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Do YOU have the courage to hit the PAUSE button?

“Pause.” This was the mantra that Maria Shriver chose to impart to the graduating students of USC’s Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism on May 11, 2012.

Photo via What a strange sentiment to press upon a graduating class. It’s like telling runners to stop and stretch, right as you’re counting down to start a race. There I was, amongst friends and peers in our commencement regalia, ready to charge at the world after years of readings, tests, thesis surveys and final papers. The excitement and expectation for “what’s next,” was almost palpable—and what were our parting words as we were sent out to the battlefield of the real world? “Pause.”

“Before you go out and press that fast foward button, I'm hoping - I'm praying - that you’ll have the courage to first press the pause button…PAUSE -- and take the time to find out, what’s important to you. Find out what you love, what’s real and true to you -- so it can infuse and inform your work and make it your own.”

Maria Shriver’s words were simple and straightforward, but heartfelt and surprisingly apt for our group, raring to change the world. In fact, they’re apt for anyone in this future-obsessed, tweet-as-you-experience, work-weary world.

I personally have not been the best at this “pause” exercise. I’ve moved to 5 different cities (in 3 different continents) in the last four years or so, I started work at Consensus Inc. during finals week at USC, and I’m constantly thinking about what’s next—what I need to do, where I need to be, how I’m supposed to get there. With so much going on, it’s tough to focus on the present. But if we’re so busy living in the future, how are we supposed to experience and appreciate right now?

I think as professional communicators, it’s so important to intentionally take the time every now and then to follow Shriver’s advice. Taking the time to truly listen to a conversation, ruminate over a good article, entertain a seemingly crazy idea—these things feed innovation and creativity! They make us better message makers, and they make us better people as well.

In the midst of this crazy month of May, I’m forwarding Shriver’s challenge for our graduating class to whoever reads this blog post. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of your everyday life, do you have the courage to take a moment, take a breath, and take the time to stop and live in the present?

Read Maria Shriver’s full Commencement Address here.

Tala Esguerra is an Account Specialist for Consensus Inc. When she has the time to “Pause,” she likes to cook, get lost in good literature, and travel to new places.

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