Practicing the Pause

by Cynthia Bischoff on June 18, 2011

Do you say you want your life to change in some way, yet engage in the same old behaviors?  You are not alone.  Most people continue to do what is familiar without realizing that by “doing what they’ve always done, they get what they’ve always gotten.”  To break an old behavior or pattern you have to create awareness, be willing to respond differently, and “practice the pause.”

How do you break free of negative reactive behavior?

&#9829 The first step in redirecting any behavior is to gain awareness about what is happening.  Although you may be aware of the many ways in which a negative behavior does not serve you, it is important to recognize that the behavior would not continue to exist unless there were some hidden benefit.   Let’s examine the desire to extinguish the behavior of procrastination.   While you may want to stop procrastinating because of its negative consequences such as it is stressful, it may create a bad reputation for you, etc., what purpose or benefit does procrastination provide?  What if by waiting long enough, you escape doing the thing you don’t want to do after all?  Or what if you are a perfectionist and give yourself less than ample time to create your project so you can better rationalize a less-than-perfect outcome? The key is to more deeply explore what you are gaining by doing that which you want to change!

&#9829 Once you have identified what you are gaining, you have to decide whether the benefit of a new choice outweighs the familiarity of the old.  If it does, are you willing to change?  No matter what has happened (even if throughout an entire lifetime), you can use three simple words to inspire yourself– “up until now”–knowing that now you can do it differently.  Your knowledge is not complete unless you act on what you know.

&#9829 So how do you hold conscious intent?  You decide to “practice the pause.” When you notice you’re about to engage in a maladaptive behavior or when you feel “stuck,” literally pause for at least six seconds (research validates that pausing triggers a different response in your amygdala—a part of the brain) and then respond rather than react.  The pause allows you to hold a different consciousness, one more aligned with your new goal.

You are writing the story of your life every breathing moment. You are not trying out for a part in someone else’s drama.  You are the author and the director of your own life.  As you begin to pause and respond to life circumstances, rather than to react, you will literally change your story and change your life!

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