Most people misunderstand mindfulness as simply calming down, when really it’s about learning how to stop our mind from working against us and instead learn to use it to work better for us, helping us think with more care and make better decisions, faster. 

We have three different parts of the brain that we use interchangeably, without even knowing it. The conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. To start taking advantage of our human ability to use our mind productively and constructively, Power‐Pausing is the essential tool that helps us access our so‐called “higher‐executive function,” also called the “smart brain,” which you can also call the growth mindset, where our thinking is constructive and we make better decisions.


Thoughts come and go, fast and furiously, and if we were to pause and listen to them, we would notice that they often come as questions that we ask ourselves over and over. Slowing down to notice our thoughts is the first step to reclaiming agency over them, which is the practice of mindfulness. 

Let’s get to know the different areas of the brain and how the way we ask questions can help us direct our attention. Each part of the brain is connected to either survival mode, connection mode, and/or constructive‐solution mode. As a result, when navigating through life, we focus on three main questions: “Am I safe?” “Do I belong?” and “What can I learn from this?”


The unconscious mind is the reactive mind, also called the “brainstem.” This is the part of our mind that’s running our automatic unconscious behaviors that make up about 95 percent of our mindset, and it’s connected to our survival instincts. When we are under stress and cortisol is high, this part of the brain is automatically focused on the question: “Am I safe?”

Perhaps you can imagine how exhausted you would be if you were to consciously ask yourself if you were safe all day long. This has helped us survive evolution but can also evoke survival stress, which is when cortisol flares and takes over our mind. What also happens at this stage is we react to triggers and our focus narrows on just getting through the day which means we lose out on connection and creativity. The key to reclaiming agency over this stress mode is to pause so that we can recognize when it happens and then we can use the power of asking better questions to get unstuck.

Once we pause and recognize that we’re in a spiral of fear-driven thoughts, triggered by the FUD, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, we can pause and take a few deep breaths to calm down our nervous system, slow our thoughts. Once we have slowed down and come to recognize the thoughts that are filling up our mind we can reset our intention, which then refuels our attention to a more productive mindset. 

The question you can ask is: How am I thinking right now, am I being critical or curious?


Once we can come out of survival mode, our intention shifts to being emotionally and socially safe and our need to connect with others is the intention that fuels our attention. We can be more present and start engaging our subconscious mind, also called the “emotional brain,” where the question that directs our attention is: “Do I belong?”

Our need to belong makes us look for cues that we are seen, heard, included, and that we matter. The more we communicate, observe, and engage to ensure we are included and belong, the more we feel like we’re part of a community.

Because we look for cues and feedback from others, we naturally wonder if people like us and whether we are being listened to. It’s the emotional part of the brain that’s active but also often the subconscious mind, which is why we need to learn to Power-Pause so that we can better engage in a more mindful and constructive way. This is just one of many reasons why self-care isn’t just about us, but about our connection with others, too. 

The question you can ask here to connect better is: How am I feeling right now? 


When we use Power-Pausing to come out of survival mode and we feel emotionally and socially safe, we can start to access the third level of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is our problem solving mind. We can now use the way we ask questions to be curious and constructive, and we consciously direct our questions and ask, “What can I learn from this?”

This is where we tap into our ability to adapt to and harness change so that we can grow. We become creative and constructive, and we ask questions that keep us exploring possibilities and guide us toward effective problem solving and innovation.

I’m not talking about results here. I mean learning. Growth is emotional, spiritual, and mental. It’s about growing relationships, our skills, and an ability to keep building a life we love which is inclusive of all our three core relationships—the one we have with ourselves, others, and work. Because whether or not we want to admit it, they go hand-in-hand to develop who we are. 

The question you can ask here is: What do I need so that I can…? whatever the challenge is for you to harness. 

Taking a pause, also known as Power-Pausing, to listen and notice where our attention is at and reset our focus on what we are trying to achieve is how we can stop our mind from being full of thoughts that are working against us, and instead being mindful of what we need to get our mind to working better for us, achieving the goals we are aiming and hoping for.