I’ve been acutely aware lately of how important it is to be present.
Recently someone said that those who are thinking about the past are depressed, those thinking about the future are anxious and those who are living in the moment are present. This statement had a profound impact on me and is something that really made me stop and think about how I spend my time. At times, I am guilty of being stuck in the past. Who doesn’t think about the past? I am also guilty of worrying about the future yet I would never consider myself to be depressed or anxious. I started to think about how efficient or inefficient I am with my time. Showing up vs. being present. Listening on a call vs. being an active participant on the call. Working with a client vs. being present at that client meeting.
Focus on the Moment
I realized that I needed to focus more on the moment – especially when my kids needed to remind me to put my phone away! So, I recently challenged myself to do a better job of being present at all of the things on my to-do list and to do a better job at compartmentalizing tasks. In other words, trying to be more on my game all the time and being present in the here and now – since I really don’t have control over anything else.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. How many of us can go more than 10 minutes without checking our email or text messages or social media apps? As a mother of four, I spend a lot of time waiting at my kids’ various after school activities. It is so easy to just spend that time on the phone checking Facebook or Instagram. If I am waiting at an activity where I can’t actually watch my kids (dance vs. hockey) I now challenge myself to keep my phone in my pocket and do something more productive. I leave a book in my car.
And then, there’s my knitting.
My mother-in-law taught my daughters and I to knit last year. She thought it would be a relaxing hobby for me and a great way for me to unwind. Well, I am not quite there yet! As a perfectionist, I wanted to figure it out right away and be mistake-free. That isn’t happening, yet. However, it is a great thing to do for improving my mindfulness and my ability to be singularly focused. When I am knitting, I cannot multitask. I have to focus only on this new skill. I am still perfecting my stitches and the art of knitting, and I am ok with that, because it is the one activity that guarantees I am present.
Forget Everything Else
It is so easy to get distracted by things in our day-to-day lives. We all have so much going on at once. Between work and family and friends we could fill every hour of each day and still not accomplish everything we want to. I often joke about how forgetful I’ve become lately. I can walk into a room and cannot remember what it was that I was going to get there. How ironic is it that I am now trying to teach myself to focus on the present and to forget about everything else; forget about one thing when doing another thing. By doing so, I am engaged and present and ultimately far more productive.
When I reflect back on some of the many parties that I’ve hosted for family and friends over the years, I recall putting on the invitation “No presents please – just your presence”. Time to follow my own advice. Be present. Be present when alone. Be present with family and friends. Be present with work colleagues.
We can really help ourselves, and those whom we are helping personally and professionally, by gifting ourselves the gift of being present. There truly is no better present than the present!