The Importance of Being Present

listening-coffee

Have you ever been accused of checking out of a conversation or not paying attention to what’s going on around you? Do you find yourself thinking about work when you are at home? Or maybe you’re distracted at work because you are reliving the argument you had with your spouse that morning.

Being present, meaning your mind & attention are in the same place as your body, is vital to experiencing fulfilling relationships and achieving your goals. It is not enough for your body to be home with your loved ones. Your mind and attention must be there as well. 

Being present now means no regrets later.

I’ll never forget my younger brother calling me out during a face to face conversation. It happened many years ago, but it has stuck with me and helped me to be more present. We were talking one day and I was distractedly listening to him tell me about something. Now, am I really listening to him if I’m distracted? No. In order to truly listen, I must be present and attentive to him. He could see my eyes wandering and chasing after anything that moved and caught my attention.

It was frustrating and belittling to him, so he said something about it. Even though it was uncomfortable for me to hear his accusation, I’m so glad he called it to my attention. I felt horrible and knew I had hurt his feelings. It was disrespectful on my part, by not showing him the proper respect or even common courtesy he deserved. While I can’t say I never got distracted again, I can say that I have made a conscious effort to listen differently – to everyone with whom I’m in a conversation.

Sometimes, we can be so productivity oriented that we are not able to be fully present with the people around us. Recently, I was visiting my in-laws for the weekend. I also had work expectations and goals for myself. It was a struggle to figure out which was more important. I could seclude myself in another part of the house and concentrate on work tasks OR I could set work aside and be interactive with my family.

The decision to be present was not an easy one, but it was the better choice.

I chose to be interactive and present while I had the opportunity to be with my family. In order to accomplish that, we had to be in close proximity to each other. We talked and got caught up on the latest happenings. The weather was beautiful so we spent some time on the back patio, catching some sun and enjoying the atmosphere. Then we played a game in the backyard and had fun competing against one another. 

I spent time in the garage with my father-in-law, as he proudly showed me his new lathe and other tools that enabled him to create beautiful pens from acrylic and wood. This is a dream come true for him, a hobby he has wanted to do for many years. It was my privilege to listen to him as he shared it with me. Had I not chosen to be present, I would have missed it.

I made a decision to be present while I was with the people near me.  You know, I could have been in the same room and yet not really been present with or attentive to them. Oftentimes, we sit in the same room with our family and friends but we are distracted by our devices and not taking full advantage of the time we have together. We see it happen a lot in public – people sitting at a restaurant together, but everyone is on their phone, instead of in face to face conversation.

It’s time to put the phone down and pay attention IN REAL LIFE!

Now, I’m not saying you should never be distracted by your phone or tablet while others are in the room with you. What I am saying is it’s important to check yourself to see if you are always distracted or always “checked out” of conversations. Are you giving the people near you the attention they deserve? When you come home from work, are you fully home or do you still have work on your mind? I’m talking about patterns of behavior, not occasional exceptions.

PRACTICAL TIP: If you struggle with making the transition between work and home, here’s something to try. When you drive in your driveway, pause. Take 30 seconds to consciously make a decision that when you walk through the door, you will leave work behind and turn your attention to your family. 

If you need more than 30 seconds to make the transition, pick a point along your route home as a trigger. Maybe it’s a traffic light or a particular intersection. Choose to begin your transition there.

Set an intention to be present with your loved ones. I promise you, they will appreciate it.

Life is fragile. None of us know how much time we might have on this earth. No one ever said, “I sure wish I had spent more time at work or spent more time letting it consume me.” Most people wish they had spent more time, more quality time, with their loved ones. Isn’t that what we all want? We all want rich, fulfilling human relationships. When I come to the end of my life, I don’t want to have regrets about how I spent my time or how I treated people. 

Choosing to be present now, will eliminate regret later.  

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