Confusion to clarity in 3 steps

02 December 2016 Written by Vicki Evans

I've asked Sally-Anne Airey to share her Pause Tool on the run up to Christmas. At this time of year our list of commitments and jobs tend to grow so we can all benefit by using her quick technique. Do take a moment to read more about Sally-Anne's retreat programmes in the Alps here holiday stress

 Ever felt that you've got so much to do you don't know which way to turn? Or that your mind is so swamped your thinking feels scattered? Or that your key priorities are so buried beneath the deluge of tasks that you've almost forgotten what they are?

This is what overwhelm can feel like. It's invasive and stressful. When we're experiencing overwhelm, we can't think straight, we feel confused, it's difficult to keep our emotions in check and our relationships suffer. We may often over-react, make poor judgements and antagonize others.

As a coach, I see this to varying degrees in the people I work with: leaders and founders grappling with busy jobs and tough challenges, wanting to look after their teams well and be a good partner, parent, friend to the people who matter in their life. 'Ploughing on' can seem to be the only answer, but it's not sustainable and it usually doesn't work either.

The main challenge I encounter in coaching busy executives is their reluctance to consider any fix – however beneficial it might be – which takes a lot of time. In my experience, they need quick, simple tools that really work.

On the face of it, this is a tough one – doesn't changing habits take time and effort? Can there really be a quick fix?

A few years ago I read a slim book called 'Man's Search for Meaning', which profoundly changed my thinking about behavioural change. The author, Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist imprisoned in Auschwitz concentration camp during World War 11. He offers a simple piece of wisdom based on his experience as a survivor:

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."

In other words, when we're confronted with a situation that triggers an emotional reaction we may regret, pausing for a moment gives us the chance to choose how we react and to select a response that achieves the best outcome. This is empowering.

Based on this, for busy leaders I offer a solution I call the Pause Tool. It takes less than a minute, sometimes just a few seconds, but it can create enough space for them to take control of their response.

There are three steps:

1. Pause: as if pressing an internal pause button.
2. Focus: on anything at all – an idea or an object you can see.
3. Breathe: slowly and deeply into your abdomen.

These steps have a calming physiological effect, which enables us to think more clearly and then to respond in a more mindful way. Pausing, focusing and breathing are actually an act of mindfulness that help us be more present. And it's a win-win, both for us and the people we're with.

Just because it's simple doesn't mean it's easy. Mastering the tool takes practice, but you can practise any time, anywhere. And over time you'll grow the mindful muscle that transforms stress and confusion into calmness and clarity.







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