The mindful pause is a strategy I introduced last year. It relies on tapping into your natural strengths right away.  It can be very effective and has just two simple steps:

1.) Take 15 seconds to feel your inhale and exhale.

2.) Think to yourself: Which of my character strengths might I bring forth right now?

Why use The Mindful Pause?

This approach clears the dust of your autopilot mind and opens you to see your inner potential. It short-circuits your autopilot mind and brings you to the experience of the present moment. This involves trusting yourself that a relevant strength will emerge. It involves being open to what might be possible. It involves metacognition to watch your mind and to see what surfaces to the forefront of your attention. It involves intuition, a sense of knowing what is there, within you. And, it involves courage to then “go with” the strength that surfaces.

This activity works like a home-run for me (see several examples here) and for many practitioners and educators (see several examples from helping professionals here). But, of course, it’s not for everyone.

Therefore, I’ve devised 5 additional “mindful pauses” that widen the reach to more people.

1.) Mindful Pause – Your Signature.

a.) Pause and breathe for 15+ seconds.

b.) Mentally review your top 5 strengths, seeing each one clearly in your mind’s eye.

c.) Ask yourself: Which of these 5 strengths might I bring forth right now?

Why use this? We use our signature strengths throughout the day, often without knowing it. This activity helps us remember who we are. It’s a natural energizer too.

2.) Mindful Pause – Your Role.

a.) Pause and breathe for 15+ seconds.

b.) Ask yourself: What’s my role here, in this situation? How might I honor this role more fully?

Why use this? In any situation, we have some “role” we are playing. It could be the role of father or sister, of boss or of colleague. Maybe it’s simply the role of participant, employee, or listener. Whatever the role, we could probably embody the role more deeply, genuinely, with greater mindfulness and strength, right?

This activity leads me in certain situations to try to be “the best nephew I can be” or “the best colleague” I can be in a particular situation. When we remind ourselves of the role we are in, our strengths use becomes more context-specific. We shift from mindless expressions of just being honest or curious or creative. We shift to mindful strength use. Our expression becomes more balanced, context-focused, and role-appropriate.

3.) Mindful Pause – A Specific Strength.

a.) Choose any of the 24 character strengths you would like to use in the situation you are in or are about to be in.

b.) Pause and breathe for 15+ seconds.

c.) Call forth the strength you’ve chosen and breathe for another 15-20 seconds, knowing you have this strength within you and you’ve used it in the past.

Why use this? Research shows that we can develop our character strengths. Despite our character being a stable part of our personality, recent studies are showing our personality can change through our deliberate efforts. This means that if we want to become kinder, funnier, more grateful, or more creative, we can!

4.) Mindful Pause – Your Goodness.

a.) Pause and breathe for 15+ seconds.

b.) Ask yourself the question. How might I bring forth goodness in this moment?

Why use this? Goodness can be expressed in a virtually infinite number of forms. For example, you might compliment a colleague, you might express kindness inward and be good to yourself, or you might express one of your strengths in a stronger way to benefit someone. To take on an attitude of goodness is to become “other-oriented.”

5.) Mindful Pause – Just Be.

a.) Pause for 10-15 seconds. Feel the fullness of each inhale and each exhale.

b.) Remind yourself that nothing else matters right now other than simply breathing and being there for your breath.

Why use this? All-too-often we push ourselves to do more, accomplish more, be more. This can be a great attitude and approach but it has its limitations. Our minds also need to pause and “just be” with our experience – not having to change anything, not having to do anything. As Jon Kabat-Zinn has famously said: We need to bring the” being” back into human beings. Often, we are human “doers” above everything else. This activity reminds us of that wisdom.

Which Mindful Pause is the best fit for you right now?


Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Character strengths interventions: A field-guide for practitioners. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press, and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

VIA Institute on Character: