Today’s world contains so many incredible technologies that can put absolutely anything we could want to see, hear or read one click away. We are always connected to family, friends, information, news, music, shows, etc. The list can literally go on and on.
The capabilities and rewards of our world today is incredible, but what is the cost? Let’s be real – nothing ‘that good’ is truly free…
The cost, while sounding innocent enough, is a steep one – the cost is the present moment.
Sure, it can seem like we are more in tune with what is going on at any one moment, anywhere on the globe, but what about your moment – where you are – with who you are with… Is that worth losing?
Instead of being present, we are afraid of missing out – what’s going on with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, (or 10 other services I’ve probably never even heard of).
Rather than being in the moment, we are constantly reading never ending news feeds – likely filled with mostly negative topics of course.
Instead of being grateful for all we have or accomplished, we are searching for the next book we should read or podcast we need to download to continually improve.
Rather than maximizing the potential of today, we are thinking about the to-do’s or deadlines of tomorrow.
Instead of being fully engaged in a meeting, we are checking e-mail on our laptop or messages on our phone.
There was a time when I remembered hearing the popular phrase ‘Live for the Moment”. However, now I feel we are more often living for another moment, even though we have an incredible one right in front of us.
Given that the technology and stimuli around us will only become more pervasive over time, what can we do to reclaim our present, and live today and this moment to its absolute potential?
I wish I could say I had the answer. Just as much as I wish I could say I wasn’t guilty of every one of the above examples of not being present, but the reality is that I struggle every day, and I am very much guilty of each one.
One question I can answer is whether I will let those distractions take me away from the present as much as they did yesterday – the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’
What brought this topic to the forefront of my mind was a very simple yet impactful interaction with my 3 year old. It was a regular Saturday morning. I was hanging out with my daughter while she played with every single toy she has, while occasionally looking down at my phone or to the muted College Gameday broadcast on ESPN. All of a sudden she was kneeling down right in front of me with a big smile on her face. “Daddy – come hide under my blanket! We need to hide before mommy comes to sneak us!”
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself – between her excitement, the smile on her face, and the fact that mommy had no idea she was supposed to be sneaking up on us, it was just a great moment.
So I said ‘sure’!
There we were, hiding under her blanket waiting for someone that had no idea she was supposed to be coming to get us.
While under the blanket, I realized I could have stayed in that moment for the rest of the day and considered it a productive and fantastic Saturday, and it was all thanks to the innocence of a 3 year old.
It didn’t matter what I could be doing, what needed to get done, or what might be going on in some social media feed – all that mattered was that we were under that blanket together, and having a great time. Needless to say my wife did end up sneaking up on us and got us both good! I’m pretty sure she has ESP – or ESPN if you are a Zoolander fan.
So how can we all be better at giving ourselves permission to embrace the current moment, and live it to its fullest potential?
Break Free of the Distractions and Live Your Life
Eliminating all of the distractions is no easy task – honestly it may be near impossible.
Now I don’t use the word ‘impossible’ lightly – I only say that because all of these technological distractions also have be used as tools which have a very positive upside and can enable us do great things.
So rather than getting rid of them and moving off grid to the middle of nowhere, let’s look at a variety of tools we can use to regain control of our attention and refocus it into the current moment.
Breathe – If you look into any mindfulness practice or article on present moment awareness, you are going to see a strong recommendation to just breathe! There really is no simpler way to dial into where you are, what you are doing, and how you are feeling than focusing on your breath going in and out. It’s also a great way to bring stress levels down and get your head back in the game when things get crazy. Breath work is also a critical and foundational component of my next tool…
Meditation – Personally, focusing on meditation has probably helped me the most in not just getting into the moment, but also giving me better awareness when I am letting myself get distracted to snap back into the moment. Meditation can be as simple as counting breaths from 1 to 10 and starting over at 1 for as many times as you need. Or, you can leverage guided meditations to dig into something more specific. I’ve been using Headspace for a while and am currently working through a 30-session Focus pack. Go as low tech or high tech as you are comfortable going, but definitely dabble!
Make the person you are with the most important thing in the world – One way to stay in the moment while with other people is to state to yourself that the person you are with and talking to is the most important person right now. The truth is, they are! As I’ve mentioned before, our scarcest and most precious resource is time. So no matter what else is going on in the world, you and those around you invested your collective time into being together, so make sure you make the most of it! Laugh, cry, have incredible conversations, go deep. Maximize your time investment and don’t let anything else get in the way. Not only will you build strong relationships, but you will become more effective in the process.
Attack what’s bothering you – Often we are taken away from the present because we are worried about something else going on in our lives. Our brains are always going to be wired to have an easier time looking for the bad or the threat, and therefore worrisome things will always have a high potential to distract us. So why waste that current moment – go take action! If something is bothering you – go solve it / fix it / accept it, and put it behind you. The more you push it off, the more it will plague your headspace and take you out of enjoying where you are and what you are doing. Attack it and move forward.
Find ways to play – When we were kids we could play for hours on end, only stopping because it was time to come home and have dinner. In those series of moments, nothing else mattered. We were laser-focused on fun and nothing else was going to get in the way. Over time, the concept of ‘play’ as we grew older became less socially acceptable and significantly de-prioritized. Imaginations were replaced with expectations and goal setting. I argue that we need to find ways to reincorporate play into our adult lives. Maybe it is signing up for rec leagues to get back into team sports, or letting yourself draw, color or work through puzzles. Or maybe you make more time to join in with your kids during their play time. Whatever the activity is for you, give yourself permission to invest the time and immerse yourself in the moment.
Practice Gratitude – Too often our distractions are focused on what we want in the future or on the regrets of the past which takes us away from where we are. The reality is, we have a ton to be grateful for! For some it may not seem that way, but the fact of the matter is that we are all alive with a world of possibilities before us if we choose to take the reigns and own our present. Be intentional about acknowledging the great things in your life that you have right now. This doesn’t have to be fancy. Tell someone close to you what you are grateful for, or grab a pencil and paper and write down everything you are grateful for in the next 5 to 10 minutes. If you are honest with yourself, the results will inspire you!
Be OK not doing anything: be bored – Depending on what type of parenting philosophy you may buy into, there are many folks who believe that letting your children be bored is a good thing! It allows them to find creative ways to entertain themselves and make the most of the moment. Sounds like a novel idea! Speaking for myself, I struggle with allowing myself to be bored. Like most, I have a laundry list of to-do’s, goals, projects, etc., and when I am bored I quickly start to run through that list – what could I be doing right now? Let’s allow ourselves to be bored and see what we come up with to entertain ourselves! We are too used to going non stop every single day, and sometimes we just need to just be. It’s hard to do, but worth it if you can let go.
The Road Ahead
Like most roads in the personal development arena, we are never going to really reach our destination, but we can keep pushing ourselves to get better. In reality, life is not about reaching the destination – it’s all about the journey, and allowing ourselves to be in the moment let’s us make the most of that journey.
Whether at home, at work or on the field, being in the moment can create better experiences, memories, relationships and results.
Let’s make a commitment to build the ‘skills’ and ‘muscles’ required to be in the moment and win in the moment.
Discussion Question: What is 1 tool that you can incorporate into your life today to begin to maximize being in the moment?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."