In the past I’ve struggled with self-judgement that has inhibited good decision-making. I struggle to let go.

Often I criticize myself for not being good enough. I have wasted energy comparing myself to others. I spent time disproving my nearly every thought and deed. Nit-picking.

Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now talks about pausing to breathe to let go of the struggle. For when we do, we notice what we are experiencing, and see what is happening around us. We are better able to focus on what matters.

I have noticed when I let go of the struggle with how I believe things ought to be, I see my strengths. Then I am able to witness, instead of judge. I become fully present. I have a presence, and an inner peace.

Letting go of the struggle isn’t complicated

In life, in leadership, in public speaking we can let go of the struggle by simply pausing to breathe. Breathing into the body. But a pause scares people, because it screams the truth.

I was scared in the past. What does creating time to think mean? My head-chatter would have said “I must be busy all time.” “I must be doing, to be successful to get on in this world.” A kind of treadmill-living.

Mr Tolle says, “breathe fully into your diaphragm. Notice your presence.” This pausing to breathe has no greater significance than in a speaking context. When we focus on thoughts and feeling that do not serve us, like “do they believe me”, just pause and breathe. When we do this, we make better decisions; we are less judgemental.

We deploy this breathing malarkey every millisecond of the day without conscious thought. Funny, we’ve done it since birth. It has powerful ramifications for your presence. And it results in better decision-making in every facet of life, of leadership.

Use this breathing exercise to train your body to breathe with the belly automatically.

Recently, I spoke to a room filled with successful business folk.

I was bricking it. I think I was just having one of those days. Nothing was going the way I wanted it to. I broke down on the A3 and had to get the AA out to tow me to the venue. They fixed the car, but I was late. I realised I had left half the workbooks for the audience at home. Winner!

I thought it may be a good idea to just sit in the car a moment. Hell, I was late anyway, another five minutes wasn’t going to hurt. The pause I had before bolting into the venue and frantically hurtling through my talk was the best thing I did. It reminded me about the power of a pause.

I was able to change the direction of my thinking. My pause wasn’t passive, it was very much an active part of letting go of the struggle that morning. It allowed me to make better decisions.

Malcolm is a CEO of multi-national bank based in the UK.

He is always having to speak to groups of employees from fifty, to three-hundred and fifty at any given time. And at the drop of a hat.

Being at ease and being seen as a genuine safe pair of hands is crucial for re-building trust.

He speaks almost as fast has he can run. He used to be a hundred-metre specialist when he was at college. Never pausing. Believing people have to feel your passion for the subject, and a good way to get passion across is to speak quickly. In truth, Malcolm isn’t wrong. Injecting pace can create a sense of excitement and passion. But not continuously for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Malcolm would pace feverishly up and down the stage. His physical body movements mirroring his pace of delivering the words. There was no room for emotion and connecting with the audience. On the one hand, dare I say, it was all congruent – it meshed neatly together. But it didn’t serve him or his audience.

I asked him to undertake a regular practice of noticing his breathing.

Letting go of the struggle starts with mastering your presence. And to do this, you need to become more conscious of yourself, and the choices you’re making. Noticing bodily sensations and thoughts, and your responses to them.

In time, this awareness develops into an unconscious competence of how to use your body, your thoughts and feelings to connect with others.

I suggested he do the following to help let go of the struggle and connect more authentically with an audience:

  1. Set an intent for each talk, presentation, meeting or conversation.
  2. Conduct a daily practice of the belly-breathing exercise.
  3. Pause to breathe when in a talk, presentation or meeting.
  4. Notice what you are experiencing in conversations, meetings and presentations.
  5. Recognise the changes you see, and celebrate your successes.

When we let go of the struggle by pausing to breathe we have a presence, and make better decisions.

Listen to the Podcast – Let Go of the Struggle