Be still for a few seconds  

I’m a firm believer in taking a moment – a few seconds – before reacting to things.

By things, I mean, other people, thoughts, feelings,  or events. The ‘moment’ created, disrupts the reactions we have to those things, and gives us some space to think.

The benefits for me are that I know I’m in control of my subsequent reactions. When I’m using this method, I’m playing an active part in what I say, do, or feel – something which, in a busy workplace subject to all real-life and technological interruptions, is something I really value.

The pleasing thing about it all is that it demands an imperceptible amount of effort. And, importantly, it’ an internal process. Do it anywhere.

How to be still

  • Retrieve your phone and set the stopwatch running.
  • Breathe in for 5 seconds; breathe out.
  • Maybe do that again.
  • Now, take a moment to count 5 seconds in your head (without looking at the stopwatch)
  • It’s a long time, isn’t it?
  • Now, count 5 seconds in your head again (without looking at the stopwatch)

What did you notice doing that exercise?

It maybe something small. It maybe something big. It maybe a thought that suddenly came to mind in that moment. Or, it might be a feeling you suddenly became aware of.

What was the experience of being still for those 5 seconds?

The aim with this is not to sort out all of your problems, challenges, or stresses in 5 seconds.

It’s really just a way of getting you to disrupt yourself – to nudge yourself out of the everyday just for five seconds.

How to take it a bit further

This is the really challenging bit. Applying the stillness idea to the everyday.

  • Instead of 5 seconds, practise counting 2 seconds in your head.
  • Keeping counting 2 seconds – maybe repeat 3 times.
  • If you’re asked something by someone, remember to count 2 seconds before answering.
  • Savour the 2 seconds. Get accustomed to the silence. Then answer.
  • Try it in other areas of your life. Count 2 seconds starting to type an email.
  • Pause for 2 seconds before you start eating.

You’ll need to practise. I did – I had to, I still do. It all felt a bit clunky to begin with, like the idea of dancing naked around your house when no-one else is home. (I don’t do this, by the way – it’s just an analogy.)

Where this idea came from

Like all good exercises this comes from a variety of different places and is shaped to meet my own needs in the everyday. In case you’re interested in influence, here’s my inspiration for it.

A coaching supervisor I was working with recently asked me, ‘What can you do to still yourself in the coaching session you’re running?’ That simple question had a really profound effect on me. Hearing the word ‘still’ actually made me feel still for a moment.

A colleague at work has a habit of rubbing his hands together quickly as though he’s out walking on a wintry night.  I asked him whether he was cold or excited. “It’s a way I use to motivate myself.”

My coaching training involved me getting acclimatized to silence in conversations. The expression ‘hold the silence’ is central to an effect coaching conversation. It allows the rational side of the brain to catch-up with the emotions (which always emerge first).

Jon Jacob is an accredited executive, management and leadership coach specialising in the media, higher education and arts sectors. Contact him by emailing or on 07768 864655.

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