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The Power of Pause

Written by Debra Olshan Cooper,
President and Founder of Your Career Design lab

It is June, and in a few short days, summer is upon us. It is time for a Pause. 

Pauses may happen during natural transitions like getting in and out of your car, between meetings or calls, upon rising, or just before bed. But the pauses that restore, renew, or recharge are the ones that make us actually pause so that we can move forward, 

We are starving for stillness and silence in our culture. Doesn’t it seem like there is noise and chaos everywhere? The truth is that the world will not slow down and get less noisy simply because you want it to. You have to commit to taking time to pause. I’ve grown to appreciate that pausing truly is golden. 

I didn’t always feel this way. I used to surround myself with noise. I’d fall asleep with the television blaring, have pop music playing in my car and home, and talk, talk, talk until my throat was sore. Now I seek silence every day and encourage you to do the same.

Balance and Renewal:

The power of taking a pause is well researched. Not only does pausing promote relaxation, but a break from noise and doing also refreshes and reenergizes you for hours. Taking time just to be still and quiet gives your nervous system a chance to regain balance.

Tony Schwartz, best-selling author and CEO of The Energy Project, writes, “Human beings perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.”

I have recently met with some career-minded individuals who are in burnout from sending resume after resume and being rejected. Or doing zoom interviews thinking they presented themselves in the best light only to find that they did not get the job. The constant questioning of one’s self starts to demean the inner voice, and thus the noise level becomes unbearable. What I recommend is taking the summer, playing, exploring, investigating your passion, and taking the pause to do it. You will find renewed interest, moments of joy and happiness, and above all, a great time for a restart. 

How do you renew during the day?

While it’s easy to say turn off your phone and close your office door, there’s more to pausing than you might think. In fact, there are two types of noise and two types of silence to consider. If you’re really interested in feeling your best and performing your best, you will want to understand how to best recover.

Outer Noise

Outer noise is the stuff you hear in your environment: talking, music, machines humming. There’s noise almost everywhere you go these days. Music plays in stores, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. Beeps, gongs, and whistles sound all around us. News is broadcast 24/7.

We are over-stimulated with outer noise. In fact, most of us have been conditioned to require constant music and entertainment. There is no doubt noise has become ingrained in our cultural norms.

We are over-stimulated with outer noise. In fact, most of us have been conditioned to require constant music and entertainment. There is no doubt noise has become ingrained in our cultural norms.

Inner Noise

Inner noise is the phenomenon of being in a quiet room yet feeling as though a whole crowd of people is talking to you all at once. The voices in your head continually remind you to do this or to figure out that. Inner noise is your busy thinking mind in action, continuously bouncing around from one thought to the next and filling your mind with constant chatter.

What should we do about all of this noise? The antidote to noise is… you guessed it… silence!

Outer Silence

It’s fairly easy to stop the incessant outer noise by finding pockets of outer silence. Turn off the noisemakers such as your laptop or television. Stopping or quieting down the inner noise takes more attention.

Settle your body by stabilizing your nervous system with coherent breathing, mediation, movement, and rhythm; your noisy mind will naturally settle down. You can also learn to access inner silence by taking a walk in the woods or playing the piano.

Inner Silence

How do you find inner silence? What practices or activities do you do to really settle down? One of my go-to’s is my Sunday evening bath, complete with candles and soothing music.

Practice the power pause by scheduling 1-2 minute breaks every hour. Pauses may happen during natural transitions like getting in and out of your car, in between meetings or calls, upon rising, or just before bed. Better yet, set an alarm on your phone to ring with a calm chime every hour.

Once you get to know inner silence, you’ll want nothing else but to live in that space all the time.

The power pause practice

  1. Place your feet on the floor, your hand on your thighs, and close your eyes. And if you’re driving, just keep your eyes steady.
  2. For a moment, bring your attention way down to your feet. Just notice your feet on the ground, your seat in the chair, and your hands on your legs.
  3. Now find your heart beating; find your pulse somewhere in your body. Bring your mind, your attention, into your body as quickly as possible.
  4. Now place light attention on the natural rhythm of your breath. With your mind resting on your breath, you may start to notice a sense of ease. You may start to notice, as you exhale fully, that there’s a little bit less tension. A little bit less noise.
  5. There’s not much to do when all you need to do for the next few moments is notice your feet, notice your hands, notice your heartbeat and notice your breath; landing on any one of those areas in your body is just perfect. A perfect way to take a pause.
  6. And now open your eyes if they have been closed and just notice what a few moments of pause can do. Our bodies are magnificent, brilliant, stabilizing systems when we give our body and our mind the opportunity to balance and align.

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