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Summary: Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break by Rachael O’Meara

  • The book is a guide for anyone who wants to take a break from their stressful or unsatisfying life and make positive changes.
  • The book explains the benefits and challenges of pausing, and provides practical tools and tips to plan and execute your own pause.
  • The book shares the author’s personal story and other people’s experiences of pausing, and inspires readers to create a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

Do you feel torn between work and family and find yourself too stressed to be productive? If so, taking a restful pause can rebalance your life and give you the mental and emotional resources you need to return to your responsibilities feeling purposeful and restored. In this book summary, you’ll learn to identify the signs of needing a break and explore ways to slow down, unplug, and reconnect to the pastimes that fulfill you.

Discover the transformative power of taking a meaningful pause from day-to-day activities.


  • Are feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of daily life
  • Experience burnout, lack of focus, or loss of productivity
  • Want to learn how to reset and recharge your life

Book Summary: Pause - Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break


Executive coach Rachael O’Meara calls any break a “pause,” whether it’s a 30-second breathing exercise, a few vacation days, or a multiyear exploration of your inner self or the world around you. She covers important territory and refers to scientific evidence to demonstrate that a pause really does refresh. O’Meara’s pithy insights and advice will give a boost to anyone new to – or in serious need of – taking a break from an otherwise hectic daily life.


  • A “pause” can be a 30-second breathing break, a two-year exploration of the planet or any sojourn in between.
  • You may need a pause if you hate your job or if you’re addicted to your devices.
  • Don’t let fears or money stop you. When you pause, you invest in your future and wellness.
  • Plan your pause. Leave openings for the unexpected and spontaneous. Learn about your strengths and passions.
  • Use the “TASER technique” to clear your mind.
  • Consider 11 ways to create your best pause.
  • Focus on the quality of your pause, not its length.
  • Long pauses require more planning but can change your life.
  • When coming off a long pause, give yourself time to adjust.
  • Make pausing a habit, and reject obsolete, negative thinking.


Do you ever feel like you’re rushing through life, and time is flying by so quickly that you can’t keep up? Are your to-do lists taking over your mental space? Does the thought of taking time out for yourself seem impossible?

You’re not alone. Author Rachael O’Meara, an executive at Google, has been there. To cope with the demands of work and family — without experiencing burnout, anxiety, and depression — O’Meara learned that she needed to find a way to rest. She discovered that taking a pause enabled her to return to her responsibilities with renewed purpose and vigor.

When life’s responsibilities crowd out the simple joys of living, it’s time to get back in touch with what matters to you by taking a break and hitting reset. For O’Meara, a pause is when you decide to take a break from your usual routine, step back, and check in with yourself. By pausing, you free your mind from the clutter of the usual daily noise and allow your attitudes and emotions space to breathe. Whether you decide to pause for a few moments, a few hours, or a few months, the practice of carving out time for reflection and restoration can have profound effects on the rest of your life. It allows you to be more mindful, pay attention to your physical and emotional needs, and get in touch with what you value most.

The best thing about pausing is that it doesn’t require a dramatic lifestyle shift. You don’t have to rent a cabin on a mountaintop (although you certainly could); instead, your pause could be as simple as taking a walk or breathing deeply for a few minutes while you’re at work. All it takes to put it into practice is the realization that you need a break and a commitment to disconnecting from the whirlwind around you for a period.

The easiest way to enjoy a brief respite is to try the simplest form of pausing, specifically what O’Meara calls a “Pause Moment.” A Pause Moment can happen while you eat breakfast, get ready for work, or commute. It’s a simple exercise that can last only a few minutes or as long as you want, depending on your day. First, close your eyes briefly and focus on your breathing. Take five deep, slow breaths, and as you exhale on the last one, say aloud, “I am present.” Next, as you inhale, remind yourself that you’re able to listen to your inner voice. Finally, spend the next minute or so alternating these phrases in your mind as you focus on your breathing. You might notice emotions or physical sensations arising; if so, simply write them down if you feel like it. That’s all it takes to experience the power to pause.

