Tensions at the family dinner table were high.
“I can’t quit my job!” Maria said to her eleven-year-old son, who had suggested the idea.
As her leadership coach, I met with Maria regularly so I knew she was feeling frustrated about her job. She felt overworked, underappreciated, and overwhelmed. Her boss disregarded her opinions on projects. And random assignments seemed to find their way into her hands. Which often meant late nights, scrambling to get them done.
She felt unhappy, but what could she do? What choice did she have?
Eventually, her frustration grew until her evening glass of wine (okay, two glasses) wasn’t taking the edge off anymore. Venting to her family at the dinner table (yet again), her son asked the simple question: “If you don’t like your job mom, why don’t you quit?” That was more than she could chew.
Yes, You CAN Quit
Maria shared this story in our following session—along with her mix of anger, both at herself and her job…and well, her son. How could he even suggest that I quit? We have bills to pay. I need health insurance for our family.
But the more we explored it, the more she realized he was right. Quitting was a choice. It was just a scary one she wasn’t ready to face.
Maria took a deep breath.
There would be consequences and challenges that would come with quitting her job. But there are consequences and challenges that come with staying, too.
While quitting may or may not be the thoughtful choice for her, her perspective shifted when she realized it was something she could do. It was within her control—amongst a number of other choices. And seeing quitting as off-the-table previously, she had built up a healthy dose of resentment.
Burnout. It can lead to major job dissatisfaction.
Learn how you can turn it into your personal fuel with my guest, Rachael O’Meara.
Rachael O’Meara (00:00):
Darcy Luoma (00:00):
Ready. Hello and happy Thoughtfully Fit Thursday to everybody. I’m Darcy Luoma. And today we are going to talk to the expert on pausing. I have author Rachael O’Meara with me. She wrote the book on how to pause and she’s going to share with us what she’s learned and what her journey was to finding the importance and the need for creating that pause. She wrote the book in 2017. It has been all over. I have a formal bio here I’m looking at. She was featured in the New York Times. She lives in San Francisco with her husband. She pauses to ski and bike and be. There’s so many things and rather than read a bio, I’m going to turn it over to you. And I want to ask you as you’re introducing yourself and your story, if you can start by just sharing with us, what are some of the signs that we may need to pause and welcome?
Rachael O’Meara (01:01):
Yeah. Hey Darcy. Hello everyone. It’s so, so great to be here today. So just thank you. I’m pausing today in my workday and I’m actually on a cross-country road trip right now in Sedona. So to me, it’s even like I’m learning how to pause while I’m traveling. As I work here, I’m actually not taking vacation and there’s a whole other story behind that. But for me, the signs that you know you need a pause. There’s five signs I like to preface because I think if any of these are showing up for you, that is a great cue to be like ding ding ding maybe I need a pause and I call a pause by the way, any intentional shift in behavior. Because I think a lot of times, I don’t know about you Darcy, but I used to hear that word historically pause and just think it was doing nothing and timeout or just going up on the couch and throwing my feet up and sipping a margarita with something.
Darcy Luoma (01:56):
Rachael O’Meara (01:58):
And that can be the case. That can be a pause, but remember it’s intentional. So it’s like the idea behind intention is why does it matter. So anyway, behind all of that, I feel like there’s these five signs. And when I burned out at Google, when I met you, or I guess a couple years before I met you, these all happened to me. So as you hear them, I’m curious, as you hear them, just do a little mental tally. Do you have one of these signs or do you have all five of them? Because typically if you have all five of them, it’s like a red alert, you know, red flag, like you better pause ASAP. Or if you just even have one, you still need to remember that could be a great invitation for an intentional shift in behavior.
