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The 5-second gap that could change your life

How many times have you said something or behaved in a way that you regretted later?  I know I certainly have played a situation back over and over in my head, wishing I had reacted differently.

The self-flagellation and regret are usually based on the fact that you let your emotions rule your head. You either lost your temper and reacted with anger or you let fear and anxiety dampen your spirits and didn’t speak up. Either way, you didn’t get the outcome you wanted, because you didn’t behave in the way you wanted.

This applies equally to situations at work and at home.  Every time we react to something without thinking it through, we can set in motion a chain of events, which in domino fashion, start out small but end up creating a larger negative impact on our lives.

Can we change this pattern?

Get yourself a personal pause button

Imagine that just before you are going to react to a situation, everything freezes in time and a big Pause button appears before your eyes. To move the situation forward, you need to reach out and press it.

What do you think would happen?

It’s possible that the first time you see the Pause button, you press it unthinkingly and continue to react in the same fashion – anger or tears or fear. But what after you press the Pause button 20 times or 100 times? The chances are that your brain will start to anticipate the gap and you will be able to consider, however briefly, the response you are going to make.

This is a huge victory because you have moved from reacting to the situation to responding to the situation.

This does not mean that you will not be angry or anxious. We are not talking about becoming a saint or turning the other cheek. There is one simple objective – control over your mind. After considering your response in the gap, you may still decide to shout or cry or run. But the difference is that you are doing it consciously, without being tossed around like a hapless bottle on a sea of emotion.

 How to set it up

The question, of course, is how do you get that blasted Pause button to appear in time? The answer lies within us.

Our brain has two different parts – the cortex that controls the logic and thinking; and the amygdala that controls our emotion and memories. We need to practice techniques that help the control of our behavior stay with the ‘thinking’ part of the brain, instead of the ‘emotional’ part of the brain. The techniques to do this are simple and I’ve covered some of them before.

The most important thing to understand is that you need to practice these techniques regularly and only then will they be able to imbue your mind with the ability to create the Pause button. It will take a few months. Think of it like training for a marathon. You cannot decide to suddenly run it if you haven’t spent the time to train your body for it.

Have a fantastic week. Let me know if you are able to create your Pause button with practice.

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