3 Reasons pressing “pause” boosts your impact & defines your focus
“It’s not so much knowing when to speak, it’s knowing when to pause,” Jack Benny.
It’s not so much knowing when to push play, it’s knowing when to press pause! Some days I felt like a happy hamster in a comfy cage with a turbo charged wheel. We all need time to pause. You need time to pause. Even when we are ecstatically happy running at full speed, we need to hit the pause button now and then, now … and then. Most of us don’t know we need to pause. I didn’t, but I took a three year pause and it changed the story of my life.
Why do you need to pause?
- It’s the pause that brings realignment.
- It’s the pause that brings reflection.
- It’s the pause that brings refocus. (Tweetable)
It’s the pause, and the silence, that speaks loudest. (Tweetable)
That Is Not A “Rhetorical” Question!
A very powerful technique when public speaking is to use a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question demands no answer. A rhetorical question can add variety and depth to opening a speech. Critically, however, it needs to have something which many people miss, and that is the addition of a ………… pause.
The rhetorical question pause could be one of the first figure of speech skill techniques people learn when public speaking. I hear people ask a question and then say, “that is not a rhetorical question,” in other words, I am waiting for an answer. While the rhetorical question is not begging an answer, it is asking for time for a person to think. By not giving your audience that space, that pause, it frustrates and diminishes its effect. Andrew Dulgan, in an excellent article on the use of a pause in public speaking says, “perhaps pause longer than you think is necessary, perhaps longer than is comfortable for you.” I once paused for three years, it was at times uncomfortable, but it helped me realign, reflect and refocus my life. What could a pause do for you?
A Three Year Pause
I had been Senior Branch Manager in a busy direct sales office for Royal Sun Alliance Insurance Company for 13 years. Training sales techniques, courses in leadership, coaching new recruits in overcoming the fear of prospecting, and being a keynote and motivational speaker at overseas conference, they were wonderful, successful and exciting days. Early mornings, late nights were my staple diet. I ate well. I was as full as a redneck in a hot dog eating contest.
A Nagging Dissatisfaction
A nagging dissatisfaction had been growing on me like clay mud on a hikers boots. Something was missing. Each day was getting heavier. I can’t remember how the seed was planted, but the picture of going to University was appearing like a Polaroid snap before my eyes. Could I succeed academically? School had not been a stella time for me. I had dropped out. I decided if I could pass the entrance process I would give up my job and go to University. Well I could, and I did. In September 1994 I started at Birmingham University as an undergraduate student. The three years I studied (paused) there were some of the most challenging, humbling, rewarding and satisfying years. The day I received my First Class Honours degree was, apart the day I got married and the days that Laura and Sam were born, one of my proudest days.
- The three year pause allowed me to realign what was important. Running fast every day allowed me to move forward but when I paused long enough, I realised I was running off track. What’s the use of moving fast if you are heading in the wrong direction?
- The three year pause allowed me time to reflect on the here and now and see what was important. Those three years allowed me time. I helped my son Sam to fight with plastic swords the dragons that lived in the bushes. I taught Laura to ride a bike. (Frustrating, push the pedal!) Simple things, but things that memories are made of, things that create stories and a lasting legacy that matters.
- The three year pause allowed me to refocus. It was only after I had paused long enough that the silence started to speak louder. What was the lasting legacy of my life to be? The pause allowed me to do things I never could have dreamed and wouldn’t have, unless I took time to pause.
How can you take a pause? While it may not be possible for you to take a three year pause but you can, right now, hit the pause button.
- Pause for 8 mins everyday – Amy Jo Martin and the team at Digital Royalty have a ReadySetPause moment everyday. I love that idea and you could hit the pause button everyday in the same way.
- Pause for 30 mins tomorrow morning – Get up 30 mins earlier, switch off all phones, laptops, totally disconnect. Be quiet. Don’t write. Don’t listen to music, find somewhere quiet and pause, I do. It’s difficult. It’s very difficult! After just a few minutes you will want to “do something” but don’t, just pause. Do the same for the next 7 days and you will find that you start to realign, reflect and refocus.
- Pause for 1 day – Two or three times a year take a day to stop and pause. There is a favourite part of Wales I love called the Elan Valley, it holds lots of memories for me. A day sitting and taking in the vista and visiting a tiny chapel on a hillside is a pause in my life. The ROI of such a pause, is hard to calculate.
I am with Apollinaire who said, “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” (Tweetable)
Why don’t you take a pause, 8 mins, 30 mins or for a day. Pause, realign, reflect and refocus. It could change the direction of your life.