Rachael O’Meara (02:34):
So number one is you used to love your job and now you loathe it. And I think with COVID and everything we’ve all been put to that test. So how are you doing? Do you feel like right now you’re grudging through things and feeling burdensome? It’s a really good sign to kind of like reassess and just intentionally shift that behavior. The second sign is that you’re really, your boss is telling you in some way, shape or form that it’s just not really working out. And you might hear that from a one-on-one discussion or you might just hear something that’s along those lines. And I call it a proverbial pink slip. Maybe someone’s saying “Hey, maybe you should take some time off” or “have you used your vacation day” or it might just be “this job isn’t a fit for you.”
Rachael O’Meara (03:15):
That was the message that I heard from my manager who had great intentions for me. The third step, the third sign is you have a technology intervention, which means it could even be you that’s kind of like tap, tap, like, Hey, Rachel, you might want to put your phone down while you’re eating a meal, or someone else tells you that technology is in the way of maybe a relationship or feeling quality time and getting quality time with people. So that technology intervention is a big one. And then the fourth sign is that there’s a challenge in your life. And that could come in many flavors, right? It might be health. It could be the health of a loved one. It could be, there’s just a challenge with a family member or personal struggle, a break-up a marriage or a divorce, like any of that stuff.
Rachael O’Meara (04:04):
And then the fifth one, the fifth sign is there’s an opportunity. And I call it opportunity knocking in the book, which means maybe you’re hearing or thinking about a passion project that you’ve been dying to start, but you just keep putting off or you have an invitation to take a road trip with someone. And you’re like, man, I don’t even know how I would make that happen, but I like really want to do it. And so all of those things are what I would call the five signs. And I’m curious if you’re listening to this, if you’ve got one great. Good job being aware because that’s what a pause is. It’s really an opportunity to be more self-aware. And if you have all five of those, like I did, then maybe that’s like let’s do that ASAP. Let’s have a pause today.
Darcy Luoma (04:47):
Yeah. And as you’re talking, Rachael, I’m just curious if you can share, a lot of those are like things aren’t going well, you need a pause. And so can you just talk about like, how is pausing a sign of strength as opposed to this isn’t good. You’re not in a good place and that’s a sign of weakness.
Rachael O’Meara (05:08):
This is such a great thing to think about and I get this question all the time, Darc. And to me, it’s interesting because we feel like we’re slackers. Traditionally thinking about the word pause, like we talked about in the beginning, it feels like it’s passive. It’s like pause. Like, okay, I’m not going to do anything. And so that’s what we think as a culture. That’s what we’ve been trained at. We think we’re slackers, or we’re going to look like lazy folks if we’re not on the wagon to be doing things and being productive. And so the challenge I have for all of us is to think of a pause, not as passive, but as active and as intentional. And so the idea is that pausing is in service to your doing so it’s like the being is in service to your doing.
Rachael O’Meara (05:52):
And we’re so over-index on the doing right now, whether we’re working 24/7 on Zoom, being home, working remotely with COVID or you’re just living probably what’s a normal life in the Western world, which is like juggling 20 things any day, any given day. So the idea is to kind of move and shift the mindset from, oh this is not helpful. This is selfish to pause.
Rachael O’Meara (06:13):
All our beliefs, all of the doctrines of what the Western world historically has created. Because if we don’t shift now, we can see where we’re going, right? Burnouts at an all time high. It leads to many health issues, like 190 U.S. Billion dollars a year in healthcare issues, only on burnout and stress and overwhelm. And so we have to take it into our own hands and think of it as obligatory. Like it is in terms of us feeling and being sustained, not only moment by moment and day in and day out, but for the rest of our lives, because we think that that’s not necessarily going to help, but it actually does and it takes each of us to take that choice and say, yeah, like I need to pause. And it doesn’t need a lot of time. You don’t need a lot of money and you don’t need a certain activity. It’s about what works for you.
