Stop.

Take a deep breath.

Wherever you are right now, just pause for a moment and take a deep, expansive breath.

Breathe in through your nose, expanding your lungs and pushing the air all the way down to your diaphragm.

Exhale through your mouth letting all of the air escape. And, now that you’ve done it once, take a moment to take two or three more good deep breaths and feel the difference it makes in your presence, your clarity and your perspective.

To breathe this way you have to focus on it. You have to adjust your posture to fully inhale and you have to become present to what you are doing in a way that you just normally don’t, especially with something like breathing. Most importantly, it’s really worth it.

But this is not a post about breathing. This is a post about stopping.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the first and best thing to say to anyone – especially those in leadership roles – about how to be more effective is to simply “stop.”

The benefits of a meaningful timeout, whether it be for a few moments of quality breathing, an hour of reflection and daydreaming, a brief walk around the building, or a restorative weekend away, are both significant and rarely realized. And we’re paying for it. We have fallen victim to a world of our own creation, constructed to demand our attention and feed our anxieties about missing out and falling behind.

When we stop, even briefly, we create space. In new space is the opportunity for new insights. New insights are the seeds of new learning. New learning is required to deal with complexity. And complexity is what we’ve got. If we don’t stop, we don’t have a chance.

We fool ourselves into thinking we can outrun the unknowns. We can’t.

We trick ourselves into thinking that our speed of completion is our greatest value. It’s not.

We mistakenly equate activity with productivity, thinking our checklist is a path to purpose. It isn’t.

In a world of “go” it’s those who “stop” who will notice what’s needed for the way forward. At the dawn of the age of meaning the new currency is learning. Invest wisely.

And don’t forget to breathe.

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