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Take back control of your life by unlocking the power of the pause

Many clients come to me when they're experiencing a disconnect between who they strive to be and how they're showing up.

Take Lisa for example. She was a high achiever, who had recently been promoted. She prided herself on being a people-centered manager and a determined problem solver. Yet the stress of her new position, coupled with some personal struggles, caused her to "lose it" every time there was a proverbial fire at work.

Whenever anyone came to her with, what they felt was, an urgent problem, she would panic. Her tone of voice became aggressive. Her comments were abrasive. And she was even known to yell at people from time to time. She had lost control.

Lisa felt distraught. She was not showing up as the leader she wanted to be. And even though she knew better, she couldn't stop herself from reacting with venom in the moment. She began to worry that this problem would be career-limiting for her. With a young family to support, this limiting pattern was deeply concerning.

In addition to working with a therapist to navigate her personal struggles, Lisa wisely sought leadership and communication coaching to help her grow professionally.

We deconstructed the pattern she was stuck in. We started by identifying the trigger and patterned threat response - fight, flight, freeze, or appease. More specifically, we uncovered the thoughts and beliefs that she had during these stressful situations.

Lisa discovered a strong personal belief that she needed to have all the answers. For her, knowing was comforting; it was a way she could exert control. And when other people came to her with problems she could not immediately solve she felt humiliated. That feeling of humiliation caused her to enter the patterned threat response of fight. And Lisa was a formidable opponent.

With this new understanding, Lisa experimented with techniques for interrupting her patterned threat response in the moment. Focusing on her breath really helped when she experienced a trigger. In addition, she would prepare herself for meetings that typically were triggering, getting herself in the right frame of mind to respond with intention. Part of what helped her to prepare was lighting a scented candle that evoked feelings of calm and ease. With continued practice, she was able redirect her response to triggers so the way she showed up was more aligned with her values.

As we were concluding our work together, I asked Lisa how it was going. She was proud to share that she had done a 180. Instead of reacting with panic and fight, Lisa shared, "I am pausing in conversations and situations to be more aware of my emotional response."Her boss agreed!

Lisa was learning how to apply the power of the pause, and it worked tremendously. In addition to pausing in the moment, journaling daily helped her to process her feelings, set her intentions and gain clarity about how to handle stressful situations with more ease and grace. Lisa had regained control of her life and that felt freeing.

Not only was Lisa able to show up as the leader and manager she wanted to be. Her efforts resulted in successfully advocating for new professional opportunities that excited her.

Are you ready to be in control of your life? Would you like to learn how to apply the power of the pause in challenging or stressful circumstances? Check out the next Journal Jam on Thursday May 13th.

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