Wherever you are, BE THERE.
I shouldn’t have to write this article today. After all, no one needs to be reminded about living in the present. Or do they?
Apparently they do. As I watch people and the media go crazy with our tough economic times, I see them living everywhere except the PRESENT.
Some people are living in the PAST, filled with regret, as they incessantly talk about “the good old days … how things used to be … and … what they should have done.”
Other people are living in the FUTURE. They’re overwhelmed with worry, wondering what tragedy will befall us “if a certain candidate is elected President … if another terrorist attack should occur … or … if the economy doesn’t bounce back soon.”
Still other people are worshipping at the altar of “MULTI-TASKING.” They talk about multi-tasking as though they’re doing something noble and somehow being more productive. In reality, they’re living their life somewhere else than where they’re at … at the moment.
And, in my opinion, when you live anywhere but the PRESENT … when you live in the past, in the future, or in the land of multi-tasking … the results range from sad to disgusting.
I think it’s sad when I see a young couple out on a date, eating at a restaurant, while one of the youngsters spends most of his/her time on a cell phone talking to someone else. And I think it’s disgusting to go into a men’s room and see men lined up at the urinals as they talk to clients on their cell phones.
All these people are missing out on one of the surest keys to a peaceful life, a productive career, and a positive relationship … and that is … BEING THERE … being totally present … wherever they are. But lots of people never learn this key.
Jan Halper talked about that in her book, “Quiet Desperation: The Truth about Successful Men.” She said 48% of all middle managers in her study described their lives as “empty and meaningless,” despite the many, many years they spent striving to achieve their personal goals.
And 68% of the senior executives said they neglected their families to pursue their professional goals. Half of those executives said if they could start over again, they would spend less time working and more time with their wives and children.
DON’T make that same mistake. I urge you … I challenge you to BE THERE … to be totally present … wherever you are. As author Dan Millman puts it, “In every moment, the quality of your life is on the line. In each, you are either fully alive or relatively dead.”
So how can you learn to live in the present? I’ve found three things that work.
=> 1. Ruthlessly eliminate unnecessary hurry from your life.
In my “Journey To The Extraordinary” program, I remind people that speed and success are two different things. Sometimes the best results come from a slower, more thoughtful approach.
In fact, Todd Livingood from the Mayo Clinic, attended my “Journey” program and later sent me an example. He noted that Jesus was never in a hurry. Even though he was quite busy, he was never in a hurry. He always had time for another person and time to be with His Father.
Nonetheless, it’s hard for some people to think of any other way to be successful than to hurry, hurry, hurry. For example, one wealthy businessman was horrified to see a fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.
“Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the businessman.
“Because I caught enough fish for one day,” replied the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch some more?”
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” said the businessman. “Then with the extra money, you could buy a bigger boat, go into deeper waters, and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. With the nets, you could catch even more fish and make more money. With that money you could own two boats, maybe three boats. Eventually you could have a whole fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
“Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman.
“Then,” said the business man, “you could really enjoy life.”
The fisherman looked at the businessman quizzically and asked, “What do you think I am doing now?”
So it will be worth your while to eliminate some of the unnecessary hurry in your life. Instead of hurrying to work and arriving there a bit frazzled, get up ten minutes earlier, so you can allow a few minutes to read your morning devotions, take a walk around the block, and literally smell a rose along the way.
With all the turmoil in the marketplace these days, the last thing you should do is worry about the future and hurry through the present. That approach will steal your peace of mind and make things worse than they already are. Instead, notice the good, the kind, the beautiful little things along your daily path, at home and on the job, and BE THERE.
=> 2. Learn to focus on one person at a time.
Don’t even try to have a nice dinner with your spouse if you’re thinking about all the work you have to do … back on the job … tomorrow. Because even though your body is at the dinner party, you’re not.
And don’t even think you can have a decent conversation with a colleague in your office if you’re glancing at your computer screen or Blackberry every few moments. Because once again, even though your body is at the meeting, you’re not there.
No!!! Learn to focus on one person at a time. I saw a demonstration of how that could be done at a Northwest Airlines counter when several flights had to be rescheduled. People were clustered all around, each with a burning question that couldn’t wait. As I waited for my turn, I became fascinated by the man behind the counter. There he was, pressured by all those people and yet perfectly calm and composed.
Finally when it became my turn, I said, “I’ve been admiring the way you handle the public.”
He raised his head and looked at me squarely and said, “I don’t deal with ‘the public,’ I deal with one person, and then another, and another and another. Now, what would you like to know?”
He knew how to live in the present by focusing on one person at a time. He didn’t allow himself to become tense or anxious because of pressure. He simply took one person at a time. He knew how to BE THERE.
I don’t know exactly what your life is like, but I know this Northwest Airline agent has a lesson for all of us in these scary times … and that is … don’t get over stimulated. Don’t try to listen to three TV channels and two radio stations at the same time. Don’t try to answer the demands of two customers, one boss, one spouse, and four kids all at once.
You’ll be a lot more calm, a lot more clear headed, and a great deal more pleasant … if you focus on one person … or one input … at a time … whenever possible. That way you can truly BE THERE.
=> 3. Practice detachment.
If you really struggle with living in the present, keeping your focus, and putting first things first, remove yourself from all the things that distract you. Detach … occasionally. It’s great practice for a more positive life … and a great deal more comforting than watching the latest news from the stock market.
Toni Newman learned to do that … or should I say … was forced to learn that. On a recent vacation, she left the following message on her voice mail, “If you get this message, please be aware that I am being held hostage by two wonderful children under the age of 6. They have hidden my Blackberry and my cell phone. They have locked me out of my office and away from my computer. The red light on my phone blinks helplessly but alas, I am forbidden to check my messages. Their demands are simple: two weeks of my undivided attention. If I obey, I will be allowed to return to my office on Monday, August 1st. I look forward to reconnecting with you then.”
Strangely enough, Toni actually left that message on her home as well as her work voice mail. And that takes guts. Most of us wouldn’t want our clients and coworkers to know that we are so detached from business that we couldn’t be reached. It might be interpreted as a career-limiting move.
But Toni did it. And the result? When she got back to work, her clients were so impressed with her candor … and her willingness to stick to her values … that her sales actually shot up
What about you? Are you living in panic mode? Are you checking your Blackberry or your wireless connection to the Internet every chance you get? Maybe it’s time to realize that everyone needs some time to detach from the hustle and bustle. Even you.
And how are you doing when it comes to scheduling time with your family and friends? As Dr. Terry Paulson states, “If your calendar truly is your creed, it’s time to put your calendar where your mouth is.”
And once you schedule the time, how well do you honor that time by truly BEING THERE? It’s time to put your mind where your body is.
Action: Where are you living your life? In the past … filled with regrets … about what you should have done? In the future … with all its worries about our economic uncertainties? Or in the present … where calmness reigns and creativity flourishes?