Darcy Luoma (07:04):
Yes. And before you highlighted the fact that it’s intentional and when you and I hopped on and we were in the green room before we went live, we were talking about the fact that my mom died on Monday and we had discussed, should we pause this broadcast. And you named something that I thought was fascinating. And I said, actually, I intentionally took a lot of pauses really in the last 18 months over COVID when my mom was sick and we didn’t have volleyball tournaments and Girl Scouts and swim team. And so we were pausing and spending a lot of time with her. And you said, yeah, so you took a proactive pause. I didn’t wait until she died and now I need to pause. I paused to be with her beforehand. And it sort of strikes this question as how does courageously pausing allow us to thrive as opposed to be seen as lazy?
Rachael O’Meara (08:06):
Yeah. Yeah. And kudos for you for literally those proactive pauses. And I see it as a health benefit, but not just health it’s around every part of our being and doing that is in service when we pause, but it takes courage. That’s the key and I call it courage to be and this is an existential concept from Paul Tillich. I’m going to get existentialist on you there Darc. But he wrote a book called The Courage to Be in 1954. I think I talk about it in my TEDx talk. And it’s really about being you. How do we show up as ourselves? And we usually know when we need to pause, there’s an innate intuition, like Hey, maybe I need to just chill for an hour or 30 minutes, or maybe I shouldn’t go on this trip because I feel so overbooked right now.
Rachael O’Meara (08:54):
We kind of get that sense. And even if you don’t, you kind of have like maybe a flash or a moment of a thought, right. But the courage is in recognizing that, and then putting a stake in the ground to say Hey, actually I do need, I’m going to pause right now. Because like we were talking about, it’s not accepted typically, and this is changing. I really truly think it is. And that’s my mission is to feel like pause is a movement. It’s all about each of us saying yes to what works for us each as individuals. But if we don’t have the courage to tune in, first of all, like be aware, maybe how am I feeling today? Do I feel if I feel sad? I do really actually I’m really grieving mom today. I think I just got to take a time out and I’m not going, I’m going to cancel my appointments just as an example. But that takes courage because that means you’re not meeting expectations of what other people have already set out for you.
Darcy Luoma (09:45):
And you’re not just on autopilot just blindly going through the day, like this is on my calendar, I’m going to do.
Rachael O’Meara (09:52):
And that’s how we burn out is being on autopilot while we feel drained because that’s not helping and serving any of us. Right. So when we want to thrive and I define thriving, actually, Dan Siegel defines thriving as the being and the doing, integrating this. Dan Siegel is a great therapist and does a lot of work in neuroscience and I’m a big fan of him. Props to Dan. But being and doing is thriving. So thriving doesn’t mean just like knocking it out of the park in your goals, like striving results. It means being like how am I feeling or how am I taking in what my day is like and being present for my daughter while I am crushing it in this other area, for example, or even not just crushing it, just showing up if that’s all I got for the day.
Darcy Luoma (10:36):
It almost sounds, as you’re talking Rachel, like there’s this external definition of thriving. I’ve got successful business or I’m making money, or I’ve got a promotion, whatever it is. But I’m hearing you talk like there’s an internal definition of thriving where you have this inner harmony and peace with the being and your choices.
Rachael O’Meara (10:57):
Yeah. Isn’t that cool? And for each of us, it’s going to be a little different. Like for you, and this is what I love about it. And I don’t know, maybe this is you, but let’s say you love what you do. I don’t need to burn out because I love hosting podcasts and writing books and being a coach or maybe you’re a teacher or an engineer or whatever. So you feel like you can go, go, go and you don’t need to necessarily pause. And that’s why I think an intentional shift in behavior matters because thriving might mean I’m 99% of the time doing stuff, but that 1% I really want to pause is really important. And I value that and I create it. And I have the courage to take it because I know that serves me.
