From my window seat on a Coach bus bound for Chicago O’Hare Airport, I watched the bus driver hustling below to load passengers’ luggage in the berth, in an attempt to make up for arriving 30 minutes late. Tension permeated the air as aggravated riders worried about possible missed flights. As the driver rushed back onto the bus and pulled out, I gazed down and saw she’d left the luggage compartment door open! An uproar ensued, luggage flew and brakes slammed, the chaos costing everyone more time. The airport atmosphere was even more intense, as I spotted a professionally attired woman running out of the restroom with a paper toilet seat cover stuck in her tailored pants waistband…
Whether you call it hurry, distraction, or poor time management, the issue boils down to one thing: not being PRESENT. Consumed by trying to do too much at once, or thinking about what already did, or what might happen, we lose the only reality we have: the here and now. Sadly, for some people, this is a way of life, and the cost is dear. When we’re not present, we sacrifice the very heart of being alive, a gift best used and shared. And if we’re in a leadership role, we compromise our effectiveness by not paying attention to the tasks (or people) at hand.
Being present sounds simple enough, but it’s definitely not always easy. Progress is possible, though, with commitment and practice:
- Slow Down! We live on a busy planet, every second of our time up for grabs by any number of activities. This is magnified during the holidays, when on top of our ordinary responsibilities, we are expected to rustle up presents for all our family members, along with a five-course festive dinner! It’s time to breathe, relax, and force yourself, if necessary, to do one thing at a time. Give that one task your full and undivided attention until it is complete, before moving on to the next.
- Simplify. Don’t overbook, make unrealistic to-do lists, try to please everyone, and take over tasks that are not your responsibility. Yes, this is a tall order for perfectionists or over-achievers, but what a RELIEF to not have to be Superman/woman! Letting go of the need to control people, events, and outcomes gives us the opportunity to focus on the only thing we DO have some influence over: ourselves and our own attitudes/choices.
- Pay Attention and Connect. When you’re interacting with someone, look into their eyes as they’re speaking. In fact, challenge yourself to note their eye color. You may be restless, but pretend they’re sharing the secret to eliminating cellulite! People need to feel heard and validated; even if you don’t necessarily agree with what they say, you give service by really listening. And I probably don’t have to remind you—but I will—of the value of mindful, genuine communication in building effective business relationships.
In this season of giving, offer the greatest gift you can to others, one that doesn’t even cost money: your full, undistracted attention. We strengthen our ability to do this when we practice being available to each richly real moment of our lives. These limited commodity moments will eventually run out. Don’t miss a moment to be present.