The other day, I was driving, and as I approached a major stop, I noticed that the roadway was clear and so I figured that I should be able to proceed through the major stop. I didn't stop, I paused, and carried on smartly. At least it felt smart in the split second before I noticed a police officer standing on the side of the street, waving at me to pull over beside him. It turns out that he was waiting there for persons just like me, who decide not to stop.
Well I was asked whether I noticed the stop sign, which I had, so I answered honestly. Then I was asked whether I had stopped. Ninety-five percent of me wanted to be coy and say, "I paused." But the other 5% won and instead I just said, "No." To make what is not a long story even shorter, I got off with a warning for being honest (thanks, 5%!) but it made me think about the differences between pausing and stopping, and when I should pause, versus when just pausing really isn't going to cut it.
Last year I made a decision to change some aspects of my professional life, with the goal being to improve my personal happiness within my career. As with almost any change one makes, there will require some degree of behaviour modification, whether slight or significant, and along with that must go some exercise in discipline. Change on its own is taxing (if you haven't read my article on change then shame on you, but you can redeem yourself by reading it here). Adjustments in behaviour are taxing. And being more disciplined in any aspect of life is also taxing. So after a few months of the "new me" I was tired. But, I knew I still wanted the end result I was originally aiming for, and I knew that I wasn't about to give up because I also knew that I would not forgive myself if I did. So, I paused. I realised, through connecting with others who had similar goals to mine and who had undertaken similar challenges, that it is OK to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and even discouraged at times. And in those moments it is OK to pause. But it is not OK to stop.
The pause is to allow you to take a proverbial step back from the situation in which you find yourself, to look at it with so-called "fresh eyes" and to reassess what you're doing, how effectively are you doing it, and what minor (or major) tweaks or adjustments need to be made to ensure that the goals are met. The point is that even when you're on the pause, the goal is still in your mind, and you know you have to get back to it, and soon. It's just a breather, and whether it's a week, or a month, or a year, every situation is unique and yours will dictate for how long you need to pause, but that pause is necessary.
Now, on to those times when you shouldn't pause, and you just need to stop.
- Major stops. No pausing, only stopping. A traffic cop may be watching.
- More seriously, when the situation you're in is, or has the potential to be, destructive.
I remember working in a position that at first was comfortable, but then as time passed it became quite the opposite. And while I'm quite aware that life isn't always comfortable, and our level of comfort lots of times depends greatly on our adaptability to inevitable changes, the discomfort I experienced continued to expand to a stage where it was (metaphorically) choking me. My job was now affecting my well-being, my peace of mind, maybe even my sanity. Did I pause? Yes. Many times. But each time I restarted, there was never any lasting improvement. I realised eventually that instead of pausing, I needed to stop. So I did, and it is one of the best career moves I have made, to date, andddd it did wonders for my own peace of mind.
I wish there was some formula that could be used to solve the problem of when to pause vs. when to stop, but the fact remains that there isn't; and, like lots of other situations in life, the answer requires some degree of introspection. Look around you, look within you, and very importantly, be honest with yourself, that's where you'll find your solution.