Rachael O’Meara (11:35):
And then you might take it and be like, cool. Now I can keep going and doing my thing. Or you might say, wow, I really enjoyed that. What if I did more of that? Because a lot of the time when we’re just doing and doing, we aren’t tuning in, but as long as you’re tuning in and that’s what I call proactive pausing. It’s like when you’re kind of checking in all the time, how am I doing now? All right. I’m doing pretty well and it’s really sunny out so I’m going to like take a walk to the mailbox and get mail because I could use three minutes outside with my feet on the grass. That sounds awesome. Or on the driveway or whatever. So I think it’s just about the individual. What do each of us need in the moment? And it’s a moment by moment and that’s super off of autopilot. Like we can’t be on autopilot if we know how we feel.
Darcy Luoma (12:18):
Yeah. So this brings me to the last question, which I don’t know. I’m guessing for you it’s not the hardest, but for many of us, this is the hardest question is like, how do we create if we are busy and we’re working and we’re going, and maybe we are using an external definition of success and thriving, how can we create what you have coined this active pause plan?
Rachael O’Meara (12:41):
Yeah. So I think this is a really powerful way to basically start and take action today. I challenge you to implement it by bedtime tonight, even. So the first thing is you kind of think about what’s one thing I want to change. Okay. So everyone do that right now. What’s one thing you want to change in general. And then also be specific. So I want to get seven hours of sleep at night. That sounds awesome. I do not get that right now. I’m just making this up. So then you pick your one thing and then you give an intention to it. So why does this matter to me? Why does this matter to me? Well, I think I feel resourced and refreshed and I show better for my family and my peers so that’s why.
Rachael O’Meara (13:22):
So there’s an intention. There’s that why behind it, that keeps us motivated. And then you kind of paint the picture like, well, what’s the next step I could do? What’s one thing I could do? And it might be maybe for sleep it’s going to bed at 10 as opposed to 12:30 at night in my case. And so you pick one thing you could do. It might be calendaring yourself. If you’re feeling like you’re tethered to your devices, like, hello. That’s probably most of us, 250 times a day, we’re checking our phones, by the way, that’s our [inaudible 00:13:50]. It’s probably more by now scheduling 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM, no technology or you’re sleeping with their phone outside in the hallway versus in your room. These are all just examples.
Darcy Luoma (13:59):
Have you been living with me? Do you know all these things? I needed to hear this.
Rachael O’Meara (14:05):
Yes I have been and I’m watching you. I know where you live now. No, no, but that’s the thing. It’s almost predictable, right? How funny is that? So whatever it is that you want to change, and the idea is an intentional shift in behavior and don’t pick 10 things because then nothing gets done. The law of little things is at play where you pick one thing that you want to work on and just take whatever’s the most resonant with you. Whatever’s popped up in your head as you’ve listened to this. Like, yeah I really just wish I took a break after I go from work to home and start making my dinner or not being connected on TV while I eat a meal. Right. And so whatever that is for you, it’s like you pick the one thing and then you make the one change and implement it by bedtime. So do it tonight and by today. And that’s intention right there. That’s you harnessing your aliveness with direction and just going for it. That’s an active pause plan.
Darcy Luoma (15:00):
Okay. I’m going to be vulnerable and just make a commitment right now. I’ve gotten into a bad habit and maybe partially because I’m worried about getting news about my mom and wanting to stay really connected that I’ve had my phone next to my bed. And then I wake up, I have this horrible habit where I’m checking my phone in the middle of the night. It’s ridiculous. So I’m going to make an active pause plan right now that just, I’m just going to start small that just for tonight, I’m going to try plugging my phone in to my office and not have it by my bed and see if I can just make it through one night without getting hives.
Rachael O’Meara (15:44):
I love that for you. Yeah. That’s so powerful because I know I was in that habit. And then I started traveling and now my phone is right there because it’s my alarm. And so if you have an alarm with your phone, that is not an excuse to sleep with it in your room. Get an alarm clock. Go old school and just get something because then you get out of that habit. But it’s a slippery slope. And I noticed I have been doing that on and off. Even me, here I am pause lady and I’m checking my phone at night. So it’s just we’re creatures of habit. And if we don’t make intentional change, then nothing changes. Really. That’s why we feel stuck sometimes. Or we’re not able to do things so kudos. I love your pause plan. And it’s just for the night, give yourself permission to try it one day.
