Often we react quickly without hesitation. Something happens — and we're already responding. This can be helpful for fight-or-flight situations, but unhelpful in most situations we experience day-to-day.
Yesterday I was triggered by a conversation and was compelled to respond as soon as I could. I wanted to "win" the conversation and do so as swiftly as possible. But before I clicked send, I took a breath. That breath gave me just enough pause to consider how I wanted to respond, not just how I was ready to respond. Though the pause my breath created was marginal, the difference it made was considerable.
Often I can only squeak out a small pause when my mind and body are wanting to respond immediately, but I can build off of a small pause. In less upsetting situations I can take a few breaths or more to gather myself and live in the way I want to, driven by my highest intentions.
We'll be tested often and the more often we can create space to respond in the best way our highest selves (at that time) know how, the better off we and those we interact with will be. The key is to approach this with a growth mindset. An immediate, suboptimal response today may become a situation you much better handle next week.
We won't always respond in a way we're proud of, and we won't always get things right, but the more space we can create, the better off we'll be.
Pause, take a breath, and proceed (and live!) in the best way you know how.