The right word is effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.

Mark Twain

“Wait for it…”

Her words hung in the air as moments later the sun broke the horizon in a blazing orange burst that pushed the sky’s darkness into full retreat. Minutes before, night ruled with its black grip of fear and doubt – a deep darkness brought on by hurt sown in the previous day’s events. Sleeplessness and racing thoughts wrought their crippling magic ceaselessly, bringing the night to an edgy crescendo.

Wait for it…the pause broke the spiraling collection of thoughts, fatigue, and fear as it opened the door to the light. A brightness that chased away the dark blanket long enough for perspective, and hope, to return.

Enter the pause. A break in the action, whether outward, inward, or both that allows us to find some perspective and ground our uneasy self solidly once again.

One complex by-product of our emotional selves is our proclivity to get caught up in the vortexes swirling nearby. The moments generally start small and build into a raging cascade of emotions, typically fear, doubt, or anger. Often all of the above. The inertia from these moments often feels unstoppable, carrying us headlong toward an explosive point of release, generally unhealthy and unproductive, as we fight to eliminate the discomfort of the tension.

When we are caught-up in these places, the pause becomes a critical brake for our own raging locomotive. An opportunity to arrest the destructive momentum gripping us and redirect our energy with the direction of perspective.

Clarity hides in the pause. When we are stuck on our own locomotive, our vision narrows and becomes fixed on the problem before us. Here, we are truly unable to see the forest for the trees as we move in inches rather than view in miles. The pause disconnects our tunnel vision from the moment and allows us to pan our focus in a wider arc – the horizon returns with new possibility.

Fortunately, we don’t always live in high drama. Not all moments have such a sense of the critical. However, the need for the pause remains undiminished in the more mundane interactions of our daily existence. Whether the moment entails a conversation or a decision, the pause is our friend as we navigate each day’s complexities.

Consider your last conversation. Was it a series of interruptions as both interlocutors sought to make themselves heard or was it a mutual exchange of thoughtful ideas and responses? It is very likely that your ability to pause dictated your answer to that question. The pause is the precursor to listening. The pause allows space between ideas and time for our minds to catch up. The break in the action creates room for a truly mutual exchange to occur.

Where else might we more effectively apply the pause? Think about day-to-day decision making. Many of our more basic decisions require little or no pause: What to wear. What to eat. When to leave. How fast to drive. But one in particular deserves our pause: how to react. When it comes to our reactions, the pause is our friend. It gives our judgment time and room to come to bear on the situation. The pause allows us to assess the situation and discern our proper course. Here, the pause is a hedge against our less desirable inclinations.

The pause is surrendering control and allowing something – a word, a thought, a breath, an inspiration, a judgement, a voice, an emotion – to enter. It is giving something inside or outside yourself the opportunity to affirm or redirect the moment. Clarity hides in the pause as the blank space gives us room to move and to process. In that space, we turn off our engine for a moment and exist in a coast, a place where recovery and discernment have a chance to occur.

Mozart once said that “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.” This week, consider the music of your life and where some pauses might enhance its tone. Big moment or small, you will find room to breath and the clarity that follows.