I have a hard time being present. I like to think that my active mind is like that of a master chess player, always thinking 20-some moves ahead, but in reality, I’m not a genius, I’m distracted.
I’m distracted because I’ve plagued my life with busyness, and unfortunately, our culture hasn’t deemed this as a problem, but rather praised it as an effective lifestyle.
A busy mind hinders our ability to be available when we’re needed the most.
Photo by: Fouquier (Creative Commons)
It bewilders me how easily I can tinker on my phone while my fiancé is explaining table arrangements and flower decorations, or how my junior high students beg to be on their phones to Snapchat all their buddies that aren’t in class with them. We think we can do more than one activity with efficiency, and yes–some of us can multi-task, but one thing will always suffer when we try to spread our attention over multiple items, and that is what is happening right in front of you.
We need to be present because life is happening now.
Where our attention is fixed is a clear sign of what matters most to us in the moment. Your attention is gauged by what your eyes, ears, and mind are doing. Although you might be looking at someone, your mind could be lost to other worries. Even if you’re listening, your eyes could be watching another event. Even though we think we’re being present because one function of our attention is tuned-in, we are far removed from being available the way we should be.
Because now matters more than later.
But there’s so much to do later that I just don’t have the time right now…
Busyness is an excuse we like to use and too readily accept. Somehow we’ve allowed it to ruin the present moment, like it’s understandable to not be paying attention because “I have a lot on my mind” or “I’ve just been so busy I’m too tired to do this right now.”
Right now is a guarantee, but later, well, all those worries and concerns may never happen. We live so intently on the future that our present moment is barely recognizable.
What’s going on in front of you that you’ve been missing because you’ve been too busy?
In order to make now more important, we need to cut out stuff that distracts us from being available. Here’s some ideas I’ve adapted to help me stay in the moment:
1) Turn off all social media notifications—if no red bubble pops up on my iPhone, I never feel the need to check it rather than check out the world right in front me. Who made the rule we have to respond instantly anyway?
2) Leave the phone behind—I intentionally leave my phone in the car or at home so that when I’m at Target or on a run or at a show, my attention isn’t distracted and purposely set on the people and sights around me.
3) Zone out time—I try to get to work 15 minutes early every day so I can sit in my chair and let my mind filter through all the stuff that would normally distract me during the day. I then try to take 10 minutes after work to re-filter the worries and to-do list so I can be more mindful of what’s going on around me when I leave work and go home.
4) Make it face to face–I’m trying to do a better job at not texting or calling, but doing a FaceTime or Google Hangout or Zoom Meeting in order to be united in the moment together with who I’m talking to, rather than try to multi-task while communicating with others. You actually save a lot of time this way too–it’s great.
5) Notice something new every day—humans tend to have the same routines, and after doing the same stuff over and over again it can lead us into becoming mindless. Every day I try to notice one new thing within my day. It forces me to put away distractions and be present. It takes a lot of attention to find something new.
What about you? What are you doing to keep your mind present, your life decluttered, and to live in the now?
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