The Sum Volume #9: Stop

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis.

Word of the week is STOP.

I know, I know!  I’m usually telling you to GO. To set your intentions higher and embrace your power TO achieve them, and to go full bore to lead your dreams, not follow them.

How do you like my new beach hat?

But as essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson has said, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

So today, I’m thinking about the value of taking a break and urging you to stop. If not this week, then sometime during the summer months, whether you have a staycation or go to an exotic location, or get no vacation at all in the traditional sense, please STOP for a while. And trust me, I am writing this as much for me as for you, because stopping is really hard for me.

My husband and I are visiting our friends Eileen and Bill in Cape Cod for the week. I’m taking a few minutes out of this delicious respite to think and write about the value of stopping my usual work routine, which I confess normally involves blurred boundaries between work and the rest of my life.

I love my work to advance women to leadership gender parity so much because I believe in its paramount importance to solving so many of the world’s problems as well as being simply the right thing to do. So for me, stepping out of intense mode to hang out with 11 people, some of whom I barely know, in a large rambling house, doing nothing but cooking, eating, chatting, walking on the beach, walking to town to buy the morning paper, then actually taking time to read the morning paper cover to cover, and not answering phone calls or blow drying my hair for a week does not come easy.

Thus my word of the week and my exhortation to us all is: STOP.

Ryder Beach vista calms the mind, Truro, Cape Cod

S. T. O. P.

S: Be STILL even if it’s only for one minute today. I tend to be in perpetual motion and often multitask. Being still is the most difficult thing for me to do, or not do as the case may be. The very idea almost makes me break out in a cold sweat. It’s a discipline I am practicing this week to cleanse my mind of extraneous thoughts so I can focus on what is truly important to me personally and to the mission of Take The Lead.

T: TAKE time to think about something you have needed or wanted to think about but thought you didn’t have TIME. My intention is to focus on how I want to structure that family history cookbook I started a year ago. I keep putting work ahead of this project. I don’t have to write anything let alone finish it this week—I can just play around mentally thinking about the story I want to weave with my favorite family recipes in a way that will produce a meaningful volume for the children and grandchildren. When I do that, I know I’ll feel refreshed and will be ever so much more productive when I do sit down to write. Or take time to think about nothing at all. My best ideas often come to me when I am not focusing on them at all, but rather allowing my mind to wander where it wants to go. The story of Isaac Newton coming to understand gravity when an apple fell on his head is of course apocryphal, but the metaphor is useful. Let the apple of ideas fall where they may. (It’s OK to jot them down though so you don’t lose them!)

I love walking barefoot in the cool wet sand.

O: OPEN your eyes and take in what’s around you, noticing things you don’t see on your typical busy high-energy, high-stress workday. Open your breath and smell the ocean breeze, the meal cooking in your kitchen, the one you love. Open your ears and hear the city noises and the people around you. Open your mind to your own potential. Open your awareness to the amazing fortuity that might be right in front of you, waiting to be taken.

P:  PUT yourself first. I know it’s a cliché that women put others before themselves, but most clichés do spring from a kernel of truth. When you catch up on your sleep and otherwise indulge your own physical and mental needs, you not only reduce stress, you improve your overall health for the longer term. And if like me, you have a lot to accomplish in your one wild and precious life, you need to take care of yourself! To be able to embrace your power to fully, authentically, and joyfully, you have to know yourself first and indulge yourself in whatever helps you be the best you.

Sometimes it’s simply necessary to STOP in order to be able to GO forward full speed with renewed vigor for our work, and if we are lucky, toward our passion and purpose in life.

How are you stopping this summer?

Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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