Five Signs You Need a Pause

Learning how to listen to your needs is one of the most important steps toward achieving more equilibrium in your life, and it starts with listening when your inner voice tells you it’s time to take a break. This can feel different for each person. You might start to notice that it’s time for a pause if you’re feeling restless, drained, or overwhelmed. Your mind might alternate between slogging along and racing from one thought to the next, or you might feel powerless in the face of new challenges. These can all be signs that it’s time to step back for a moment.

O’Meara identifies five other specific indicators that you’re in need of a pause:

  1. You find yourself hating a job that you used to love. You used to feel successful, competent, and satisfied with your work, but lately, you’ve noticed that you feel stuck. Your performance has suffered, and it seems like no matter what you do, you can’t keep up. Although the circumstances of your job have remained the same, you no longer feel invested in your work.
  2. You get fired. Despite the fact that your boss has given you several warnings, you can’t meet their standards of performance on the job. Maybe you were told what to improve but didn’t know how to improve. Eventually, you have the dreaded “you’re fired” conversation.
  3. Something intervenes to separate you from your devices or routine. If your internet service gets disrupted, your computer breaks down, or a loved one yanks your phone from your hand and throws it out the window, consider this an intervention from the universe that it’s time for you to take a pause.
  4. You experience a major life change. It could be a breakup, diagnosis, loss, move, or some other life event that throws you off. Even positive life events, like marriages, births, or promotions, can do this. Whatever the change, it’s leaving you feeling empty, listless, and unsure how to go forward.
  5. A new opportunity arises. A chance you’ve been waiting for has finally come your way, and you find yourself with new options on the table. This is a perfect time to check in with yourself and ask what you really want. Take time to envision what it would be like to go for it.

Each of these instances offers a chance for reflection and contemplation, granting you time to ask yourself important questions and listen to the answers of your inner voice.

The Three Pause Dials: Money, Time, and Activity

Once you decide to take a pause, there are three resources you can use to gauge which type of pause is right for you: money, time, and activity. Think of them as dials on your personal pause machine that you adjust according to your needs. Pausing is all about flexibility and doing what’s right for you at the time, so it’s natural that your pause habits will differ to accommodate your changing circumstances and desires.

The money dial

Create a budget to help you plan your pause. Will you take paid or unpaid leave? What will each option afford you the opportunity to do? Do you need a simple, pared down pause or an indulgent, relaxing pause? Your pause could be free, like having a friend over for dinner or taking a long hike, or you could splurge on an intensive retreat somewhere across the globe. The cost of your splurge isn’t as important as making sure that it allows you to change your environment and experience life outside your comfort zone.

The time dial

Decide how much time you’re able to take for your pause based on your work situation and family commitments. Do you have time for a refreshing day trip? Have you saved up enough for a two-week vacation? Or do you need to take a major pause and quit your job? You must listen to yourself and decide what is necessary for the stage you’re going through. While you shouldn’t let concerns about time limit your ideas, remember that you can still earn a paycheck and participate in a meaningful pause. Many people arrange to work from home or on the road while they’re taking time away from the office to recharge. The options are up to you.

The activity dial

Determine how much activity you’d like to do during your pause and set careful boundaries with yourself not to fill your pause additional activity. Maybe you’d find it restful to explore your city, care for a loved one, or participate in volunteer opportunities as part of your pause. Or maybe your pause will give you time to research a new job. Be intentional about the time you’re spending in stillness along with the time you’re spending in restorative activities.

The Three Types of Pauses: Digital, Daily, and Extended

The beautiful thing about your pause is that you get to tailor it to your own wants and needs. Along with learning how to identify when you need to take a pause, listening to yourself about what kind of resources you need to allocate to the pause and what kind of pause to have is all part of getting in touch with your inner needs and desires.

