Power of the Pause (Episode 98)

Have you ever stopped to think about the difference between speed and haste? What would it mean for your work and life to be able to slow down and respond with thoughtfulness, instead of racing ahead and always rushing? Join jost Kay Coughlin for this episode about a free tool that’s available to all of us: the pause. As always, no judgment, no guilt and no pressure.

See Episode 56, “Real Self-Care Actions,” for another Viktor Frankl quote reference.

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Transcript: Power of the Pause (Episode 98) 

You’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I’m your host, Kay Coughlin. I’m a business coach and an advocate for people with family caregiver responsibilities. I’m a family caregiver for my mother, too, and I just don’t believe that we caregivers have to put ourselves last. I believe that our families, government, and society in general owe us a lot more help than we usually get. And I’m here to help you learn to speak up for yourself so you can live your own life again.

This is episode 98.

Hello. Before I really get started here, I have to tell you that I am recording this episode late on a Friday afternoon, and this is not usually my best time for feeling energized and on top of my best thinking. But this week, my week was just full of other terrific things.

And I made the choice to move this recording session to today at this time. So I am thinking of this as an experiment and I do love to do experiments.

I would also love to hear your feedback after you listen to the episode. Did it work for you? Can you even tell the difference if you are regular listener, or is this episode up to my typical energetic standard? Leave a comment here after you listen, or you can go leave that comment in my Boundaries Community or look me up on social media and send me a direct message. I would just really like to hear what you think.

So now onto what we’re going to talk about today, which is the power of the pause. The idea for this podcast came to me a few weeks ago when I was getting tons of email from retailers about shopping their New Year’s sales, and they wanted me to shop. NOW, NOW, NOW!

Then at the same time, my social media feed was filled with all of this advice about how to get into gear in the new year before all the energy fizzled away. So it was all about rushing and doing things right now before you lose momentum.

The trouble with rushing like that, is that we do things in haste or out of habit and without thinking, and this is not generally our best place to do anything from, as humans.

Because what happens is we fall into the trap of letting others influence us or manipulate us evenm like in the case of all that sales stuff. And then we don’t make decisions that are best for ourselves. And we also trick ourselves into doing things out of habit because it’s a lot easier. It’s like it’s shortcuts for your brain, and those aren’t always necessarily the places that we want to really act and make decisions from either.

Now I have to tell you that I have done this myself many times as a business owner. I have been to the conferences where I bought the book or I bought the extra seminar or that pricey annual membership. And I bought it based on the speaker’s skill at selling and not based on what I actually needed. I haven’t really regretted any of these quick decisions that I made based on being really manipulated by somebody’s good sales skills.

So I don’t regret those things, but I sure have learned a lot of lessons, and some of them were good lessons and some of them were painful lessons. No regrets, but still, I’ve done that myself.

And I have also been caught up in this cycle of haste as a family caregiver. I have been in so many situations, like doctor visits or conversations about estate plans, for example, where a family member has pressured me to make a decision immediately. And that’s just not always the best way to make a decision, especially about something that’s really important.

A long time ago, I mean, I was probably in my early twenties when I started saying this, I started using the phrase, “There’s a big difference between speed and haste.” And I have absolutely no idea where I heard it, but I’ve been using it for a long time. Looking back on that now, I think that was kind of my beginner-level way of learning how to slow down a little bit and communicate to other people that it might be time to slow down a little bit.

So the difference between speed and haste, here it is, for me anyway. I didn’t look this up in the dictionary. This is the way I use it. I think of speed as getting something done quickly, and that’s neutral. That just has to do with the rate at which you get something done. There’s no quality implied there.

Now haste, then, seems more negative to me, and it’s really more about doing something without thinking it through, especially without thinking through the consequences of your decisions and actions. So I do think that’s more of a quality judgment. So again, another way of looking at it is when you do something quickly, you can still do it very well, and you can build in time for thoughtful pauses whenever it helps you.

Whereas with haste, you don’t value those pauses and the way they could make your decisions better and more effective, at least some of the time. So that’s the difference for me.

And it’s not like I’ve always put getting things done fast ahead of the quality of doing those things. For me, it’s more coming from a place that I have always had a lot of energy and I’ve had a lot of confidence as a leader and as a leader of groups and like when I’m leading a project.

And so I personally am very comfortable moving really quickly when I need to and whenever I can. And that also makes it really easy to get ahead of myself. Get ahead of the people I’m working with or even get ahead of where we are in the process.

I can tell you there are so many times in the past where I just stuck my foot in my mouth. Or I caused a problem because I can get into that groove of getting things done so fast, and it’s just because I can, it’s not hard for me. But I know that that’s not a marker of quality, and it’s not a good enough reason to always do things so fast.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I really started to dig into what I needed to be the best person I think I can be, and also be the best coach and most successful business owner too. The theme that kept coming up for me really surprised me then. It’s  the topic of the podcast today. It is the Power of the Pause.

