09/03/2013 04:15 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

After Labor Day, Take a Moment's Pause

Wow! Where did the summer go? How time flies. Now we're back in our offices and schoolrooms. In some sense it seems like we never left. How quickly we get back into routine. Perhaps during the first week in September, we all should contemplate a moment's pause.

An elegant representation of the meaning of a pause is the punctuation mark known as the colon (:). When a colon appears in a sentence, it is there to pique curiosity. It is an announcement that something especially significant lies on the other side. The colon is in many ways an alert for us to stop and focus. It calls our attention to what's going to happen next.

It's productive to think of stopping and focusing as the colon in your personal narrative -- what I call "self story." It's a way of activating your curiosity during a potentially meaningful juncture, such as the beginning of another work or school year, or any tomorrow. If something is playing in the back of your mind concerning your authentic goals and intentions, put a colon there and then pay extra attention to that which comes to your mind immediately thereafter. It might be some of your self story's juiciest material. Be open to making this juncture a bypass around business as usual. Openness can assist in helping you to stop and focus by providing the device that allows focusing to have potential value.

Feel What You Feel
Sensuality significantly contributes to the process of stop and focus in two ways. One is by giving you the sensual clues that stepping away from your situation might be beneficial. While we certainly need to teach ourselves to stop and focus, to make this part of our ongoing effort toward growth, we also need to teach ourselves to pick up the clues within our bodies that we need to back off a bit. Are you aware of how your body feels when you're getting overwhelmed? Do you feel when you are numbing out or flatlining by being too locked in to customary routines? What are the messages you get from your senses when you need a breather in order to gather yourself? Do you get different physical signals when something significant is happening to you but is threatening to pass you by if you don't give it some serious thought?

The other way that sensuality plays a role in this process of expanding your self story is during the focusing phase itself. By being aware of the experience of our own experience, we can gain perspective on our actions and understand the choices in front of us. When you think about where you're headed with something, what feels right and what feels wrong? Again, are there body clues that suggest that one direction might be better for you than another? Just after Labor Day is an especially good time to ask these kinds of questions.

Be Your Authentic Best
The enormous growth and fulfillment opportunities available through a strongly defined self story elude far too many people because they believe that stopping and focusing is a luxury they can't afford. However, always being on all but guarantees that you're not going to be your best and that you're not going to be your truest self. Ultimately, if the goal is to prove your value to your employer, your clients, your colleagues or your family, you're unlikely to do that by being purely reactive, mediocre and inauthentic. If stopping and focusing allows you a better chance to be great and to be real, that's far preferable to always being on, and you'll do more than catch up when you step back into the stream of action.

Having a strong sense of your self story is an important part of giving yourself leeway to stop and focus.

"Sometimes you need to press pause to let everything sink in." -- Sebastian Vettel, Formula 1 race car driver

When you are truly aware of what you are about, you tend to be more comfortable with allowing the world to go on without you for brief stretches while you give yourself a chance to focus. This is because knowing what you're about gives you a better sense of where you stand -- with yourself and in the world.

Laboring on your self story can pay big dividends with respect to what's essential.

For more by Bob Deutsch, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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