The Power of a Pause



A few years ago, it was all the rage.  “Thinking outside the box” was the next creative wave.

Entire corporations emerged to adopt this catchy new branding,

It became the answer to many an employment interview question and propelled individual thinkers and creatives to the top of the hiring heap.

Rogue is vogue.

Personally, I think they missed the bigger picture.

In my psychotherapy practice, I have always been a “systems” practitioner.  Thinking outside the box has consistently been the most effective method of arriving at both the problem and the solution.  At the core of systems thought is the idea that everything is connected and part of a much bigger picture.  To grasp this notion in the context of human relationships gives the therapist a bird’s-eye view of the processes that both created the problem and the processes which might, ultimately solve the problem.  It answers the question: What brought us here and what will take us where we want to go?

In my old age and early morning rituals, I have become a fan of YouTube documentaries.  A recent choice was “Earth From Space,” an overview of the interactive processes of the four elements–earth, water, air and fire–and their dynamic and divine systems which keep our planet flourishing.  The connectedness of an event in Africa to the sustenance of life across the Atlantic ocean in the amazon is vital and necessary.  Truly an amazing video if you get the chance.  Well worth the watch and a good primer to get you thinking the way I think we all should be thinking these days.

All around the box.

Not just outside the box.

You see, everything is fast these days.  Most humans have and take very little time to contemplate their actions and behaviors.  Reacting and responding have taken precedence at the service of efficiency.

The power of a pause.

Every single thing we do or say is in reaction to something that preceded it.  And each response we make is, essentially, served to the next person or the next step in the system.  This process is really quite simple to grasp.

What if today, with each decision you make, each action, reaction or word you speak, you paused, if only for a moment.  Ask yourself:  Where did this come from, what are my options and what effect might my word or action have on the next person down the line?

For example, as many of you know, I currently work as a janitor at my church.  The work is neither glorious nor what I have been trained to do professionally.   But my bout with drugs and addiction and resulting charges years ago have (at least for now) all but ruined my chances of earning a living doing what I do best.  That’s another story you can read about in detail under the “Older Posts” sections here at my website.

The good thing, apart from recovery of course, is the training I received from my parents who taught me that in all things I do, I should endeavor to do them well and to the best of my ability.  Being a janitor is no different.

My appreciation for my job is greatly enhanced when I view it systemically.  When I wipe down bathroom counters and mirrors before a Sunday morning service, I do it with a bird’s-eye view.  It helps our Guest Services Coordinator to relax in knowing that the best possible environment is being provided for perhaps someone who will anxiously arrive at church that morning with their own heavy burdens.  Clean towels, a fresh sink and a clear view of themselves in the mirror may make all the difference in their perspective on life for that moment.  This kind of view of an otherwise inglorious job makes work meaningful in the context of the system.

To take pause of the potential role of your words or behaviors on another is a profound act of compassion.  It makes everything you do or say a contemplated measure both backward and forward, virtually guaranteeing the best possible set up for who’s next.

It takes “thinking outside the box” to a whole new level.

Be a rogue…for the next person down the line.