The Power of Pause
Haste makes waste, gentlemen.
In today’s modern society of what I like to call Throwaway Ideals, it can be difficult to see yourself finishing anything all the way. Most of us are too easily conditioned to cut and run when the going gets tough because there’s opportunity and alternatives abound. We start a lot of projects, chase a lot of ideas, and break ground on new endeavors… but we rush through the motions so quickly that we often miss details, and cause things to derail.
More importantly, when things derail we jump ship and start something new. It’s like building a wooden boat. We begin applying the wooden slats to the hull, nailing them into the frame, and increasing our pace. We get excited at the prospect of soon sailing our new boat, that we begin cutting corners, skipping nails, and forgetting small details.
Some of us will quit building about halfway through because a step we missed (skipped) in the beginning, needs to be completed, which means we have to backtrack and start over. No good. The others that get the boat in the water immediately notice the skipped steps when she starts to take on water. The effort to rescue and rebuild can seem too much, so we let her sink and start a new project.
Enter: the power of pause.
In this episode, I am introducing the power of pause. It’s a way to stop moving so you can keep moving. I know it’s a little confusing when I put it that way, but when you practice the power of pause, you can cover more ground than simply hitting every project at full speed.
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In life, we rush into and through nearly everything. We often have little attachment to projects, people, or ventures if they do not deliver what we want quickly enough. The four main areas where our haste and impatience can kill us are:
- Business & Networking
- Personal Goals
The impetus of the shortcomings in these areas stems from our impatience AND our perception of the situation. We have an idea of how long things will take (usually wrong). We have a prediction of how successful we will be (usually wrong). We have a idea of how much weight we can lose (usually wrong). The list can go on and on. When given the opportunity to chase a goal and see it come to fruition, we can only achieve it if we are persistent in our action and deliberate in our quest. When we lose sight or get too frustrated with the process is when haste comes in.
This reminds me of the story of The Touchstone.
When the great library of Alexandria burned, the story goes, one book was saved. But it was not a valuable book; and so a poor man, who could read a little, bought it for a few coppers.
The book wasn’t very interesting, but between its pages there was something very interesting indeed. Upon further investigation, the man discovered a thin strip of vellum on which was written the secret of the “Touchstone.”
The touchstone was a small pebble that could turn any common metal into pure gold. The writing explained that it was lying among thousands and thousands of other pebbles that looked exactly like it. But the secret was this: The real stone would feel warm, while ordinary pebbles are cold.
So the man sold his few belongings, bought some simple supplies, camped on the seashore, and began testing pebbles.
He knew that if he picked up ordinary pebbles and threw them down again because they were cold, he might pick up the same pebble hundreds of times. So, when he felt one that was cold, he threw it into the sea. He spent a whole day doing this, but none of them was the touchstone. Yet he went on and on this way. Pick up a pebble. Cold – throw it into the sea. Pick up another. Throw it into the sea.
The days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months. The old man was weary and frustrated, but pressed on in the hope that he will soon find the Touchstone and be rich. Pick up a pebble, Cold – throw it in the sea. Pick up another. Cold – throw it in the sea.
One day, however, about mid-afternoon, he picked up a pebble and it was warm. He threw it into the sea before he even realized what he had done. He had formed such a strong habit of throwing each pebble into the sea that when the one he wanted came along, he still threw it away.
So it is with opportunity, and relationships, and everything else we strive for in our lives. Unless we are vigilant, it’s all too easy to fail to recognize an opportunity when it is in hand and it’s just as easy to throw it away. This is the power of pause.
When we forget to pause, reflect, and refocus, we not only lose sight of the big picture, but we lose sight of what’s right in front of us.
Business & Networking
This story rings so true in business because we are all trying to reach the next milestone faster than our competitors, and faster than we reached the previous one. We say yes to things that sound promising. We power through meetings, events, business cards exchanges, and one-on-one meetings with prospects and colleagues.
We’re looking for the touchstones of our industry, but we’ve been searching for so long that many of us have lost the sensation of warmth in our hands. We encounter a touchstone, but discard him or her without a moment’s pause because they weren’t piping hot and flashing an “I’m the Touchstone you’re looking for” sign for us.
