Adapted from Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break by Rachael O’Meara, published by TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Rachael O’Meara.
By all counts, you've made it. However, for some reason, things aren't sitting well lately. Restlessness sets in. You feel drained several times throughout the day. Cracks are beginning to appear around your seemingly comfortable life. You current situation has been what the external world considers successful, but perhaps you forgot about your own satisfaction and fulfillment. You were too busy going for the next thing. Maybe you felt obligated to please others. Maybe material gain was your primary goal — or at least one of your top motivators.
I invite you to take a deep breath (a pause, if you will). Ask yourself, "What is going on with me internally and emotionally? Is it matching what is happening externally in my environment?" In other words, are you aligned?
If even one of these five signs has shown up for you, congratulations! You just received one of life's perfectly well-timed wake-up calls to assess your own environment and correct your course:
Sign 1: You Used To Love Your Job; Now You Loathe It
Do you no longer enjoy what you do despite having been excited and invested in your job previously? Does it feel like you are no longer fulfilled by what you do, or you're experiencing burnout? If your responsibilities have not changed but suddenly the perception of your performance at work has deteriorated, clearly something isn't working. Taking a pause, or intentionally shifting your behavior, is one way you can help yourself enjoy what you do again.
Sign 2: The Boss Tells You It's Not Working Out
There's nothing like being on the receiving end of this message. Many times this message comes with the proverbial pink slip and a personal escort from your desk to the closest exit. But it may appear as a subtle note in a performance review, a seemingly casual meeting with your boss, or feedback from some one who sees (or hears) the writing on the wall.
It is easy to be in denial when you're not ready to accept something, but pausing is a gift. When you can shift your behavior, your passions and strengths will emerge and help you align with a more suitable environment for you you. If you consciously and objectively look at your situation, your awareness will deepen, and change is more likely to occur. Taking a pause is a prescriptive way to shift your mindset so you can move forward and find where you can thrive. Pausing is an opportunity to shift what isn't working for you and take personal responsibility, without jumping into the next activity and repeating the pattern all over again.
Sign 3: An Intervention Separates You From Your Work Or Technology
Like most people nowadays, you might be getting a little too much "screen time." In other words, you may need a technology intervention.
It is important to realize the motivates underneath your actions. Why are you attached to this device or application? In my case, I realized that I wanted to fulfill my hunger to matter. Someone e-mailed or messaged me — hooray! These technology interactions were little signals to me that I did matter.
What I didn't know then was that I was shortchanging my self. I was using surface-level means to connect and feel "plugged in" with others to meet my deeper hungers, or yearnings. If you feel the urge to repeatedly check your messages, you may not be attuned to your yearnings.
This is why technology interventions are important. When we do not fulfill our yearning, they surface in other ways, like checking social media to feel connected through technology. If you learn to discern surface wants (let me check my e-mail) from deeper yearnings (I want a hug) in any given moment, you can focus on fulfilling your underlying yearnings and feel more satisfied.
Sign 4: A Major Life Event, Challenge, Or Change Happens
If you recently had a major change in any area of life, this is a good time to reflect and evaluate the results. I consider a major life event one that shifts how you behave, express your emotions, or spend your time. It may be positive or negative.
Regardless of what life event or challenge happens, it is an ideal opportunity to recalibrate and pause. Ask yourself, "What primary emotion am I feeling in this moment?" Too often the emotional reactions to change are underplayed or glossed over, especially if we think an emotion isn't "good" to express. It's often not the feelings that are the real issue; it's that we tend to avoid expressing those emotions we're not comfortable with. It is important to pause, create the space to tune in to yourself, recognize whatever you are feeling, and honor it by expressing it.
Once you start to think about any life change as an opportunity or gift, look to understand the deeper meaning and how you can use it as an opportunity to do something different.
Sign 5: A New Opportunity Reveals Itself
Is there an opportunity you're thinking about but hesitating to act on, like taking a big trip, changing careers, or starting a project? Life really is short. Why live in the future? A pause allows you to live in the present and make better choices.
Opportunities can present themselves in irresistible ways: You receive a spontaneous invite for a weekend away with your friends. You have a sudden urge to travel somewhere you've always wanted to visit. You hear from a friend you haven't heard from in a while who suggests getting together. You may reflexively respond to any of these scenarios by saying, "I can't do that!" But quietly you start scheming. You ask yourself, "What if?"
When you start considering an opportunity, focus on the emotion that accompanies it. Feel it in your body. Often you will instinctively know or feel that it's the right thing to do. It is what you want to happen to move forward in your life.