And it’s the kind of rest that doesn’t feel accessible in the moment (or at all).
One of my coaches taught me that at the bottom of the exhale is a wee point of rest. Yes, you need to pause to notice it. But it’s there. It’s tiny but always there for you.
6) Not have all the answers (and be okay with it)
The more I learn to pause, even for a moment, the more I become “okay” with the fact I don’t have all the answers and can be open to a life full of mystery, Many of us are living with a little more despair than usual, a hopelessness, a how-did-we-get-into-this-mess…
A pause allows me to breathe in and connect to hope. Hope isn’t about knowing how or if things will change, It just acknowledges a deep longing we hold for new ways in our suffering world.
7) Exit/Slow a conversation (or stop throwing in my POV like darts)
Some conversations are really intense or juicy. It can happen in both directions — argumentative (with a spouse or family member) or invigorating — like a juicy back and forth with a peer or bestie. And because you’re so in it, you’re not really present with it.
A pause, helps you to hear the other, or opt out and resume later. A pause preserves connection.
8) Ease overwhelm
One of the keys to easing my overwhelm is to pause. I notice that I’m overwhelmed — minus the judgement — and drop into my body. I get curious about what I need to get off my proverbial inner merry go round and settle.
The pause helps me to slow down enough to remember what is the most important next thing to do (or not do) in the moment.
9) Access self compassion
Life is full of all her things. I don’t care how skilled you are, how smart you are, how wealthy you are, if you are living and breathing SOMETIMES life will be hard or challenging or complicated. It’s a thing that happens because you’re on this planet.
A pause helps me access self compassion for what I’m in. In that pause I can say “Damn, this is a sh*t situation.” Or, “I really wish this wasn’t happening right now.” But the thing IS happening, and so, you can pause and show yourself kindness.
10) Offers a buffet of choice.
Pausing give you back choice. It reminds you that you have choices — so many more than you think you do in any given moment.
And when you remember you have choice, you have the freedom to do different.
I’d love to hear how taking a moment to pause has supported you — or perhaps how it’s been challenging for you — let’s learn this together.
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