The Coach's Corner

The power of the pause

The Coach’s Corner Newsletter #56

Whenever we walk into a big box retailer with our four-year old grandson, we get to experience all sorts of stuff we otherwise would have missed. In part, his size so close to the ground gives him an interesting perspective. He hears things that take him in fascinating directions. He smells or sees or touches something that requires more inspection.

This week, we needed more packing boxes and packing tape. So we meandered to arrive at aisle 17, where he immediately noticed a gate was blocking our path. Just beyond the gate, someone was high on some type of lift equipment adjusting crates on shelves. There was no way to get to the boxes we wanted so we waited, in awe of this person’s ability to maneuver from side to side and up and down.

When she noticed us, she waved at our grandson who now was sitting on the floor with his elbows on his knees taking in her every move. Methodically, she lowered her lift equipment, hopped off and removed her helmet.

I can take a break, what do you need?

Our grandson yelled,

Boxes! Lots of boxes!

She unlocked the gate and leaned against the wall as we walked past her to load our cart with an assortment of boxes and tape.

Thanks you!

As only a four-year old can shout. And we were on our way.

This woman’s pause was brief, and as soon as we left she was back on the lift which took her up to the rafters to resume her work.

In that moment, she reminded me how little it takes to make an impact. A few minutes of a break and we all got what we needed.


The power of the pause

There’s a reason moving is one of the top five top stressors in life, aptly described as traumatic life events.

  1. Death of a loved one.
  2. Divorce or separation.
  3. Moving.
  4. Major illness or injury.
  5. Job loss.

Moving taps into the core foundations of familiarity, support and bonding you have with family and friends, your neighborhood and your community.

Since I’m in the final weeks of moving from Colorado to Texas, I’m experiencing a wave of emotions ranging from excitement and joy to fear and loathing. (May I add everything in between and on the edges as well?)

The way to mitigate these extremes, as I’ve shared in a previous post, is to be immersed in preparation. My checklist (!!) is still going strong. And while this may be a good thing to keep me on task and on track, the persistent activity also takes a toll. That’s because uncertainty is tucked into the corners of every decision.

Surrounded by boxes, tape, markers, packing paper, pods and moving dilemmas, there are some days where I feel like I don’t stop. For anything. This week, I did something that offered me, and everyone around me, a new way to experience this moving situation.

I pressed the pause button.

Inevitably we all hit bumps and turns, even solid walls. You may try to force your way through by trying to fix every mishap. A family member gets anxious and you second-guess yourself. You miss a meeting and go out of your way to make up for it. There seems to be no end to the thoughts that wake you up in the middle of the night, wondering if you’ve met every deadline.

I was sensing that my efforts weren’t solving these challenges. In fact, the way I was pushing through each scenario was creating far more stress.

When I chose to pause and step away from the chaos, none of these dilemmas became more difficult. Imagine that!

That’s because most of the pauses you take are limited by time. You do return from any pause, as I did, to what you were facing.

The power of that pause – to regroup, think through what was irking me, get out and walk around the park, drink water and remembering to breathe – offered me what all that pushing could not. A key part of this reframing had to do with me, alone. Rather than complaining, commiserating or seeking validation, I worked through these situations as I walked around a park with our dog leading the way.

I returned with a new way to look at those areas that seemed so insurmountable. I didn’t have to fix anything. Second-guess myself. Make up for it. And oddly enough, I hadn’t missed a deadline.



Finding answers as you release control

In my work with executives, leaders and coaches I remind them that they know what to do. As their coach, I am there to listen and partner with them as they connect the dots of how they want to move through their life and work.

Tara Brach describes pausing as a sacred art, the first step in the practice of Radical Acceptance.

A pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving towards any goal. The pause can occur in the midst of almost any activity and can last for an instant, for hours or for seasons of our life.

Drawing from a number of wisdom leaders, including Brach, I’d like to offer five steps for your next pause.


1.     Time limited

Create the space you need – a few minutes, hours or days? You get to choose.

2.     Release control

No matter how angry or sad you may feel you’re choosing to stop forcing the issue.

3.     Become aware

Sit with yourself, ask yourself questions, soothe yourself. Now wonder out loud what you want to do next.

4.     Disrupt your behavior

By choosing to lean into what feels most painful, you change the game. Instead of reaching out for validation, allow the pain to be present and decide what you want to do with it.

5.     Awaken and return

Here’s where you find the answers that you knew all along. You trust yourself and recognize that while uncertainty remains, you have what it takes to step back into the fray.

My takeaway

You can take a pause with or without hitting a wall. Sometimes it’s essential to step aside to clear up mounting frustration, other times pauses are defined moments to take a break and breathe.

The lift equipment operator who inspired this piece didn’t appear to be frazzled in the least. On the contrary, her awareness of our presence prompted her to shift from her due diligence, knowing the pause in her work would be brief.

Pauses offer you a judgment-free zone to release control, become aware, change up your pattern and then return you to wherever you were with a new sense of yourself in that space.

I’m learning to pause more and more every day – with a bit of work in between.

Life is a weird thing because it puts roadblocks in front of you, sometimes you gotta go through it, sometimes you gotta go around it, sometimes you gotta take a pause and look back at what you’re gonna do, have a plan.

Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets Point Guard

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