Give yourself a PAUSE – #2 in series “Pausing with Purpose”

5 simple ways to build PAUSE into your daily life:     Lessons 1 and 2

Pause Blog Picture

Whether you are a leader, a student, a colleague, a friend, or a brother or sister, creating mental, physical, and emotional space through Purposeful Pause, can have a palpable impact on your daily life, how you connect with others in a meaningful way and the decisions you make.

A pause permits us the space to fit in a heightened sense of belonging or purpose, a feeling for the present. The most beautiful notes of a symphony often follow a dramatic pause, when the ears are primed to listen, to take in the unexpected.

A pause can generate a stronger connection to the world, to others, and to our core values. It allows us to filter out the white noise around us so we can actually hear the signal that helps guide us to our true north.

Many of us refer to our needed space as down time, a break, a time out, an intermission, or as of late, a meditation.  Regardless of the label that we put on this space, a purposeful AND intentional pause allows us to rethink, reboot, and clean up our “operating system.”  It is the pause that enables you to refresh and allows clearer thinking and better decision-making.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” (Mark Twain) Are you taking the time out to find out why?

Daily Practice in Action.  Pause Practice #1: Review What You Do in a Day bit by bit

Just listing what you do in a given week is one method of pausing. Most of us are creatures of habit and we don’t take the time to reflect on what it is we do each day – and why. How much thinking time do you build into any given day or week?

It’s not by chance that great ideas often come to us when we’re in the shower or in bed. Our minds are in a more relaxed state, allowing us to hone in on ideas that have been squashed by the noisy world around us.

Many of us grew up with our parents and teachers telling us to, “Think before you speak,” and yet so many of us stop doing it as we work our way through a complex and busy world. It’s not surprising that the combination of our long – very long –  and always urgent “to do” lists and our self-imposed pressure to always be digitally connected result in an utter lack of time for reflection.

We must take seriously the thought-provoking research and studies showing how impulsive behaviors and habitual responses (or System 1[1] thinking) can get us into trouble, blur the facts, or alter picture and word recall.

Pause Practice #2: Use Purposeful Pause to Reframe, Reduce Bias, and Make Better Decisions

In your daily life, where decisions are constant, take a moment to step back and consider how information or a situation can be reframed.

Daniel Khanaman describes how we more often go into autopilot, or a System 1 mode of approach, rather than thinking out the entire scenario before reacting – a System 2[2] response mode. System 1 thinking results in quick judgments and reactions instead of System 2 or reflective thinking, which leads to better decision-making. Does this resonate with you?  Khanaman’s recent article is a great read on this topic as he shares the financial consequences of System 1 thinking.

As Namika Sagara, a leader in decision-making research and a Bos Advisors community expert, points out that people hardly pause when things are going smoothly, and that’s when they are more likely to be relying more on System 1 thinking. This brings up an interesting point… Should people pause more when things are going smoothly, rather than waiting until things become challenging?

Pause Exercise: Pause and consider reframing the decision(s) you need to make or the set of information right in front of you. Academic decision-making research (or its offshoot: behavioral economics) has demonstrated the powerful effect of framing. That is, depending on the situation, we are likely to make decisions differently.

Higher levels of stress and urgency influence us to make rash decisions and rely more on System 1 thinking. By pausing and relying more on System 2 thinking, you make yourself less likely to be affected by a particular framing, which should result in less biased decisions.

Namika shares some specific ways to leverage academic research to create an effective pause. One way is to reframe the choice in front of you. For example, instead of only thinking about what you would gain or achieve with a decision, also think about what you would lose or miss out on. This will enable you to take multiple perspectives into account, weigh the positives against the negatives, and make choices that reflect your careful and more analytical thinking instead of merely habitual thinking.

Another way – which could be more effective for some people – is to imagine that your best friend (instead of yourself) is facing the same decision and that you are tasked with giving him or her advice on how to proceed. What would you say? This exercise will enable you to utilize a more objective and balanced thinking process.

Remember, a Purposeful Pause impacts your daily life by heightening your sense of belonging, generating a stronger connection to others and gives you the space you need to think more slowly enabling better decisions

[1] System 1: A mode of thought that is fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and subconscious. (Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)

[2] System 2: A mode of thought that is slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, and conscious. (Ibid)


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