“Enough phone mama. Come play with me”. My daughter said this morning as she tugged on my hand to go and blow bubbles with her. It got me thinking how often we miss the here and now because we’re busy. Sometimes with meaningful things other times with pretty meaningless but fun or nice things to do. We miss the precious now moments taking for granted that they can be replicated. But once time is passed it can never be relived.
We made a conscious rule in our house. The TV needs to be off at meal time and phones not in use at the table. It is one of the times we get to sit as a family and connect with each other so there needs to be a deliberate effort to be present. So we cut out the noises, the distractions. Nothing has taught me the strength of presence as much as parenting my now two-year old daughter. She demands your attention and will let you know when she feels she is getting a raw deal. When I get home from work I leave my phone in my handbag and its time to catch up, play and get dinner on the table. Even after a tiring day at work it is so refreshing and even energizing to spend time with her. If anything it is a de-stressor.
I was recently listening to a podcast on discipline and one of my key take aways was to ask myself every minute, every hour, “What is the best use of my time right now?” And then to do that and do it well. On the days when I focus on the task at hand I find I am most productive and feel really good with the output of my work. The other week while attending a training I resisted the urge to use my phone or read any other material. I chose instead to fully engage with what we were being taught and I was rewarded with a wonderfully deep learning experience.
The last few weeks have been full of reflection on how I engage (or not) wherever I may be, whatever I’m doing. It has also caused me to notice the engagement of others around me and the effect that it has. For instance, one key way to engage when we are with other people is to give our attention. Our full attention.If a client walks into my office, stop what I am doing and give them 100% attention instead of acting like they are an intrusion to my incredibly busy day. Without them my organization would not exist. Similarly if a collegue or even one of my team members has come in for a consult or to share some info I get my face out from behind my computer and make eye contact. When our children are calling for our attention we need to pause and listen or look at whatever they are asking us to. When out for a meal we need to engage with the people physically present with us rather than the people on social media, text or call. What all these actions have in common is they communicate”I am here. I care about you and what you have to say”. Who doesn’t want to feel that they matter; that they’re not invisible; that they count for something?
Engaging is listening. Really listening. Listening not to give a response but to understand. I found that being the talkative person that I am I don’t make a very good listener. I interrupt a lot, I imagine I know what someone is going to say so I barely let them say it all. It takes some seriously conscious effort to truly listen. Listen with my ears, with my body language, with my eyes and with my heart. Just be warned that when you really listen then people will start to tell you a lot. They will pour their heart out to you because it’s not often they get to be listened to intently. It’s almost as though we as human beings walk around with a lot within us hoping for someone who will ask us “How are you?” And actually wait to hear how we are. I have a few friends and mentors who always draw me out with that question. “How are you Wendy?” They are never looking for a one phrase response. It isn’t a conversation nicety where they are concerned.
Being in the here and now allows us to really savor moments. To smell the roses as the saying goes. To notice more displays of colors in the sky, the smell of delicious food cooking, the sweet spices of food awakening our taste buds, the passion in our partner’s eyes, the fire in their touch, the funny names of places as you drive by, the greatness of God’s creation that surrounds us. I think we spend way too much time on our phones and watching screens that the opportunity to truly live passes us by. Moments that could lift our dying spirits, encourage our slouching shoulders and renew our faith. Instead we are glued to reading about things that have been when we could be making our own memories. We are a society so self absorbed that a beautiful sunset becomes about how we look with the sunset in the background. Many of us are so obsessed with ourselves that our social media timelines are full of us. Walking around the malls, airports, parks you notice so many people taking selfies. We want to capture so much that we miss the magic of the moment. What did we do before the gadgets took us over? They were created to serve us but instead we are serving them, the control us instead of the other way round.
Engagement doesn’t happen by chance. We must be intentional. In every moment we must ask ourselves that key question “What is the best use of my time right NOW?” Then we must act with conviction. At the end of the day we must then follow up on that question to reflect on whether there is a better way we could have spent our time and make adjustments each day to become more present. The result can only be that we will lead a more meaningful and significant life. Where do you need to engage most right now? In which area do you need to stop focusing on the past or building a future in your head? Rather to simply live. To be, in the moment.