The Power Of A Pause (Lisa Danforth)

Lisa Danforth

For this piece, Christine Gritmon interviewed Lisa Danforth about her concept of a “pause”: when we need one, how to take one, and how we can all benefit from its power.

To intentionally create the life that we want—the business that we want to have, the clients that we want to work with, financial goals, even our personal relationships—we need to pause and get clear on what that looks like, and who we need to be in order to achieve that success that we’re seeking.

How do we know when we need a pause?

When we continue to over-commit ourselves to other things and under-commit to our own goals, priorities, and most important relationships.

Perhaps our business is taking over our lives: we’re not seeing our family, our friends, our kids, our loved ones. Or maybe we’re dropping balls with our clients or potential clients.

We’re exhausted. We’re frustrated. We lose that “jazz” within our business.

When our business starts to feel like it’s super heavy and we don’t want to do it anymore, that’s a really good sign that we needed to take a pause a while ago.

I invite all of my clients to take a pause before they begin a transition: when they’re transitioning from one conversation to the next, or from having coffee to sitting down at the computer, or transitioning from a day at work to coming home. In that moment, I encourage them to pause and be intentional in who they want to be within that next conversation or environment, whatever it may be. Pause to disconnect from the energy of work so that they can really be present with their families and loved ones.

I had one client who would come home and the kitchen would be a mess and she would automatically get agitated. When we started implementing the power of a pause, she was able to connect to who she wanted to be in the relationships that she wanted with her family. And the last thing she wanted was to come through the door with guns blazing, like, “Why can’t you do the dishes?” She was able to say, “Dishes are not important; this time with my family is important.” So before going through the door, she would pause and be intentional: “Who do I want to be? And what is the feeling that I want to have with my family?”

We can do that when showing up for our clients. We can do that when we’re sitting down to map out our goals: “How do I want to feel when I’m working towards this goal?”

How do we take that pause?

It really is a habit and a muscle that we need to build. We need longer-term goals so that we can make all of our choices in the context of those goals.

It has become a habit for us to just jump, to move–our society these days is going a hundred miles an hour, and you just need to stay in action. So we judge ourselves, if everybody else is in action, when we really need to pause and think: how do I create more of what I want?

How do you let go of those things that are no longer serving you when you don’t pause and think about what you want more of or what you want less of?

We need to really build what’s called an “identity-based habit.” An identity-based habit is a habit in which we say, “As a person who”—so, “As a person who is present and loving with my family; as a person who follows up on all of my leads, so that I can have a $250,000 business; my choice in the moment would be…” So instead of removing the “bad habit” of always saying yes, what we want to do is look at how we want to choose something differently when we start to behave in a way that is out of alignment with who we want to be, the choices that we want, or our longer-term vision to implement a new habit.

What exactly can a pause look like?

The pause doesn’t have to be a month, a week or a day. It could literally be two deep breaths to remove yourself from immediately saying yes. And that right there disconnects you from the well-worn neural pathways, from the automatic reaction without looking at the tradeoff.

I highly recommend putting thinking time on your calendar. There’s a great piece by Jeff Weiner, Executive Chairman at LinkedIn, about scheduling buffers of “nothing time” into your day to think and process. Because if we aren’t looking forward and planning our day, we’re constantly reacting to our environment. And once we’re off balance, it’s very easy, it’s one little finger, to keep us perpetually off balance. So I completely recommend scheduling thinking time on your calendar.

It feels like such a luxury to actually sit down and think, “What do I want to bring in,” but how else does creativity come into us? When we’re constantly doing, our brains are operating, it’s very hard to receive our greatest amount of creativity and ideas and actions and yeses and nos to make that happen.

How do we do it? We create that habit: when I get home (for those who are leaving the house for work) my habit is now going to be, when I pull into the driveway and turn off the key to my car, before I transition, I’m going to pause for 10 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute, and release the energy from the day so that I can step into being the parent, the spouse, the partner, the friend that I need to be for myself.

And that goes for clients as well. Having that transition of going from client to client: if there’s no buffer in between, it’s very hard to release the energy from the previous client.

How do we create that space when it feels impossible–for example, while parenting?

It does feel impossible, because we have shown up and agreed to always answer the kids’ questions, to always be there for them 24/7. We know we do not need to be there for them 24/7. We don’t. It is our belief of who we need to be nowadays, the perfect parent—but being the perfect parent is empowering your kids to make choices on their own.

Give them the gift of transparency: “I know that I’ve always been available when you knock on my door. It’s no longer working for me.” When you start shifting and saying, “Mom’s no longer available, Dad’s no longer available. If you see my door shut, if you see the ribbon on my seat, if you see a red sticker, that means I am not available.” Have the conversation, invite them to the table, whether it’s your spouse, your kids, or even your friends: “I know I’ve always picked up the text when you have sent it to me. I’m no longer going to do that because what’s happening is I’m putting myself and my business success on the back burner to respond to everyone else.”

When we pause and get intentional, we understand that when we’re saying yes to all these other things, what we’re saying no to is creating our future.

“Success is sequential; it is not simultaneous.” It’s a great quote by Gary Keller. We cannot do everything all at once. So we have to get really clear about what we want and how we go about getting it.

The power is in the pause. “Love you, kids, but unless there’s broken bones and blood, lots of it, do not disturb me. I am doing my one thing. I am focusing on my priority for the next 30 minutes, the next three hours; you need to entertain yourself. Here’s what you need to do.” And I understand it’s difficult, but it’s a muscle that needs to be built. It is possible. Have that conversation.

In summary, what are the benefits of the pause? What can it do for you?

It can create the life that you want. It can make you super clear on what you want and how you go about getting it.

The power of the pause is that it actually allows us to build in boundaries. When we pause and understand why we’re saying yes and why we’re saying no, and again, in creating those identity-based habits as identity-based goals, the power of the pause allows you to connect to that longer-term vision so that you know why you’re saying yes and no. There’s always a trade-off, so we can make choices that connect to the trade-off that we want.

Lisa Danforth @lisa
I’m a business growth strategist and leadership coach.
I help people get clear on the life they want to live and the business or career that will sustain it, not consume it.

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@lisa and @christine this is such valuable advice! Pausing can be beneficial in so many ways - in business and in life! I’ve been using this intentional pause whenever I feel pressured to make a decision, when I feel overwhelmed, and when I get super excited! :exclamation: Thanks for giving us a great tool to set boundaries!

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Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, @dorien! Agreed- a well-placed pause helps us to establish AND hold our boundaries, which supports us in creating more of what we want, leaving the overwhelm and pressure behind. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the benefits of boundaries!