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How do you react when you’re given the unexpected opportunity to slow down? Do you embrace it? Or get frustrated and fight it?

This past Sunday, I found myself in a traffic stoppage unique to mountain communities like Evergreen: an elk jam.

Evergreen is home to some large elk herds that roam through neighborhoods and golf courses and across roads and truly give no f**ks if they stop traffic.

The herd I happened upon was huge–I’d estimate about 50. They’d just decided to cross a major thoroughfare and took their sweet time doing so. One youngun even decided to nurse in the middle of the road.

I found myself at the front of the line of cars. I wasn’t going anywhere for a while, so I took a video and some photos.

Shortly after the video above ended, the herd paused and I was able to (carefully) continue on my way.

When I showed the video to a friend, she commented “I hope you weren’t in a hurry!”

Right then, I wasn’t. But even if I had been, I wouldn’t have minded. As I said to her, every time I get to experience this is a gift. Not only is it a gift to see these magnificent creatures up close (and from the safety of my car!)–it’s also a gift of a moment to pause, and a reminder to take the opportunities granted to me to do so.

I’m incredibly fortunate to live in this mountain community and I remember that daily. There are plenty of people here who get frustrated by the elk, and who act in dangerous ways (to both humans and elk) as a result. That benefits no one.

When a metaphorical elk herd slows you down, how do you react?
Do you embrace it?
Or fight it?
And how does your reaction impact how you show up for others?

Nearly every day we’re granted opportunities to pause, to breathe for a moment. It probably isn’t as cool as an elk herd blocking traffic. Maybe it’s that extra red light cycle. Or a delayed meeting. Or an internet outage.

All of those situations can be frustrating for sure. They also can be opportunities to take a moment and breathe. Relax. Rather than fill that space with a phone call or an email, we can just be in the gift of a pause.

And here’s the magic: every time we take that pause, that moment to breathe and just be, there is a positive impact on how we show up to others–how we show up as leaders, colleagues, partners, parents, and friends.

So I encourage you, ESPECIALLY in this end-of-year time of crazy and chaos, to take every brief opportunity to pause that’s granted to you.

Try to set aside the frustration, the anxiety about filling every moment.

Take a breath.
Enjoy some quiet.
Just be.

And when the pause is over–when your personal elk herd invites you to move on–do a quick self-check into how you feel. Perhaps you’ll find you have a bit more mental space, a bit more patience, and a bit more capacity to show up fully with those around you.

PS – Sound up on the video to hear the juvenile elk calling out.

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