As you determine how much money, time, and activity to spend on your pause, you can also decide what the nature of your pause will be. Do you want to pause for an entire day or part of a day? Will your pause be longer, extended over a period of weeks or months? Should your pause include a digital pause, where you disconnect from your devices? Only you know what is right for you.

The daily pause

Your daily pause can be as simple as the minutes-long breathing exercise that you learned in the introduction to this summary, or it can take your full day. A daily pause gives you a chance to connect both inwardly and outwardly by observing your feelings and surroundings. It also provides you with space to be quiet enough to notice what you see, hear, taste, and feel. As you absorb these sensations, practice accepting them, however you might feel in response. In doing so, you’ll feel more fully awake, alive, and present. Other options for miniature pauses could include taking a short walk outdoors, sipping a warm drink, practicing a yoga pose, or making a gratitude list.

The extended pause

If you can get extended time off from work or line up childcare for a generous period of time, an extended pause can be the ultimate way to reset your mind and recharge your spirit. A significant investment of time like this gives you the opportunity to rethink your life goals and determine new trajectories you may want to pursue. When you have the downtime to do nothing but ask important questions about your values and purpose, you gain the clarity to make life-altering choices that can dramatically impact your future well-being.

The digital pause

A digital pause can be very effective on its own as an exercise in simplifying your life, and you can also take a digital break during your other pauses if you choose. Much of your mental fatigue, overexertion, and anxiety can be traced to the electronic tools that are constantly stimulating you with notifications and connecting you to more information than you could ever hope to process. Digital interruptions make it difficult to focus on tasks and connect with the people right in front of you. Being constantly plugged into devices also interferes with your ability to experience your profound, internal life that’s going on beneath the surface. Taking a digital pause equips you to get in touch with the quietness, vulnerability, and power that makes you who you are.


A “pause” can be a 30-second breathing break, a two-year exploration of the planet or any sojourn in between.

Rachael O’Meara enjoyed success in her life and at work before she became a customer support team manager at Google, when she “hit a wall” and floundered. Poor performance reviews – one after the other – led to an ultimatum from her boss: Join a performance improvement program – and likely lose her job anyway – or take on a different assignment at Google.

“Pausing is an opportunity to shift what isn’t working for you and take personal responsibility, without jumping into the next activity, role or job and repeating your pattern all over again.”

O’Meara checked her savings account and thought of a third option – a pause. She asked for a 90-day, unpaid leave of absence, stipulating that she would give up her current job, move her replacement through the transition stage and take a new assignment on her return. Her boss agreed, and O’Meara’s adventure began. She took what she calls an “extended pause,” ultimately staying away 60 days, before returning to Google.

“A pause is “any intentional shift in behavior that allows you space to experience a mental shift and attitude, thoughts or emotions that otherwise would not have occurred.”

One way to take a pause is by meditating: Take a deep breath. As you inhale, say, “I am present.” As you exhale, say, “I listen to my inner voice to truly know what’s best for me.” Do this for 30 seconds while listening to your body and your emotions. Then spend three to five minutes recording your thoughts in a journal.

You may need a pause if you hate your job or if you’re addicted to your devices.

You might need a pause if:

  • You don’t love your job – For no discernible reason, perhaps you don’t love it as much as you used to, or perhaps your performance decline makes you feel bad about yourself.
  • The boss notices – Your supervisor tells you that you’re a poor fit for your job.
  • You say “what if” a lot – Pause to explore any “what if”. Think about the signals you receive; ask what they’re telling you.
  • You’re in a “major life event” – Consider using it to pause, reflect and learn what you want to do with the rest of your career or your life.

“When you do allow yourself the time to pause, even if it’s for one breath, you create the opportunity for a new thought, emotion, yearning or behavior to emerge.”

Disconnect from your devices frequently to resist their attraction and addictive qualities. Stop using devices as substitutes for fulfilling your deep desires – such as finding love and meaning. Internet surfing, TV, shopping, texting, and other trivialities comprise what life coach Judith Wright calls “soft addictions” in her book The Soft Addiction Solution. They are a poor substitute for the real thing. Recognize your true yearnings and fulfill them.

