Finding Our Core Selves in the Pause

Back in my college days, I would absolutely geek out when I got my first glimpse of next semester’s course catalogue. Reading through it and imagining what I would take next felt like touching into boundless possibility (especially since I treated my psychology undergrad more like a liberal arts program); I was positive the coming semester would include some of the best classes yet taught by some of the most brilliant professors yet. A few times, those dreams came to be.

A New Year feels much the same to me: A new sheaf of calendar pages holding 365 opportunities to move closer and closer to the bigger life and badder business of my dreams.

Know the feeling?

Historically, I’ve done all sorts of iterations of goal setting that I’ve pretended aren’t really dreaded New Year Resolutions. Still, they often panned out much the same: Initial enthusiasm followed by a tapering off with the big finale of pretending like it was never a thing in the first place.

When I think about this and where I want to go with this as we orbit into 2018, the pragmatic part of my brain wants to talk about how to break goals into actionable steps and how/why to trace them up to their most profound value. And I will get into those in the coming weeks; keep an eye out.

Today, though, on this first day of this New Year of untold promise, challenge, and growth, I instead find myself wanting to simplify… in perhaps the most complex way possible…

See, I tend to think that for most of us, if we could sweep away all of our baggage and fallacious beliefs and cobwebs and theme songs, what we’d find is a core self that is driven to put good into the world and to move us as individuals toward our most profoundly impactful and empowered selves.

Our most empowered selves aren’t plagued by the kind of fear and doubt that leads to procrastination; our core selves trust and do.

Our most empowered selves don’t fall prey to the pitfalls of people pleasing; our core selves have peace with the fact that some people will resonate with us and some won’t and either way, it’s totally okay.

Our most empowered selves don’t confuse self-sabotage for self-nurturing (yeah, I’m looking at you, part of my brain that mistakes Oreos for a mighty fine treat); our core selves know that healthier habits lead to a feel-good that lasts a whole heck of a lot longer than the dopamine hit we get from sugar, cigarettes, booze, etc.

So this New Year, instead of goal setting and metrics, I’m instead focusing on being more fully Me.

To make this happen, I’ll dip into the whole big toolbox I’ve been compiling over these last handful of years, tools related to the inevitability of imperfection and impact of tiny little steps forward; I’ll lean on my coach and friends and family; and I’ll do my best to notice without judgment when I slip into old, less awesome habits.

There is one biggie, too, one tool to rule them all… er, so to speak.

The Pause.

This one is just as simple and just as complex as being ourselves.

The Pause is the space between stimulus and our consequent behavior. That old chestnut about “stimulus and response”? That one hardly ever happens because responding requires thoughtfulness, it requires the Pause. Instead, what we most often do is react to stimuli – something happens, someone says something, and our brains fire off whatever chemicals it normally fires off in the face of that type of stimulus, and we react in whatever way we typically react.

With the Pause, we have the opportunity to instead notice the feeling of all those automatically-fired neurochemicals and ask ourselves: What’s that about? What am I really reacting to? Does my usual reaction actually fit or is there another, more productive/more satisfying way to go about this?

And that, my friend, is how we move toward thoughtful responses instead of habitual reactions.

And when we’re being thoughtfully responsive, we are strengthening the neural pathways that access our core selves – we can hear that inner voice more clearly over the chatter of the gremlin voices. In this way, we are positioned to be ourselves more fully, more confidently, more consistently, stimulus by stimulus.

So, what do you say? Care to join me in a 2018 focused on being as You as you can be?