Oh how maligned the term avoidance.
Oh the haters.  

But what if avoidance was a winning strategy? 

What if avoiding fixing a problem was the best way toward solving it? 

Stay with me. 

First, let’s define our terms. Avoidance is “the action of keeping away from or not doing something.” For the sake of this discussion, I’m not talking about avoiding your emotions, feelings or commitments. I’m using avoidance in the context of over-thinkers who endlessly ruminate over an unsolved problem requiring endless charges up the hill –usually with little to show for it, and at pretty big costs. 

To people like us, problem solving is seen as heroic and avoidance is seen as lazy, unproductive–even irresponsible or weak.  But what if we flipped it?

What if deliberate avoidance was the best, highest use of your time and a powerful way toward a solution? That’s been my experience. Over again, I’ve seen the pattern. Taking a break from solution-ing is the most powerful tool we have to create breakthrough.

This is why I’m so committed to the power of intentional pause as a tool for clarity, inner guidance and inspired action.  

Think about it. Avoidance is a natural reaction to things feeling stuck, hard and grind-y. It’s a signal that enormous effort is likely required to move the boulder just an inch up the proverbial hill.  So why do we judge ourselves for avoiding it when it’s quite legitimate to do so? Why not conserve our energy and put it somewhere more powerful and playful?  Yes, we can force it.

And we do.

But instead of “powering through,” what if we allowed it to be stuck? What if we removed the need to solve it? Fix it? Make it happen?

What then? 

What if we just left the problem where it is and intentionally changed the subject? This has happened to me several times since starting my business. I started analyzing a problem or decision. I started the mental spin of pros and cons, shoulds and coulds, with no one solution getting traction.

Nothing clicking.  

Then, after noticing that my mind had become obsessed with the fixing of it, and it covered no new ground, and it took up a lot of mental and emotional resources, I had a choice to make.

I could continue to rev, or I could release it.  

I’ve done this deliberately now on some pretty high-stakes decisions and I’m rewarded with powerful insight every time.

Backing off the solution-ing and using that time instead to engage in activities I love–learning new subjects, taking walks, listening to interviews of inspiring people–is the way I move forward.

Paradoxically, when I’m avoiding fixing a problem, I’m more productive at solving it. It’s in this pause when the aha always comes. I’m most productive when I’m actively avoiding the old tired path and stepping into new fertile territory: new ideas, vistas, possibilities.

From this new space, insight is born. Then I’m able to move forward on that old “problem” with new and fresh ideas. Or I realize that the old problem isn’t worth solving, it was the wrong question.  

This month, play with the idea of avoidance as a winning strategy. See what happens when you back off from fixing. Notice what it feels like to honor the urge to avoid something that’s stuck and intentionally, deliberately change the subject.

Fill the time you normally use to fret, worry and puzzle over with activities that are fun, inspiring and restful. And then listen for the breakthrough.  

Three avoidance activities that really paid off for me this week were: Marie Kondo-ing two kitchen drawers, total daydreaming while on a hike, and reading a random chapter from a book on intuition.

All of these helped bust me through a funk I had around a planning decision. 

Now your turn. 

And drop me a note letting me know how it goes. Extra credit points if you can do it with a sense of trust that the solution is on its way. 

Meredith Vaish
Chief Clarity Officer, Pause Box
P.S. If you’re interested in hearing more about the power of taking a break (and how a forced pause turned out to be the best thing that happened to me), listen to this recent interview.