My invitation is to take a moment to pause and refocus. Write down your business goals, who you want to connect with, and what you bring to the table. When you’re clear on what you’re looking for and what you are willing to give in exchange, you can be more deliberate in your search. Use the power of pause to ask more questions, share more stories, and develop more relationships. It will help you hold onto pebbles longer, because some just might be touchstones after all.
When I was a single man, I was deliberately hasty. I wasn’t looking for love, so I was quick to cut and run when the going got tough. I think a lot of men in committed, long term relationships are still in this mode by default. If you’ve been in a relationship for a while now, and have broken up and gotten back together with your person more than once, you are on autopilot.
You are quick to say yes to things that satisfy you, as long as they don’t cause too much discomfort. You’re also quick to jump out when they do become difficult. Think of all the time you spent (perhaps in your past) in relationships that weren’t right. On the other side, think of the relationships you lost because one of you was too quick to jump.
A quick decision –especially a poor one– can turn a relationship into a wasteland, or eliminate a good relationship altogether. My invitation to you is to remember the touchstone in your relationships with people –your special someone and your friends, coworkers, and contacts. If you pause and explore a little more with them, you may discover a lot more than you thought.
Pause and be deliberate in your actions. Who are you in your relationships? Who are you seeking? Who do they need to be in order to remain in relationship with you? This isn’t just about your significant other, and it’s not about being in charge – every relationship has an unspoken agreement about staying satisfied. When your friends, coworkers, or contacts don’t hold up their end of the agreement, you can feel annoyed, unsatisfied, or unwilling to work with them.
Pause to reflect and get clear on the relationships you want so you can go forth and create them. When you don’t take the time to know what you’re looking for, you’ll find and build anything that seems good enough for now. That, gentlemen, is the definition of haste making waste.
Health & Fitness
One of the most prevalent industries that preys on hasty ideals is personal fitness. The idea is always the same: do the work and you’ll eventually reap the rewards. The pitch is also always the same: our product/program/person can triple your results in a third of the time!
Our haste in doing our due diligence, and our unwillingness to commit to doing the work makes us pawns in their scheme. We end up wasting our time, our money, and our attention chasing a rabbit down a very expensive hole.
When we first begin a fitness regiment, we know it’s going to be hard, and can accept it. About a month in, however, we should be seeing more dramatic results for all our efforts, right? Well, many of us think that, so we elect to cut corners and purchase miracle supplements or training programs from social media moguls.
When those results don’t come fast enough –or aren’t as dramatic as we think they should be– we quit, and chalk it up as a waste of time. No. You weren’t wasting your time, but after you quit, you certainly are. We are so quick to pick up and toss away an idea, a program, or a commitment when it comes to fitness because we want our cake, eat it too, and also get six-pack abs in “only 8 minutes at home!”
The invitation here is to pause and reflect on your wins. This is especially true in fitness plans because so many of us have an “all of nothing” mentality when it comes to achieving our goals. If we don’t attain a rock hard midsection within the amount of time it say on the DVD box, we throw the entire goal away.
Don’t forget about the wins you experience along the way! Lowered blood pressure, more energy, more flexibility, maybe even pounds and inches removed from your body! You must use the power of pause and take an inventory of your little victories along the way. You are your own touchstone, but you’re too quick to throw yourself into the sea.
Whatever it is that you want in life, you have to practice pause in order to achieve it. You must take a few moments now and then to reflect on your journey, or else you’ll get lost in the minutiae of everyday life. Whether it’s a goal to be out of debt, buy a home, or take a big family vacation, pausing to take stock in all the persistent little steps you’ve taken to get there is what will… get you there.
We live in a world of instant gratification and little consequence for quitting. This makes it all too easy to jump in and out of adventures, goals, and relationships prematurely. Gentlemen that practice pause to reflect on who they are, who they want to be, what they want, and what they’re accomplished so far, are far better equipped to actually achieve the successes they seek. They can make snap decisions that move them in the right direction, rather than just move them in some direction.
Practice pause so you can know the difference. Practice pause so you can go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Practice pause so you can quit that which does not serve you and recommit to that which does.
Haste makes waste, gentlemen. Practice the power of pause and waste no more.
What areas of your life do you need to practice the power of pause?
Are there any areas you think need more mentioning – any stories you want to share?
Leave a comment below so we can connect!