“Why?” It’s a question my toddler asks pretty frequently (okay, very frequently). But last week, when he asked it from the back seat of the car as I turned toward the highway on ramp, his question was just enough to knock me out of auto-pilot mode. I realized that I was about to get on the highway in the wrong direction; out of habit, I’d been driving our usual route – and I’d completely forgotten that we also had his infant brother in the back seat, who needed to go to a totally different destination. His query forced me to pause, and that pause probably saved me about 20 minutes of driving (and probably saved him from overhearing some colorful language).
Pausing to think is valuable – sure, it helps us avoid making careless mistakes, but it can offer even more benefit when we do it with a higher purpose. When we deliberately pause to access wisdom, we can see things in a new light, and even make smarter, more rational, less emotional decisions. It sounds like something I should do more often (and something I wish the people around me would do more often, too). So why is it so rare?
Whether because of heavy workloads, decision fatigue, overscheduling, or just living in an accomplishment-based mindset, many of us are operating every day under a lot of stress. When our brains are overworked or feel threatened, they look for shortcuts – hence, habit mode. When we’re in habit mode, we’re not making our best decisions; we’re not accessing that very full well of wisdom that we can dip into when we deliberately make time for it.
The incident in the car the other day inspired me to be more deliberate about pausing for reflection, reminded me of a talk Tricia Naddaff delivered on this same topic at TedxDirigo a few years ago. As this year’s TedxDirigo event approaches in a few weeks, I decided to pause (see, it’s working already!) and watch the recording. It inspired me to pause and reflect a lot more frequently throughout the day – okay, a little more frequently… but we all have to start somewhere!
(Feeling like you don’t have enough time for a 14 minute pause? Tricia guides an exercise starting at 9:55 that could give you a quick opportunity to try her technique.)