RedEye

Can doing less help you do more?

If there's one piece of advice my parents gave me that I actually absorbed, it would be, "The more you work, the more you succeed." But what if the act of doing nothing actually moved you ahead of the pack?

According to Kevin Cashman, author of the best-selling book "Leadership From the Inside Out," we should be incorporating more pauses into our day to achieve greatness.

"We tend to overextend ourselves and as a result we develop a belief system that thinks to slow down or pause is weak, hesitant or nonproductive," said Cashman, who interviewed more than 100 leaders for his latest book, "The Pause Principle: Step Back to Lead Forward." "As things go faster and faster, pausing not only brings in more creativity, it's the thing we need to do to sustain ourselves."

Cashman's research found there are many health benefits to slowing down and taking a pause.

"What they know in physics is if you slow down the temperature or the activity level of a system, order increases," he said. "That's a built-in, hard wired law of nature. In neuroscience, there's research now about the benefits of meditation, which slows down the activity level. The blood pressure goes down, brain coherence goes up, and a perspective (becomes) clearer."

Here are some of Cashman's tips to embracing 'pause' to achieve greater success:

Collaborate: An easy way to pause.

"When we're working in a group we observe more, listen more and have a chance to sit back," he said. "It's a socially acceptable way to pause."

Pause and be aware of how you listen.

"Listening is a big pause," he said. "We step back, we set aside our own conversation, and we more deeply connect our thoughts and feelings to the thoughts and feelings of someone else. And it works. But not all listening is good listening. The biggest black hole of listening is when we're really posing listening — nodding our heads — but the truth is we're not hearing what the other person is saying and we're tending to what we are going to say next. We actually need to challenge ourselves to listen on a multi-dimensional level — to thoughts, words, meaning, fears, beliefs — and when you do that, it gets really interesting. It engages more of us."

Pause to get in touch with your core purpose

"Really ask yourself, what is most meaningful to you? What energizes you the most? What do you want to serve and contribute to the most?" Cashman said. "Get to your core purpose, which is where your talents and values come together, and if your talents are really serving what's most important to you, then you're really at your sweet spot and at your best."

Pause to build resilience.

"It's about tending to our self-care — our fitness, exercise, meditation, getting sleep — all those different ways of releasing stress and getting our energy back," he said. "The energy that our culture encourages is manic energy — the caffeinated culture. But what we need for sustainability is that restful, calm kind of energy so we can be in the eye of the storm and be quiet. It's like an athlete that's in the zone — that contrast between deep silence and dynamic achievement where real human potential is exhibited."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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