“Every time you pause, your potential energy can be restored.” ”

Resist the temptation to check emails or texts in social situations. Overcome your compulsion by keeping your devices out of your bedroom. Get better rest by putting them away about 90 minutes before sleep. Ban devices entirely one day each week. Set aside device-free time every day. Declare one room in your house or apartment a “device-free zone.” If you can, try to disconnect entirely for a month. If you can’t, try joining the National Day of Unplugging. On the first weekend of March each year, disconnect from the internet and your devices, or go all the way and turn off your electricity entirely.

Don’t let fears or money stop you. When you pause, you invest in your future and wellness.

To take a break for a few months, you may need to muster incredible courage. You are about to embark on your “hero’s journey.” Overcome the fear and other emotions you may feel by reminding yourself that you will emerge from it more fulfilled, having escaped the conventional life that most people live.

Plan your pause. Leave openings for the unexpected and spontaneous. Learn about your strengths and passions.

Three steps will get you started:

  1. Make a plan – Brainstorm all possible schemes at first. Write them all down.
  2. Know what you want – Figure out what you want to gain during your pause. Record it in a journal – your “personal power tool” through which new ideas will come to you. Learn about your strengths. The more you spend time doing what you do best, the happier and more productive you’ll be. Ask others about their assessment of your strengths.
  3. Leave room for possibilities – Make a more complete plan. Leave plenty of room for the unexpected. Listen to your inner self to know what you want and need from your break. Imagine “your ideal pause.”

Use the “TASER technique” to clear your mind.

Your subconscious, automatic thinking process handles millions more thoughts every day than your conscious mind. You must deliberately override it, or it will control you. You can reprogram your brain through sustained effort – as the field of neuroplasticity demonstrates. Practice “mental flossing” to stop yourself when you have undesirable, automatic thoughts such as self-doubt or self-criticism. Turn these notions into constructive, self-affirming thoughts. Over time, you’ll build new neurological pathways and will eventually stop hearing outdated, negative messages. Use the TASER technique to get unwanted thoughts out of your mind by:

  • “Tuning in” – Catch each negative thought as it occurs.
  • “Acknowledging” – Accept the thought and realize that it comes from your past.
  • “Shifting” – Turn your unwanted thought into a good one. For example, turn “I am not good enough” into “I am good enough.”
  • “Expressing” – Say all your confirming messages out loud.
  • “Repeating” – Go through this cycle every time you have an unwanted thought.

Consider 11 ways to create your best pause.

You can maximize your pause by:

  1. Structuring – Lay out everyday rules for your pause, like showering, getting outside, reading and exercising.
  2. Taking care of yourself – Get cozy in your pajamas and blanket. Rock back-and-forth, perhaps holding a stuffed animal. Treat yourself to small comforts.
  3. Keeping happy routines and habits – Do things that nourish you – like having friends over or going for a bike ride. Don’t binge on TV, snacks, alcohol, or the like.
  4. Enforcing your own rules – Reward yourself for following your rules; put negative incentives in place to discourage you from breaking them.
  5. Aligning – Make sure what you do next matches what you really want to do.
  6. Taking a “pause purpose pledge” – Write down your commitment to learning and growing during your pause. Sign it. Read it once a day for 30 days.
  7. Finding your strengths – Identify and document your strengths; then think about how you can match them to what you might do next.
  8. Experimenting – Try new things related to your strengths, ambitions and desires.
  9. “Saying yes” – Keep an open mind to trying new things, taking risks and pursuing opportunities you might have otherwise turned down.
  10. “Staying present” – Stop living in and worrying about the future. Don’t dwell on what you’ll do after your pauses. Stay in the moment so you can maximize your break time.
  11. Journaling – Keep a log of your pause and what you’ve learned.

