What Did You Miss?
Do you aspire to be more fully present but find it to be a challenge to actually practice?
Do you find yourself talking to someone in your office while typing on your computer, insisting that you are listening to every word?
Do you divide your attention and half participate in the meetings or events you are present in–in an attempt to juggle multiple things at once?
What are you missing when you are scattered and never really fully present wherever you are?
Here’s an illustration of how your presence has an impact that you may not even be conscious of– and how you may be missing more than you realize.
I was sitting in as an observer in a colleague’s training program for new coaches. I couldn’t help notice one participant constantly checking his smartphone when the group would break into smaller groups for coaching practice exercises. Coach training is highly experiential and a big part of it is learning to self-manage yourself and be fully present in the moment. At one point, during a longer practice exercise, this same person left the room, phone in hand. When he returned 30 minutes later, he whispered to his group:
“What did I miss?”
His colleague looked at him a bit uncomfortably, and whispered:
“The practice coaching exercise on deep listening.”
The participant nodded and said, “Ok, good. What do I need to do?”
His colleague paused, and then answered,
“Well, you need to be completely and fully present and screen out everything else. It’s like a laser focus.” He paused and then almost blurted the next sentence out unconsciously.
“You have to be there. Completely. You miss everything when you’re not.”
A flush of what looked like defensive embarrassment swept the distracted participant’s face.
“I had to step out because I have a lot going on,” he defended. “I figure I can always catch up”.
To which his colleague replied with a half-joking, yet half-serious chuckle,
“Yeah, man, I get it. But I wouldn’t want you to be my coach…”
True story. So replace the “my coach” in the above sentence with “my leader”. Or “my partner”. Or “my parent”. Or “my friend”.
How do you feel when someone is not fully present when they are with you and show up distracted, half-interested, and partially listening to you? The reality is, you are providing an experience of what it is like to be in your presence to others every single moment. You are the embodiment of every single interaction you are having.
I’d like to use this post to prompt you to think about what you want others to experience and feel like when they are in your presence.
Do you want them to feel seen?
If you do, then you must be there with them fully.
You can’t catch up if you miss something.
Something I have practiced over the years in order to strengthen my “fully present” muscle is to recite this mantra to myself repeatedly when I find myself getting distracted or being pulled into thinking about the avalanche of other things I need to attend to. Ready for it? Here it is:
“Be here now.”
Yes, that’s it. You might have been expecting some brilliant, complex secret, but there really isn’t one. It is pretty simple. I’d like to challenge you to practice “Be here now” in the meetings you attend. In your interactions with others, both at work and at home. Put down the phone. Move away from the computer or the TV. Look at the other person directly. Ask a question and show interest. Listen deeply for the answer. I guarantee you, over time you will be amazed at what you have been missing.
Peace & light to you,