“I am the rest between two notes,which are somehow always in discord.”
‘My life is not this steeply sloping hour’
Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
Life’s events can force us to pause.
When we do pause, we sometimes feel immobilized, and powerless to act.
And yet a pause in any activity can provide the most fruitful and creative moments of our lives.
A friend of Diana’s used to work as a lumberjack in the mountains north of Melbourne.
When he broke his leg, he found himself incapacitated for six weeks – a death sentence for a manual worker.
However, respite from a familiar routine helped rekindle his early interest in studying, which subsequently opened a new career path.
He enrolled in law school as a mature student and today, he is a judge in the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.
For him, an enforced pause paved the way to a new beginning.
For most of us, though, far from being unavoidable, a pause is something we have to choose.
As the working environments in many organizations become increasingly frantic, overemphasizing motion, the time to pause is rendered a luxury.
The faster the pace, the more pressure we feel to keep up, or speed up, to give up our lunch breaks, scheduling our days with back-to-back meetings.
For designer and architecture professor Kyna Leski, pausing has many benefits.
In The Storm of Creativity, she describes it as an opportunity to see outside the frame we have already established.
Pausing allows new stimuli to enter the creative process, to prompt another idea.
It is a chance to step off the iterative track of logical decisions.
The pause, frees us from the concrete and reintroduces abstraction.
It can also be the chance to transform what we have been working on through connections not previously made.
“By stopping, for whatever length of time, you weaken your willful grip, and can become more open and more open minded,” she argues.
Her ideas echo those of Keats on negative capability, when he comments on the ability to “dwell in mysteries and doubts, without irritable reaching after fact or reason.”
That openness can help us gain perspective, and put things in context.
Pausing is also an effective intervention to break momentum and create benefits that we would not otherwise enjoy.
Pauses in sport are times for reflection and rethinking of tactics and strategy.
Football and rugby feature half-time intervals.
Tennis has pauses after games and before the change of ends.
Cricket is organized around innings and overs, with civilized breaks for lunch and afternoon tea.
Baseball includes a seventh-inning stretch, nominally for the fans in the stadium, but equally beneficial to the players.
In basketball, the time out is a strategic pause, which creates space for the players and the coach to shift the direction of play in response to the emergent dynamics of the game.
In addition, time outs can be used as a tool to interrupt the flow of the game and break the momentum of the opposition.
Imagine creating structured breaks as well as strategic time outs during periods of change and uncertainty in organizations.
For example, if we find ourselves in a stressful meeting, carried away by the momentum of the action and discussion, a strategic time out can help us find our way, by becoming more present observers.
As teams struggle with complex events that cannot be predicted, let alone project-managed, time outs provide strategic space for regrouping and reflecting before reacting, as well as working out the next steps to take in the unknown.