I was good at pausing, and now I try and do it a lot. I use silence a lot in my work too, especially when I’m listening to people. And that’s just another kind of pause.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is attributed to the psychologist Victor E Frankl, and he said this, you know, probably 80 or 90 years ago, and it goes like this, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space is our power to choose.”

Now, I have spoken about this quote here on the podcast before, and I will link to that episode down in the show notes. And I’ll tell you if you want to see this quote in some graphics that I just created as reminders for myself, because I love this quote so much. You can go get those in My Boundaries community, and of course that’s free. Or you can just DM me on social media. Or send me an email and I’ll send those graphics right to you, or I’ll send you a link.

Anyway. To me what Frankel meant by this quote is that there is wisdom in that space or in what I’m calling today, a pause, and that was something that I just could not appreciate when I was younger. But now that I’m a little more seasoned and I have a lot more experience, it makes a lot more sense to me.

Oh, in just a side note here, when I say I’m seasoned, what I mean by that is I am going to turn 50 this year and I could not be more excited about this milestone birthday for myself. I think this is going to be a great year for me.

All right, back to pausing. I used to do a lot of managing events. And this was years ago. I mean, this has been more than 15, maybe even 20 years ago at this point. So when you’re managing events, lots of unexpected things happen. That is just part of managing events and when these things would happen, when I was doing this, I taught myself to tell everybody around me to just slow down and take a breath and make a plan, no matter how urgent the situation was.

And it could mean that we only had 60 seconds to do it. But still I would say, everybody take a breath. Let’s take a pause and make this plan. At the time, it could have been a short pause, depending on the situation. It could have been a longer pause, like an hour or whatever. But the point here is to take the length of pause that you need to make the best decision that you can in those circumstances.

You can learn to make this a habit instead of just rushing ahead, instead of working in haste. And you can learn to just build this into your plans upfront. You really can expect that you’re going to need to slow down and pause from time to time. And I even think that it is in those urgent situations, that is when the difference between speed – so doing something quickly and haste or doing something without thinking about the consequences – that’s when the difference between those two things becomes even more critical.

Because you just don’t have time, if something is urgent, to cause another mistake. Or if whatever happened wasn’t a mistake, you don’t have time to cause a mistake in that sequence of events.

So that’s the time to really take advantage and pause if you possibly can. And I’m going to tell you to always find a reason to pause, even if it’s just for a moment. So the idea here is that whatever it is that you have to do, you can do your work or your task, whatever it is, and then you can pause. During that pause, you can reflect on the work you did.

You can let your brain calm down so that you can be in charge of your thoughts and behaviors rather than just charging ahead by habit. This allows you to tap into the wisdom of that back burner that we’ve all got in our brains. And you know, this is that part of your brain that just seems to function best when you put that thing out of your mind. And whether that’s you work on a different task or you take a break, or even, one of the things we like to say is, I’m going to sleep on this. When you’re sleeping on it, that’s your back burner really working on a problem while you’re not actively working on it.

Another thing that I’m going to encourage you to do when you pause is try to remember what outcomes you want in the future. So that might be what you want for this thing to look like, whether that’s your life or your business or your family, what you want it to look like 10 years from now, or five years from now, or three years from now.

And I’ll tell you, this is something that my clients hear from me a lot when I can tell that their thoughts are kind of spiraling out of control. I’ll get them to stop for a moment and I’ll say, talk to me about what you want this to look like in 10 years, or five years or three years. Everybody who’s worked with me is very familiar with this.

Because what it really invites you to do is to make a choice of what action you’re going to take based on what you want in the future, and not from that kind of overstimulated or maybe panicky place that you’re in right now. This is pausing at its best.

While you’re pausing, I want you to please also remember that it is totally okay to feel anxious or panicky, angry or frustrated or ashamed. Those things are just normal human emotions, and if you are feeling rushed or urgent and those things come up for you, if you feel those, nothing has gone wrong. That’s normal. I would expect that.

What the power of the pause does for you, though, is it reminds you that you don’t have to let those feelings control your world. You don’t have to let those feelings control your actions. And that is the difference between reacting out of habit, which, let’s be honest, when you do react to things out of habit, a lot of times what happens is that you look back on it and it looks to you like you were overreacting. Or maybe reacting in a way that’s not very effective.

And instead you can respond from this place of a little more thought and wisdom and really intentional decisions and choices about your actions. So what I’m saying is that you don’t have to react from that place of just reacting just to be doing something. You can instead respond and act intentionally, and that is the power of the pause.

Now, let’s talk about this tactically for a second, because if you’re going to start thinking about this, you’re probably going to want to implement it. And tactically, I have really learned that unless something truly is urgent or if there are short timelines that can’t be changed, you can give yourself longer timelines and deadlines that are farther out. This is pausing. This is really building, pausing into your work. And you can do this at work, but you can also do it at home in your home life.

