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Time Out: 4 Steps for Checking In to Make Better Choices
Many of us remember timeouts from our childhood, or have mandated them for our own children. Even if we didn’t get put in timeouts ourselves or use them with our own children, we have a pretty good idea of why timeouts happened.
Someone wasn’t “acting right” and an adult assigned them to take some time alone to think about what they did. The hope was that a pause and reflection would lead to behavior changes. I have a sense that a lot of kids in timeouts were just mad about not getting to play, and maybe didn’t do a lot of thinking. ????
Because of how we found ourselves in timeouts as kids (if we did), we probably have an aversion to the idea of a timeout.
I’m a big advocate of timeouts for adults though, including myself. Really think about what a timeout as an adult could mean for you:
If you are feeling something that doesn’t quite feel right to you (Notice) you take a proactive pause to stop what you are doing (Pause), check in with yourself and how you are feeling and behaving (Reflect), and then in due time move forward (Act).
Notice - Pause - Reflect - Act
We should be teaching this to our leaders. ;-)
In all seriousness, learning to notice when you need a timeout is a healthy skill to have, and can do wonders for your self-care and relationships.
How many times have you recognized, after you did something, that if you would have just taken a breath or taken a bit more time to think, you would have made a different (and perhaps better) decision?
Have you ever said something to a loved one in the heat of the moment and instantly wished you could take it back?
Have you ever bulldozed into a situation without noticing all the moving parts or the full scope and gotten injured?
Have you ever volunteered for something while in a meeting only to question later how you’re going to make time for it?
I’m sure we can all think of a whole list of situations where, if we would have taken a timeout, we would have made a different choice.
Why not start training yourself now to take timeouts when you need them?
The next time you notice yourself in a place where something isn’t feeling quite right or you’re noticing you are agitated or moving very quickly use these four steps before taking action:
Notice: Good job! You’ve done the hardest step of all. You noticed, which led you to take a pause.
Pause: This is the start of your timeout where you stop what you are doing. It’s great if you can do this on your own, especially when you are starting out, so that you have less distractions and can really start to bring your focus inwards. Of course, that is not always possible, so you do your best to focus inwards, which leads to your reflection.
Reflect: Here is where you take stock of how you are feeling, what you are thinking, what is happening around you, what is happening within you, what you are inclined to do, and if there is another voice inside perhaps whispering a little something different. This is where you really get to find out what you are needing and how you can move forward in alignment and act.
Act: Since you have taken a breather, become more aware of yourself within the situation you are in, and know your truth you now move forward with an action that is best for all.
Learning to take timeouts is also something you can ask for help with from a trusted partner or friend. You would need to establish agreements with your trusted person as to how and when you would like them to prompt you to take a timeout. However, if you are able to do this in a way that works for both of you, having that extra support could be very beneficial in cultivating this new habit for yourself.
Charlie and I have established agreements with one another about how and when we suggest a timeout for the other, and it has been so helpful for both of us. Let’s face it, even when we are trying to do our best and be aware, evolved people, sometimes we don’t notice we’ve reached that point of needing to pause until we’ve crossed the line. This is where a timeout buddy comes in super handy.
Unlike as children, when timeouts made us mad or sad or frustrated or feel left out from the fun, now as adults we can use timeouts to do just the opposite. We can use them as points to reflect and make better decisions before we do something we wish we could take back. Perhaps allowing us to not feel mad, sad, frustrated, or left out.
Might you be ready to start a timeout practice of your own?