Maybe now is not the time?

Rob Poynton: Is Now the time?
Rob Poynton

Am excited for the launch of our new weekly podcasts, recorded live each Tuesday afternoon UK time. For full show information and listings, visit WhatComesNext.Live.

At the time of writing our first nine weekly guests are lined up, with Mark Beaumont kindly electing to “go first” on Tuesday June 30th. Well, he is a man of many “firsts”!)

Today giving you a taste of the thoughts of one of our upcoming guests, our guests for the Tuesday 21st July show, the amazing Rob Poynton.

In the show bio, I called Rob “Master of Pause”, and noted: “Rob brings his knowledge, curiosity and playfulness to whatever he focusses on, bringing great value to others.”

Today curating his latest newsletter, where he considers (for himself and for us to think about):

Now may not be the time to pause. However, you do need to pause at some point. That is all I am arguing for – that we should think about how and when we pause. 

Whether or not now is the right time for you to pause, please gift yourself a few minutes to give complete focus to Rob’s thoughts.

A question not an answer

Published by Rob Poynton, June 26th, 2020

I am asked to talk about pause a lot these days. Though I am not sure how much people get from what I say.

Sometimes they want me to summarise the ideas in the book – presumably to save them the time of reading it. Which is ironic.

Sometimes they assume that I believe the answer to everything is to pause. Which would be absurd.

Sometimes they can’t get beyond their immediate response, which is some version of: ‘But you have no idea how busy I am, I don’t have time for that!’. Perhaps, but it is also a convenient cover story to avoid changing anything.  

I find it hard to respond to these reactions. I often feel frustrated and inarticulate. Like a footballer after a game, I blurt out trite phrases and cliches, that feel neither helpful nor convincing. It is rarely satisfying.

Now may not be the time

Of course there are times when you don’t want to pause.

If you are on a roll, why would you interrupt that? If you are in danger, why delay? If you have just paused, why pause again? Incessant pausing is procrastination.

There are times when it is powerful not to pause. For example, Wim Hof, the Dutchman who can withstand incredibly cold temperatures, teaches ‘circular breathing’ – where there is no pause whatsoever between the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ breath. This is incredibly effective to help you withstand cold water (which, apparently, is good for your immune response). I have tried it in the shower and it is amazing how tangible the effect is.

It would be counterproductive to make ‘pausing’ another thing on your ‘to do list’. As I wrote in ‘Do Pause’: “If you have to push to make it happen, now may not be the time. Allow yourself the possibility of leaving it for later: to pause on the idea of pause.”

I think it is foolish to advocate the same thing, regardless of context. I am suspicious of ideas that ‘only point one way’ (for example, the improvisers who claim that all you ever have to do is to say ‘yes’). I have never tried to imply that whatever the question, pausing is the answer.

Make pause a thing

Now may not be the time to pause. However, you do need to pause at some point. That is all I am arguing for – that we should think about how and when we pause. As my friend and master of the bon mot, Nick Parker puts it: we need to ‘make pause a thing’.

How it fits into your own life – whether you pause a lot or a little, for a short time or a long time, now or later, isn’t for me to say – but I do believe that if you never pause you will miss something. Possibly, everything.

Where to put your pauses?

The confusing, blurry process of coming out of lockdown, is a good time to ask some questions about how pause fits in for you. Questions like…

What do you want to bring with you from ‘The Great Pause’?

  • A practice or habit?
  • An attitude?
  • A feeling?
  • Some learning about yourself?

For example, for me lockdown made visible how much of my mental energy I expend on things I can’t do anything about. Most of what I worry about, I can’t change. Simply remembering that will help me next time I feel anxious about how much I have to do.

Are there little pauses you developed during that time you want to keep playing with? Have you found ways to sink into time, even in the midst of activity? To feel your feet on the floor, or listen to the birdsong, whilst waiting for Zoom to connect? How might you integrate these into everyday, post-lockdown life?

Would it be helpful to take a little time now, to design in some reflection time for yourself later? In a few weeks or months? If so, what would that look like? How far off would make sense for you, where might you go, what might you do (or not do)?

As you swing back into a more familiar kind of action, ask yourself if you are doing it for positive reasons, or whether you are just sliding back to where you were before. Is this really what you want? Do you really have to do this?

For my part, I think I am going to pay more attention to the rhythm of how I respond when talking about pause. When I try to give immediate answers, I risk falling into the very trap that I am trying to call attention to.

So next time someone says ‘I don’t have time to pause’ I will take my time to respond.

And perhaps I will simply say: ‘maybe now is not the time?’.

And leave a nice long pause…

Also published on Medium.