Costa Rica guest blog

Guest Post: Jay’s Conscious Pause Approach

Over the next couple posts, we have invited some friends of ours to share their thoughts on taking a pause.


First up is Jay MacGillivray. Jay is a curious person with a diverse career spanning from communication to technology to the arts. He has been working remotely for a number of years and understands the value of flexible work environments. His most recent venture uses his expertise to consult with companies and organizations to implement effective remote working structures. This work has become even more vital in the current global pandemic when so many of us are working from home. To learn more, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.


My first pause was accidental. In 2000, at twenty-nine, the small technology startup I worked at was bought by ATT. Fearing the bureaucracy, I took the buyout and flew to the jungles of South America for a couple of weeks, my first time outside of North America. While there, the internet bubble burst and my next job collapsed. For the first time I was totally free to explore, to follow my passions, to spend time with myself, without a time limit. I stayed adventuring for six months, returned to Canada and radically changed my life. What happened?!

In my twenties I fell into the technology sector by accident, learned the language, then threw myself into career advancement. I was soon working 80 hours a week, living in four time zones, entirely focused on the immediacy of the professional treadmill. Successful, but largely unfulfilled. My travel pause became a true journey inward. I rediscovered my love of writing, and dedicated time to it every day. I let experiences happen, and followed my heart towards new friends and adventures. Wide-ranging conversations with vagabond backpackers challenged my Canadian pre-conceptions about work and priorities. I became stronger and prouder of my personal self over my work self. I decided the skills that helped propel my career to date could be useful in any situation. What I was missing was passion.

I returned to Calgary, fell in love with an ingeniously creative theatre company, joined their board, and the next stage of my life began. Stepping away and getting clear on myself allowed passions to bubble to the surface. I followed them, energized, and a deeper connection between myself and my work emerged. Clearly recognizing your passions and what really moves you, allows you to delve into them fully, deeply, and profoundly.

I came away from my first trip with a basic recipe of an intentional ‘pause and get to know yourself again’, one I’ve tried to follow since. Every few years, I recommend taking three consecutive weeks away from work, to re-identify who you are and what you love, not just following your responsibilities. This approach becomes more than a pause from work, it’s a trip to visit yourself.

  • Week One, Relax: Take a deep breath from the busyness of life
  • Week Two, Separate: Start to separate from your day to day responsibilities and just live
  • Week Three, Clarity: Touch base with the real you…what do I love, what do I want?


In this intentional pause, Week Three revelations are essential:
How do I like to live? What makes me happy? Not ‘what does my career or personal situation allow? For me, this space of reflecting and listening to me is where the big changes come from.


In 2016, my life got difficult. Deaths of multiple friends, ending of an important relationship, career stagnation, and general exhaustion overcame me. It was time for another three weeks away. I left with the intention to be open to whatever I found, endeavouring to listen to myself, not my circumstances. In Costa Rica, I attended a festival and reconnected with my loves of dance and community building. I lived with dear friends in a tiny close-knit community. I meshed with entrepreneurs and digital nomads. I was active and adventurous daily. Being part of this place and this community inspired me. An internal bell chimed loudly, and the three-week space allowed me to recognize opportunities in these glorious surroundings. My negative recent circumstances became positives as they provided me the flexibility to adjust my life.  Seven months later, I returned to Costa Rica, this time as a digital nomad. I now spend multiple months a year working remotely, an experience that energizes my life and career every single day.

I identified a unique path for myself because I intentionally gave myself permission to stop, the opportunity to listen, and the time to ponder. These provided me the power and confidence to act and to make the changes I required. When you connect deeply with your passions, following them becomes easy. Key is taking the time to really know you, not simply what you do. After pausing and listening, give yourself the time and space to integrate learnings and recalibrate. The effect can be profound.

In spring 2020 I returned to my festival in Costa Rica, as more changes were rocking my world. This pause became monumental in effect, as I dug deep into myself and followed my heart towards new learnings. Immediately after, the world entered into the full-scale COVID-pause. This distressing, scary time became my small gift, as I spent time digging deep into the passions and new goals just discovered, with space to truly integrate. Today I feel re-calibrated and much more ready to move forward, energized largely because I first took time for myself.

Three intentional and consecutive weeks away from work provides the space for introspection, for clarity, for passion reconnection. It is a profound gift and opportunity with huge benefits.


When is your next intentional pause?


If these questions in the post called to you, reach out to us to help you find the resources to take a pause of your own. Email us at to get started.


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