Focus on the quality of your pause, not its length.

Almost anything can constitute a pause, including reading books like this one. Don’t let money or the lack of it dictate the type or length of your break. Focus on doing it well and wisely as opposed to aiming for quantity. If you get paid leave, take it. If you have to use unpaid leave, consider selling some possessions to raise money. Use what you have, plan accordingly and maximize your time off. Break your routine, and get out of your everyday environment. You don’t have to travel internationally. Consider taking a week off to explore your city as a visitor might. Build in plenty of leisure time; use your pause to get fit and have fun.

Long pauses require more planning but can change your life.

A 2016 WorldatWork survey found that 10% fewer organizations offer sabbaticals now than did five years earlier. Almost half of those that offer these lengthy but usually unpaid leaves put restrictions on their use, such as having to pursue relevant education while on leave. Corporate America appears reluctant to support long pauses. Overcome this by taking whatever paid leave your employer offers; add your vacation days to take a longer break. Combine your leave with national holidays to get more time. Ask if you can work remotely part-time so you can stretch your break. If allowed, tack break days onto the backs of business trips.

“If you are like the majority who do not get paid to take time off, don’t worry. With a little planning, you will be on your way to a purposeful pause.”

Figure out what you want to do during your sabbatical – the people and places you want to visit and the activities you want to pursue. Use the time to slow down and connect. Get in touch with old friends, reflect on your life, consider journaling and building your emotional intelligence. If you travel, do so like a local resident of the places you visit to experience new perspectives.

“Your plan does not need to be specific or detailed. It is better to leave it somewhat vague and open.” ”

To be creative and learn, take time to play. Don’t worry that you have no money coming in while you’re on your pause. Plan ahead and consider it a payment to yourself – a reward and investment in your well-being and future. If you lost your job, reflect on what you really want to do in your career, but don’t rush back to work. Connect with family and friends, write the book you always hoped to create, volunteer for a cause that’s important to you, or go back to school.

When coming off a long pause, give yourself time to adjust.

Ending your break and returning to your job or other routines might be a shock. Prepare by “transitioning”: Take a pause from your pause, especially if you took a long break. Use this time to solidify your learning and new habits so you retain the best of what you gained from your pause. Leverage what you learned about yourself so you can uncover what you really want to do next. Remain open and eager to learn. Reject past bad habits, such as excessive screen time.

“Pausing is one way to allow yourself the space to evaluate your choices and align with what matters to you. It could be driven by your yearnings or what is most important.”

Decide whether you will return to the company from which you paused – if that’s an option – or if you prefer to pursue something else. If you do return, consider whether you should resume your old position or seek a new one in your company. If neither works, look for a new employer or start your own business. To look for work, do your research, prepare, build an online profile – such as on LinkedIn – and remember to thank anyone and everyone who can help you find a job.

Make pausing a habit, and reject obsolete, negative thinking.

Get in touch with your emotions daily; ideally, several times each day. Stop and consider what you’re feeling, whether joy, sadness, fear or another core emotion. Experience the thrill of knowing that you can feel afraid, happy, sad or joyful. You’ll live more in the moment, you’ll be more grateful and you’ll consider your thoughts before you react to events.

“Taking a pause isn’t so you can think more. It’s…the exact opposite. It’s the perfect excuse to step away from your everyday life and not focus on what is ruling your thoughts.”

Turn any moment into a meditation by thinking consciously about what you’re doing and feeling. Meditate to gain self-awareness; for example, when you go for a walk, notice the sky, the sun and the wind. Capture more of the essence of life \by feeling and appreciating. Practice breathing exercises. Small breaks throughout the day reduce stress and improve productivity. If you train yourself to pause momentarily and notice your feelings or the smells and sounds of nature, you can take yourself off autopilot.

“One of the fundamental principles of why we exist as humans is to feel alive through all our feelings and experiences.”

