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When Is It Time to Pause?

personal development Apr 08, 2019

Last time, I discussed the virtues of "going." Today, I share the value of pausing.

There's no authentication for the source, but this is a favorite quote of mine.

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is your power to choose your response. And, in your response lies your growth and your freedom." - Viktor Frankl

To be clear, there are circumstances when stimulus leads directly to response without a chance of pausing. If I step on a garter snake in the garden there will be instant screaming, leaping, and hyperventilating. In situations like this, stimulus goes straight to the amygdala and initiates the fight or flight response immediately.

But even in cases that at first bypass the neocortex (where conscious thought resides), at some point you can stop, reflect, and frame your experience. And in any situation where there's a possibility of consideration, such as a conversation or email exchange, you have the power to insert a pause before choosing what to do or say next.

In "Isn't that interesting...?" I outlined an exercise for inserting a pause when confronted with misfortune, challenge, or difficulty. However, there are many similar exercises found in mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other spiritual and philosophical traditions.

Regardless of how you approach inserting it, seeking to establish a space between events and your reactions to them is vital for cultivating health and happiness for yourself and others. It's within that space that you can reflect on and choose your next step with intention and integrity. Within the pause is your opportunity to nurture the flourishing of everyone involved.

Knowing when to pause is at least as important as knowing when it's time to go. Cultivate both impulses to fly higher in any endeavor that makes a difference!


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This 3-minute read shares three questions. Answer them to get out of your own way and get going with the difference you seek to make.

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