Slow Down, Take a Pause Now and Then
Bob was hiking in the mountains with his friends. Bob found he was suddenly alone. His friends had fallen behind again. He realized he’d been walking ahead by himself for some time. He found out his friends had been stopping to pause, take some time and appreciate the views on their way to the summit. His sole focus was to achieve the goal without any thought of appreciation for the journey. Bob’s was an achievement-oriented mindset.
This achievement-driven hiker is Robert Poynton, author of the book, Do Pause. This reminder to stop and pause got him thinking that maybe there was a life lesson to learn from this experience. How much do we focus on our to-do lists, only to disregard all the negative space that exists between the busyness? Could it be the pause space between the tasks are the true sweet spots that bring flavor and joy to our lives?
At some point over the last several years, the idea of taking a pause became linked with such negative associations as procrastination, reduced productivity and underachievement. At what point did it become fashionable to be obsessed with non-stop achievement?
Could increasing technology be to blame? Is it this fixation we have to operate more machine-like? We’re not machines and we aren’t designed to operate like one. And if we’re in a place where we feel like we’re a machine, it’s time we slow down, even shut-down and possibly re-tool. In other words, take a pause.
How do we pause?
I have an Apple watch. It has a feature enabled where every so often it reminds me to pause and breath. It even displays a bright spiral pattern that grows and shrinks to help regulate my inhales and exhales as I mimic the graphic prompt to match my breathing. I used to find it something of an annoyance when it popped up randomly to tell me that even a minute of breathing could help me better focus. I used to just hit the dismiss button and get on with whatever I was doing. I always felt I was too busy for that nonsense at the time. I decided to start a new habit by stopping and breathing when my watch prompted me — no matter what I’m busy with. I do feel that even that short pause really helps to somehow reset me. I’m sold. Seriously. Give it a try.
A pause can come in many forms. It can be time reading a short verse, dwelling on a question or a half hour reconnecting with an old friend. It’s really just a pause in your current rhythm. It’s not about shutting off your thoughts, but rather giving yourself a little space to pay attention to those things that you tend to overlook. Many times this pause allows your brain to problem-solve as your state of mind shifts, allowing new ideas to rise to the surface.
Improve your creativity by pausing
With most any creative pursuit, pausing can make a difference and help enhance the process. There’s a strong body of evidence supporting the vital influence which pausing has in the creative process. There’s a book by creative director, Jack Foster — How to Get Ideas which provides firm and growing evidence on the impact of the pause as it relates to creativity. His data is based on interviews among the various disciplines of advertising, philosophy and academic research.
The concept of taking time to disconnect is refereed to in different ways such as “incubating” and “mental digestion”, though it still boils down to a pause in the process. And it’s proven to be productive and fruitful in the end.
Practicing the pause
Pausing need not be lengthy to be beneficial. Short pauses throughout the day, even a few short minutes here and there can make a difference. It might be a bit challenging at first, especially for those of us who are conditioned to immediate-response pressure. This pressure according to author, Robert Poynton, is rooted deeply in an addiction plaguing modern society. In simple terms it’s this notion that we need to keep always busy. Much like dealing with an overactive toddler, the treatment lies in distraction, rather than expecting slow down.
The practice of pausing can be as simple as drawing in a breath before responding to someone or some task. Unlike meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques, which require some instruction and time to advance, taking regular time to pause throughout the day is something that can quickly become instinctive.
Pause right now…
Begin today — taking a brief pause now and again requires nothing more than the conscious decision to stop, breath and distract your mind. Before long, with regular practice, you might discover noticeable improvement in your creativity, focus, relationships and gratitude. I certainly have.
Reference: Do Pause: You are not a To Do list by Robert Poynton