Incorporate regular pauses into your life to reflect, to live in the moment, and to remain present with yourself and your goals. Pause every day by slowing down, breathing, tuning out the internet and email, or going for a walk. Clear your mind so you can hear the answers you seek.


Whatever kind of pause you decide to try, incorporating them into your routine will change how you see your life and empower you to connect with your needs. Whenever you find yourself beginning to feel burned out and overwhelmed, you now have a menu of restorative tools that you can turn to give yourself the break you’re longing for. As you practice these pauses, you’ll become more aware of your physical sensations, emotions, surroundings, and thoughts and learn to observe them with compassion and acceptance. In turn, you’ll feel more present and connected to every moment.

Pausing is a way of life, a way of being more connected to yourself and others. In the moments of quiet, the answers to your anxieties emerge, and you find the inner strength to shift your perspective. With the awareness you gain from your pauses, you’ll make more impactful decisions, develop a deeper sense of trust in yourself, and experience the profound energy within your spirit. As you take time away from responsibilities and distractions, even if just for a few minutes, you’ll find yourself feeling rejuvenated and transformed. Best of all, you’ll be able to stay focused on your personal journey long after your pause is complete.

About the author

Rachael O’Meara is sales executive at Google and an executive leadership coach. She has a certificate in Transformational Coaching from the Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential.


Management, Nonfiction, Self Help, Adult, Personal Development, Psychology, Health, Mental Health, Business Skills, Occupational and Industrial Psychology, Stress and Anxiety Management, Success, Motivation and Self-Esteem, Business Life, Relationships, Psychological Self-Help, Personal Growth, Business Culture, Leadership, Self-Improvement

Table of Contents

Foreword Judith Wright, PhD ix
Introduction xiii
Chapter 1 Training for Peak Performance 1
Chapter 2 Five Signs You Need a Pause 11
Chapter 3 Taking the Pause Plunge 37
Chapter 4 The Arc of Mental Flossing 59
Chapter 5 The Pause Dashboard: Money, Time, and Activity 75
Chapter 6 The Daily Pause 89
Chapter 7 The Digital Device Pause 109
Chapter 8 The Extended Pause 125
Chapter 9 Creating Your Pause Playground 143
Chapter 10 Tips for a Meaningful Pause 159
Chapter 11 Reentry Postpause 189
Chapter 12 Pausing as a Way of Life 209
Notes 215
Further Resources 221
Gratitude 225
Index 228


The book is a guide for anyone who feels overwhelmed, burned out, or stuck in their personal or professional life. The author, Rachael O’Meara, shares her own story of how she took a three-month pause from her job at Google to rediscover her passion and purpose. She also interviews other people who have successfully paused their careers, relationships, or habits to make positive changes.

The book explains the benefits of pausing, such as improving your health, happiness, and performance. It also provides practical tools and tips to plan and execute your own pause, whether it’s as short as a day or as long as a year. The book covers topics such as:

  • How to recognize the signs that you need a pause
  • How to overcome the fears and challenges of pausing
  • How to design your optimal pause based on your goals and needs
  • How to use mindfulness, meditation, and other techniques to enhance your pause experience
  • How to reenter the world with renewed clarity and purpose after your pause

I found the book to be very inspiring and helpful. The author writes in a friendly and engaging tone, sharing her personal insights and anecdotes as well as research findings and expert opinions. The book is well-organized and easy to follow, with clear steps and exercises for each stage of the pause process. The book also offers a variety of examples and case studies of people who have paused for different reasons and durations, showing the diversity and flexibility of the pause concept.

I think the book is relevant and useful for anyone who wants to improve their quality of life and achieve their full potential. The book encourages readers to slow down, reflect, and reconnect with themselves and their values. The book also empowers readers to take action and make positive changes in their lives. The book is not only about taking a break, but also about creating a meaningful and fulfilling life.

I would recommend this book to anyone who feels stressed out, unhappy, or stuck in their current situation. I think this book can help them find the courage and motivation to pause and transform their lives for the better.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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