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The Dramatic Pause : Sometimes, You Gotta Let It Simmer

The Secret to Winning When You Can't Win for Losing

Effort is overrated. Have you ever noticed someone putting forth tremendous effort to improve a situation yet still failing to advance? It’s easy to believe that failure is a result of not enough effort, however, sometimes failure is a result of too much effort or a lack of understanding regarding how things “work.”

If you’re unable to improve a situation that seems to be getting progressively worse, perhaps you don’t fully understand how it works or how your efforts impact the outcome. Try pausing. Just stop. We can learn a lot about pausing from great creatives; the writers and their white spaces, the artists with their use of negative space, the entertainers and their dramatic pauses. Michael Jackson referred to it as “simmering” or bathing in the moonlight.


“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats
One of the 11 truths of systems thinking, identified by Peter Senge, is “The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back.” In other words, the more you try to improve things, the more effort seems to be required, and the worse things can become. This is called compensating feedback. According to Senge, compensating feedback occurs when “well-intentioned interventions call forth responses from the system that offset the benefits of the intervention.” Here’s an example of compensating feedback:

Quit smoking suddenly–>Gain weight.–>Decreased self-esteem.–>Smoke to relieve the stress.


Instead of forcing more action, try stopping. Pause, step back and observe the situation before trying to enforce change. Develop the confidence to observe what happens without additional effort. Pausing will help you to sharpen your senses, learn something new, identify bootlenecks & barriers to change, realize new approaches, discover new paths, or even experience some magic. So slow down. Maybe even stop. For maximum and lasting impact, a slow, gradual approach works better than a forceful or toilsome effort. Let go and let it flow.

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Kishau Rogers is the editor and founder of The bigThinking Project. The bigThinking Project is a resource center and collaborative innovation project which promotes the principles of systems thinking. Our mission is to empower the next generation of innovators to think bigger, to think better and to create solutions which make significant impact in the areas that matter. Kishau Rogers is an award-winning entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience in the computer science industry. She is a serial entrepreneur having founded and co-founded companies such as Websmith Group, TimeStudy, PeerLoc Inc., and Websmith Studio.

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