Darcy Luoma (16:28):
Yeah. Because if I went bigger than that, I would freak out and I wouldn’t do it, but I know if I say, I’m going to do this tonight, I’ll do it. So Rachael, you are just filled with wisdom and I know that you have so much more. This is just the tiniest little sliver. People want more. They’re inspired. Where can they find you? Where can they learn more about you and about your book?
Rachael O’Meara (16:54):
Yeah. So I have my website, which is Rachaelomeara.com. You can just Google me, Rachael pause, probably will show up. Rachaelomeara.com and you can look at the book Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break. It’s on Amazon. It’s a great read. It kind of touches on a lot of these concepts. And I have a free gift on my website, which is the three keys to turn overwhelm into thriving. So there’s more details there. We talk about things after the five signs. What do you do when you’re feeling burnt out? How do you even start thinking about that and what does it mean to feel into what’s going on? And so I just invite anyone to check me out if you’d like. I’m on Rachaelomeara.com and the pause book is a great start to kind of learn more.
Darcy Luoma (17:42):
That’s perfect. And we’ll put all of those links and also to all of your social media handles in the show notes as well, so that people can just click and easily find you. Thank you so much for hitting the pause button on your travels to join me today and to share some of your wisdom. I’m so grateful.
Rachael O’Meara (18:04):
Thank you Darcy for having me. It’s an honor to be here.
Darcy Luoma (18:07):
Yes. Thank you so much. Happy Thoughtfully Fit Thursday, everybody.
You Control More Than You Think
Maria’s experience is no different from what many of us have experienced. At some point or another, we’ve all gone through the motions of job dissatisfaction. Maybe even thought of quitting for a number of reasons…
- Feeling under-appreciated or under-compensated for our work
- Working a grueling schedule that’s made us miss one too many of our kid’s basketball games
- Or simply feeling unfulfilled
The reality is you can’t always control your workload or schedule. And you definitely can’t control a difficult boss, annoying co-worker, or demanding board of directors.
However, you do control to what degree you bring the frustration of work home with you (or from your home office to your kitchen).
You control how much of your day you spend focused on your work—or on the gossiping co-workers, changing policies, or shifting priorities—over which you have no control.
You control how much you vent about your frustrations to anyone who will listen.
And you control if you quit.
That’s a lot of control. Are you willing to accept it?
In Maria’s case, accepting control meant shifting her focus from her frustrating boss and co-workers to herself. It was a lot easier to complain about them than to consider what she could do.
Eventually, she recognized that she could quit. That was in her control. But she didn’t want to. She didn’t want to look for a new job. And she really did like the organization she worked for. Once she decided to stay (instead of feeling like there were no other options), she continued to practice focusing on what she could control.
Does this mean she never complained about her job again? Of course not. But she did reduce the amount of venting she did at the dinner table (one more thing in her control)—and that improved her family dynamics and reduced her stress.
One-Minute Core Workout
Pause. The next time the thought of quitting crosses your mind, take a moment and acknowledge what you are experiencing.
Think. Ask yourself, What can I control at this moment? How can I shift to focus on what’s in my control?
Act. Do what you need to do to stay focused on what you can control.
You always have control over what you say and do. It’s not always easy, but when you focus more on what you control and less on what you can’t, you’ll see things start to shift. I guarantee it.
Now, pass the dessert, please!
Quitting or not, you always have the opportunity to be a bawse (…did we say that right?). Recommended by Thoughtfully Fit team member Kara Barnes, Lilly Singh’s book How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life offers unique and hilarious insight into how creating a deeper awareness of ourselves can help us level up. All while sharing Lilly’s journey to becoming a content creator, philanthropist, and unicorn.