The Pause Tool

Sally-Anne, 25.09.16

Do you ever feel you’ve got so much to do you don’t know where to begin? Have you ever thrown yourself into something important only to get stuck? Have you ever been frozen by fear?

All these scenarios, and many more, can occur when we’re in a state of overwhelm. Our mind is a haze of random, incoherent thoughts. We feel disoriented. We struggle to keep our emotions in check and to think clearly.

Our relationships suffer — at work and at home. We may over-react, make poor judgements and antagonize others. And we’re very likely to say something we later regret.

The antidote to mental overwhelm is mental clarity. To give mental clarity a chance we need to create space to think.

Here’s a reliable way to do this in three simple steps:

The Pause Tool

Right now, in this moment, have a go:

  1. Pause: Stop. Whatever you’re doing or thinking. Imagine you’re pressing an internal pause button.
  2. Focus: Place your hand towards the bottom of your rib cage, between your heart and your abdomen.
  3. Breathe: Slowly, gently and deeply, at least three times. Observe your breath flowing in and out of your body.

What do you notice? Perhaps your chest area rising and falling with your breath? Or perhaps a sense of calming down?

In the space you’ve created, something will have shifted – at a physiological level – within you. However slight, it may be just enough to switch you off autopilot. Keep breathing and this sense of space will grow…

… Space to think. Space to tune into what really matters. Space to respond on purpose.

In this pause practice, random thoughts will still come and go. The trick is to keep coming back to your breath, again and again, until the thoughts quieten down. Over time you see them for what they are: just thoughts.

The space created by an intentional pause can open your mind just enough to see things differently.

In the words of Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and one of the 20th century’s most influential psychotherapists:

“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.”

The three steps of the Pause Tool are how you create this space.

So remember:

Pause, Focus, Breathe

and repeat often!

Share this article

Looking for a Leadership Programme?

We work with leaders who want to make a real difference. They know this is about leading from the inside out. They come to us to learn how.


Discover More

21 Days on the Mountain – A Moment of Calm

By Sally-Anne, 31.03.20

Hello from a small village, at the end of a valley in the French Alps – my home. I want to tell you about a series of 21 short videos I’m making called ’21 Days on the Mountain’. From tomorrow, I’ll post one video every morning, from a different spot out in nature, close to […]

Day 1: Why Learn to Pause?

By Sally-Anne, 01.04.20

Today we’ll learn what the Pause habit is, and how it can help us in times of challenge and stress. By learning the three simple steps of Pause, Focus and Breathe, you’ll discover how to create a mental space that allows you to respond ‘on purpose’, rather than reacting from a stressed...

Day 2: 5 Steps to the Pause Habit

By Sally-Anne, 02.04.20

Developing any habit takes practice, and so today we’ll be looking at the five principles of developing the Pause Habit: Why, Start Small, Concentrate, Be Consistent and Enjoy It...