So, what does this really look like? Well, whenever possible, even if you could have something done in 24 hours or by the next business day, could you instead move that timeline out a bit? Maybe give yourself three days or a week to deliver a first draft or whatever it is that you need to. So this not only takes the pressure off of you and moves things out of that urgent category so that you’re not always trying to operate from that place of urgency. It also gives you time to be more thoughtful and review and revise your work before you move on to the next step. That’s pausing at its best.

I want to say that if you are right now, thinking to yourself that you could never make timelines longer because you’ve got somebody who you have to impress or somebody you have to prove something to, like maybe you’re looking for a promotion. I want to tell you that that is very likely a mindset you have that is based in haste.

This is a mindset, this hasty mindset, it really does mean that you are willing to sacrifice long-term quality and satisfaction with whatever the job is that you’ve done, for short-term completion of things. So that’s really something to think about. Is that something that you want or do you want to focus more on quality and satisfaction?

Or maybe what’s going on for you is you’re thinking I could never do this, you know that you need to get things done in a hurry because you’re dealing with somebody who complains when they think you are too slow. I hear this often enough from my clients, but it also happened to me personally.

If we go back in the way back machine, at one point in time, I had a relative who used to do this all the time. So they would need a lot of help with tasks and they’d call needing something done, like something not urgent. Maybe repotting a plant or hanging a pot hook. Those things were not urgent at all.

So we would schedule the time to take care of it for them as soon as we could reasonably get to it, and then we would clearly communicate that date and any other details they needed. This is pretty typical stuff if you listen to me at all on this podcast.

Then we’d hang up the phone with this relative, and almost inevitably we would learn later that they called another relative to complain about how slow we always were to help. So we would set up a plan to help and they would complain about it no matter what the plan was. If you happen to be dealing with that too, like I was, what I’m going to tell you here is that you can’t control that person’s complaining.

Now, there might be some things that you can do to make the situation a little better. If it’s at work or with a client, a good path to take is always to talk to the person who’s doing the complaining to see if you can resolve it and set some different expectations, and of course, document it. I’m always going to recommend documenting challenging conversations or difficult conversations and situations.

But if talking to that person doesn’t help, or if it’s not possible for you, which it might not be, the next thing to do would be to openly bring somebody else into that conversation to serve as a kind of witness to what’s been agreed on. So you could bring somebody into a meeting or you could CC somebody on any emails that you sent, and that’s if it’s at work.

If it’s in your family, again, I’m going to say as hard as it is, try to start by having a conversation with the person who’s complaining. If you know who else is involved in the complaining, you can offer to have a conversation with the group of you to talk about the problem. I’ll tell you that I’ve done that several times, and sometimes just the act of offering to host a group conversation was enough to kind of nip the problem in the bud.

Other times it was just that act of shining a light on the problem what was going on, really put an end to it. It doesn’t always work immediately. It didn’t always work that way for me. Sometimes I had to do it a few times before people caught on to what was going on, but that’s typical. That’s just the way human relationships work, and that’s really the case no matter what it is that you think you’d like to change.

The power of the pause, then, is that you can interrupt patterns and habits that you have, even if you’ve had them for decades. These could be habits like saying yes too quickly, or automatically doubting yourself and turning to somebody else for the answer. It could be bursting into tears. That’s a big one that I’m pretty well known for doing.

Maybe it’s the habit of getting very angry very quickly or getting too anxious to think. Maybe you tend to get afraid in situations, or maybe that habit for you is people pleasing and you just turn to that too quickly.

I want you to know that these habits do not have to ruin what you’ve got in mind for the future, and they don’t have to control you. This is the power of the pause. You get to choose your actions,

As I always say, whether I’m doing public speaking or in my coaching, and I’ve said it probably I don’t know, a thousand times here in podcast episodes, your very first step to learning anything new about yourself and when it comes to your own life, is to notice. Start by noticing, and this includes harnessing the power of the pause.

You can start by noticing when you’re not pausing. Notice when you tend to move ahead in haste, like if you tend to talk over people or make impulse purchases at the office supply store. Guess how I know about that one? Or you can notice whatever habit is really pestering you.

Learning to notice is in itself a superpower because once you can do that, you can teach yourself how to stop reacting in ways that aren’t helping you very much. And then you’re going to be able to respond with a pause and intention and thoughtfulness, so that you can create different results for yourself that are probably going to be much more helpful for you in the long run.

Before I go, please let me remind you that you can really help me out here by leaving a comment, or sharing this episode with someone that you’d like to hear it. Those are two ways that you can really help me help more people and get the word out about the podcast.

And if you know of anybody who’s looking for a business coach, especially if they’re a solopreneur or a small business leader, you can send them to my website where they can learn about me as a business coach.

Thanks for being with me here today. You can find out more about all of this work at Facilitator On Fire dot net. That’s Facilitator On Fire dot net.

If you haven’t already joined my free Boundaries community, what’s stopping you? It is the place to explore setting boundaries without judgment or guilt. There, you’re going to find just real talk about how humans really work. And you can find that community at Facilitator On Fire dot net slash Boundaries. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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