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The Power of a Pause

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

When running communication training, we dedicate a component to the power of the pause; however, this piece is not about that. It's when your life is on pause.

Snapshot from the Brave Women Experience. This is Vetty who took a powerful pause in her busy career to share her story with these amazing women health volunteers in a remote village in Nepal. (used with permission)

Gardening leave, being between roles, negotiated exits or taking a sabbatical require us to be in a state of 'pause'. Dr William Bridges talks about this being a time of transition (also the title of his book "Transitions"). For many people, Bridges states that being in this stage can be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons.

When working with clients who have chosen, or in some cases, have not chosen to be in one of these states of pause, it is interesting to watch their minds, body, and souls shift over time, such as:

  • The way they view the world and themselves in it.

  • The way they orient themselves to time.

  • The surprise they find in how differently they interact physically with the world,

  • And the shock when they begin to question their identity and worth.

At the start, they are excited about the opportunity to rest or 'just not work'. At first, it's like being on holiday; life is a lark, going out for coffee, doing odd jobs, and binging on tv shows.

Then something changes; it usually happens about a month in; they start to feel weird, noticing their friends use different words to them; they take a trip into the city, and people consistently bump into them with no apology. They begin to have moments where they question things they've never questioned before, and to put a very fancy word on it; they feel like they have lost their mojo.

It's important to note that these people know their worth; they know they are only on pause, but their days just don't feel right, and they don't feel like they fit in their bodies. Their bodies don't fit in their usual places of comfort. For example, coming home doesn't feel like coming HOME anymore because their family don't greet them the same way they used to. Their friends no longer seem to be able to hold a conversation with them and always seem to have something they need to rush off to.

Dr Bridges writes about the three stages of transition; endings, transition and (new) beginnings. There is a sense he wants you to quickly recognise the stage you are in and purposefully find ways to get through it. Alternatively, Bruce Fielder, in his book "Life is in the Transitions – Mastering Change at Any Age", helps us by turning this 'get through it' mindset on its head. I love the different titles he has given to the three phases. Where Bridges talks about endings, Fielder describes this as the "The Long Goodbye" transitions becomes "The Messy Middle" it's here he dedicates his work about pausing to enjoy, love and learn, and Beginnings he titles "The New Normal", helping us recognise and celebrate change.

I like the intent of transition, but I suggest you reside here cautiously.

While I am all for living a full and healthy life in those transitions, it is just that. Gardening leave, being between roles, taking a sabbatical. I am not talking about people who have intentionally changed their lifestyle; I am focusing on those who are taking a pause with the absolute intention of resuming a similar or 'improved' interaction with the world of work.

So if you are on pause, here are some tips that have worked for me and for people that I engage with (there are many other things you could do, but these are just for starters). From a Personal standpoint:

  • Speak to your loved ones about this time and agree expectations. You may even warn them that you might be a bit 'all-over-the-place' in how you interact with them.

  • If you know yourself well, plan for this. Below are tips for personal self-care:

· Engage or continue with your therapist/mentor/coach etc

· Arrange to do physical activities – eg the gym, yoga or walking/running dates with friends.

· Plan your social calendar, and commit (don't cancel at the last minute), maybe even do some short courses.

· Consider those jobs you have always wanted to do around the home, cleaning out your office, maintenance etc. Doing your tax!

Professionally, and here is where I get a bit pushy, you also need to have a plan and keep plugging away at it. Yes, take your pause and ensure you do all of the above; however, if you intend to return to work, you also need to keep active towards that goal.

· As mentioned above, if you don't have a coach or mentor, find an old colleague or friend you can talk to about your planned actions and ask them to check in with you regularly.

· Grow your networks; this is a great time to get very intentional about the people you wish to continue engaging with (online or in person).

· Update any collateral that positions you effectively for your new role – your CV, LinkedIn, photo, bio etc.

· Stay 'clean'. Depending on the type of exit you had, even positive ones, it is essential that you create an identity of worth and value that is directly linked to who you are, your character, and the worth you bring by what you do.

If left on pause too long, without personal strategies or friends who stick with you along the way, not just the first few weeks, you might find yourself stuck, and your mojo gets harder and harder to find as time passes.

With all this being said, my high achievers, this message is for you.

Please enjoy the pause!

You have worked for so long and so hard; you have sacrificed so much. You may never get this opportunity again. Yes, make plans as indicated above, knowing you are very capable of getting on with the work of finding your next role. However, stop and smell the tulips in that 'garden'.

If you are feeling stuck in the pause, please reach out and let’s get to work finding a way to both enjoy it as well as plan towards that next role.


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