Practicing the Pause

I don’t know if you have ever played the game Bopit, hilarious fun, and it rests on the principle of reacting and responding super quick to ‘commands’, which requires great concentration and of course if you are playing with others there may be attempts to distract you. It made me think a bit about life.

There are many occasions where a quick response is vital – when driving, if a car pulls out in front of you, or as a parent if a child reaches for something dangerous. But if we aren’t careful that sort of knee jerk, instinctive reaction can become our modus operandi and there are many situations where a considered response rather than a knee jerk reaction may be much more helpful.

A pause can be used for effect when presenting, it can be used to gather our thoughts and often by pausing we have a moment to reflect on our response.

Over the last year or so we’ve experienced a global pause and many of us have found the increased time to reflect and considersomething of value. But what is the value of a pause?

Well, it is probably fair to say our lives are fairly fast paced. When we find ourselves with time or space, we usually rush to fill it. While that isn’t in any way wrong, what can happen is that we live at such apace that stress and anxiety can become part of our everyday experience and we know that while short bursts of stress can be good for us, prolonged stress, worry and anxiety most definitely aren’t.

In nature it seems there are times of immense busyness but also built-in times for pause and reflection. Seasons sometimes feel like pauses, fields may be left fallow animals may hibernate. Nature can’t be rushed, but in our busy urban lifestyles we have come to expect everything to happen quickly, almost instantly, robbing ourselves and others of the benefit of a pause.

Many of us may have had the experience of giving a quick retort and later regretting it – or sending an email or text and wishing we could take it back.

In many ways we are geared for fast reactions – that is what living in today’s world has taught us. Especially when there is an emotional element involved, when something angers or frustrates us for example. If we react instantly we usually react from the feeling (limbic) area of the brain rather than the thinking (cortical) part of the brain. Those emotional reactions often inflame situations, because of course the other person probably reacts emotionally too.

When we can take a pause between the stimulus (what upset us) and our response we are much more likely to respond from a thinking perspective, rather than an emotional one.

Sometimes we respond to what we think a person has said or intended, but often there can be miscommunications and if we respond when we aren’t clear or have made assumptions, we make things a hundred times worse.Allowing time for a pause isn’t just helpful for us but it shows respect for the other person it gives us the chance to really listen and ‘hear’ what has been said. If you’ve ever had an experience of being misunderstood you will recognise that it can be extremely frustrating.

Sometimes reacting quickly can make us feel in control. We may think that a quick response shows we are knowledgeable and decisive, but I imagine many of us have examples of times we’ve responded without thinking and ended up taking on more work or agreeing to something we’d really rather not agree to. So, getting into the habit of pausing can be avery good thing and a pause doesn’t always mean silence, it can be a pause to clarify or check understanding but will create for us some valuable time.

When we pause, we find ourselves in the present. Rather than racing ahead to think of a response it allows us a few moments to reflect on the stimulus and how that aligns with ourselves and our values and principles. The response we then make might be very different.

Sometimes we may feel pressured into responding quickly whether to a message or within a conversation, but actually allowing ourselves time to pause is usually doing ourselves a favour and may prevent considerable upset in the future. We would do better to cultivate our ability to reject the demand for instantaneous responses it is okay to need some time for consideration.

When we pause, we allow ourselves an opportunity to reflect, what has brought us to this point, is it where we want to be, it allows us a chance to question ourselves, or even our relationships and purpose, to ask questions of ourselves and to reset.

Building time to pause in our day to day lives is important too. Times when we stop and take time to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ and when we can start to do that regularly then when the need arises in a response to a stimulus or a demand then we will find we are better able to be calm and resist an instantaneous response, opting instead for a pause and hopefully, a measured response.


Why not visit the Facebook group ‘All About You’ for more help and support on ways you can achieve a happy, balanced and fulfilled life?

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