“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” – Eckhart Tolle
You’re writing an email, reading instant messages, updating your LinkedIn status, listening to music, taking a call, and thinking about what you’re going to order for dinner tonight, all within the same five minutes.
You think, “Gosh I’m productive!” when in fact, you’re really quite the opposite. We now live in a world where information is at our finger tips and we are no longer spending countless hours reading and/or watching TV. Instead, the majority of us are getting lost in the vortex of surfing the web, and as a result it’s becoming increasingly challenging to remain present.
Being present took on a new meaning for me when I became a parent. Throughout his small but vast life to-date, my son has been inadvertently teaching me to keep me calm, clear, and focused on the present moment. Kids don’t care what time it is, or that you have an important call to make. They’re oblivious to your fast approaching project deadline, or that your favorite TV show is starting in five minutes. They exist in their own ‘now’ and generally focus on one moment and experience at a time…even if that moment or experience only lasts 60 seconds.
My eighteen-month-old son consistently reminds me of the importance of being truly present. He requires me to be focused on one thing, and hearing what he is trying to express within the scope of his current 30 word vocabulary. He doesn’t waste time when he expresses his wants, needs, and feelings. He’ll call me out on my distractions when other people in my life won’t. He acts with purpose when he does things that he knows he shouldn’t, just to bring me back to the moment that we’re in. It’s a very effective method (to say the least), and has helped me gain perspective on being mindful, while also reminding me how important my time is with him. This valuable lesson has spilled over into my day-to-day life.
Now, when I’m on a call, or have one of my team members in my office, I’m listening and hearing them. I make a conscious effort to turn my computer monitor, turn off my email notifications and transfer my phone calls to voicemail until I’ve completed the task at hand. When I’m writing an email, I don’t reply to instant messages until I click ‘send’. When I’m hosting a meeting, I’m fully present in it, which often leads to a reasonably early wrap-up, and a beneficial gift of time to those in attendance.
I still have a distance to go in my efforts to master being present. My level of self-awareness and my relationship with my son are what give me the focus to continue to up my game. The next time you are juggling five tasks at once, challenge yourself to focus on only one, with a heartfelt intent to be truly present.
“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot
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