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Taking a Pause In My Career Taught Me the Importance Of Slowing Down

A friend suggested I take a hiatus in between projects, and it completely changed my outlook.

We are on the hamster wheel of life, chasing everything out there as if our very life depends on it. Running towards the destination, rather than enjoying any part of the journey.

The truth is that when you’re in business or climbing the promotion ladder, you can forget that taking a break is not only good for your well-being, it’s an absolute necessity.

This could not have been more relevant for me than in the past year.

During this time, I was doing speaking engagements in the UK and internationally. I had just launched my first book and had also done a collaboration on another book all within a short space of time. Not to mention being on television, radio, podcast interviews, media and featured in international festivals. All part of building up my profile – as the experts tend to preach.

I’m not saying this to show off, but merely to illustrate a point.

I had in my periphery of vision what looking successful meant, and I decided to do what successful people do to increase my visibility and get my voice out there.

A few months ago, after yet another trip abroad to speak at an event, I met a good friend in the city for a coffee and I sat there excitedly describing my next step of the ‘game’ (notice the language I used).

I had been ready to give her a rendition of the next stage in my ‘thinking big’ strategy. This time I was working on becoming a Ted speaker extraordinaire, the pinnacle of my career and a title I could proudly display on all my social media accounts.

I would spend hours creating a signature talk which would blow everyone away, even go viral.

I could see it in my sights, hey it had worked for Brene Brown, who became an overnight sensation with her talk ‘The power of vulnerability’ and was rewarded with her talk being viewed 32,0000 times and a Netflix show.

As I was excitedly sharing this with my friend, she looked me straight in the eye, two coffees resting between us, and she said: “How about pausing and resting for a while.” I stared at her as the truth hit me and stopped me in my tracks; the words reverberated around me and I realised that my actions lately had been driven by fear.

I was scared that if I just stopped, even momentarily, I would lose the momentum I had so enthusiastically created. If I dared to take my foot off the accelerator (the gas) everything I had fought so hard to create would collapse, as if someone had just released the air out of a well-inflated balloon.

I hadn’t realised that instead of running towards something, I was running away from something.

Failure and disappointment.

So I did something that I had not done in a while.

I took a hiatus.

I have never been a lazy person or a procrastinator, I have always been proactive and engaged in life, at times a little too much. I knew that this phase of inactivity and passivity needed to be respected as the feeling did not arise out of self-doubt or lack of confidence (and boy I can recognise these when they arise), my system suddenly refused to restart.

I needed to regroup, to look inside and go back to the core of who I am, instead of being lost in others demands and expectations.

I trusted this need implicitly because it had never let me down before, I often resist it, but when I surrender to it, magic happens.

So I slowed down and decided to start allowing rather than ploughing.

There is a time in life to plough and there is a time to allow for things to happen.  The latter seemed to be knocking quite loudly at my door, so I gave in obligingly.

Up to this point, I had a large flip chart in my office with all my goals mapped out in exact detail, all textbook ways of how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. So the whiteboard filled with my tasks and actions for the week were replaced by a blank board.

instead of racing ahead, I allowed for space for things to come forth. It was terrifying as it felt so wrong but yet so right.

I was curious to know what would emerge if I left space for life to deliver rather than rushing forward into micromanaging what would happen. Staying in uncertainty for that bit longer.

I asked myself; What am I really seeking?

Was it in creating millions of followers on social media, being that person who taking random photos on planes and beaches, laptop balancing on my knee, or was it something deeper than this?

There was no question that it was so much deeper than this; but take a look around you.

If you spend a few moments watching television, the adverts will hypnotise you into action (any action, regardless). Alternatively, log into Facebook and watch one dreaded sponsored advert after another.  Promises that if you take a certain action, life will be great, sipping margaritas whilst on a sun lounger, passive income, success awaits and a life you can only dream of.

You rarely have an advert telling you to take time out, take a step back, listen to your gut feeling, slow down or get your bearings.

No online programmes advertising those benefits on Facebook.

Now that’s an idea I can get started on.

We are taught to be busy, take on more, be more. It gives us a feeling of status and importance, a packed calendar filled with events makes us feel we matter, and this gives us validation.

Even if we end up like headless chickens running towards a direction, any direction, who cares where.

It gives us a clear message that ‘doing’ is right, and ‘being’ is wrong. So during my hiatus, I decided that I wanted to start making a difference by reaching out more to people. Not for ‘likes’ but for a deeper ‘connection’

I bought a wall calendar where I wrote down each day in the date box who I made a difference to each day, however small.

Whether I sent someone an article to help them with an issue they had, or just contacted someone via telephone (remember those?) to ask ‘how are you?’

It filled me with tremendous joy to lead my intention each day from ‘how can I make a difference’ rather than ‘how can I look impressive’.

The joy of focusing on others rather than myself was far greater than anything else I had experienced so far. The more effortless my stance, and the more I stood in my truth, the more people reached out to me with curiosity. The less I cared and the more nonchalant I became about others opinions, likes and feedback, the more I organically stood out as doing the reverse of what other coaches seemed to be doing.

Standing in your authentic truth and being yourself is absolutely effortless.

Getting stuck in the merry go round of social media can make you feel lost in who you are, and taking a break has the benefit of giving you laser focus and the clarity to say no to what you don’t want in your life, to make space for what you want.

There is a time for being proactive and there is a time to slow down and taste some of what you have created to see if this is where you want to continue to hang out.

Slow down, Look inside, and rather than comparing yourself to others, create an intention for what you stand for, instead of running towards a future destination.

If this article resonated with you, you can read more chapters like these in my latest book Look Inside: Stop Seeking Start Living’ available now on Amazon.

If you want to connect with me to share insights from this article, send an e-mail to [email protected]

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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