The holiday season is upon us and while most have their shopping wrapped up (pun intended), I have a suggestion for those who have procrastinated and are left scrambling to find the right gift. And if I’m being honest, this recommendation is also for those already done shopping.
This year give the gift of your presence.
Before I get on my soapbox about the importance and value of being present, I must confess I have not mastered the practice of being fully present at all times. I still catch myself on my phone while sitting on the couch with the boys or at a stoplight–but I’m doing this less and less. Truthfully, I’m not sure it’s possible to always be present but if we can be aware of when we become distracted and return to being in the moment with the people in our lives we’re heading in the right direction. A little known fact that might offer some encouragement: the act of realizing you are not present in the moment is in fact being present in the moment. I continue with this post not as an all-knowing master of presence but as a husband/father/son/advisor/friend working on being less distracted and more present with others.
Ok, allow me to step up on the box…
Gifts are great.
Of course we love opening presents and it’s always fun to receive that “thing” we hinted at wanting. But as we all have experienced, the excitement eventually wears off and that hoodie ends up on a hanger in the closet rarely worn, the kid’s remote control car ends up lost without any tears, and that candle doesn’t smell as good as it first did and ends up in the cabinet only to collect dust. Material gifts (and experience which are usually better) are given with the best of intentions, yet they have a limited lifespan. For the strength of the economy, we should still continue to give gifts 😀 but we should also look to give a little extra.
This extra doesn’t cost anything…at least, not in the form of money. This extra might cost some of your time (let’s skip the “time is money” convo), energy, attention, and love. The greatest gift you can give someone is your presence–to be fully engaged and undistracted when spending time with them. Interestingly, it’s also the greatest gift you can give yourself.
As I’ve documented here in the past there was a point not too long ago I had overcommitted myself and was doing too much. I was working with clients at RLS Wealth, continuing to nurture The AGC, working at a startup, and balancing it all with being a husband and father. In the moment, I thought I was pulling it off–managing it all while being present but in hindsight I wasn’t fully present. There were times I was physically with someone else but my mind was somewhere else–thinking about the next meeting, planning the work I owed someone else, figuring out how I’d get home in time for practice while being on a conference call. There were even times when I had an AirPod in my ear during dinner…I told myself and my family it was a short term sacrifice for a potential long term reward. I wasn’t absent but I definitely wasn’t fully present.
Since reducing my commitments, prioritizing my physical health, implementing a consistent meditation practice, introducing breath work, and even starting to journal I’ve caught myself multiple times being present and in the moment. To notice your presence is an experience I can’t describe–it’s one thing to notice and maintain your presence in the moment during meditation but to notice it while you are spending time with someone is really special. One particular experience I remember was giving Silas a bath this summer. In the past, I’d be listening to a podcast, possibly on a conference call, or working on some emails while he played in the tub. But on this particular evening there was no music or podcast, no computer or iPad, and no distractions and I can still vividly remember and hear Silas’ laughter as we played with his toys in the tub. There was a moment when I thought to myself, “Holy sh*t, I am right here, right now. My mind isn’t anywhere else.” I hope Silas remembers the moments spent with him while not distracted. I know I certainly will and I’m on a mission to create more of these moments–not just with him but with Roman, Leo, Ang and everyone I spend time with.
Like I said, giving others my full attention and eliminating any distractions is not only a gift to that person but it’s a gift to me.
Again, I’m no expert but I’ve spent a lot of time this year reading, reflecting, and intentionally focusing on being present and have a few suggestions on how you can work toward being present and in the moment more.
Ditch The Electronics
The pocket computer, aka the smartphone, might be one of the greatest inventions in all of history. But it also might be one of the worst. For me, one of the greatest distractors is my iPhone. It’s so easy and addictive to hop on and check email, see what’s going on in the Twitter world, or scroll through Instagram–but that time is usually not productive and draws attention away from the people you are spending time with. Hanging out on the couch with your go-to device in another room (remove the temptation) is a different experience than being on that same couch with phone in hand. I promise you the experience sans phone will be better and those you are spending time with will notice, whether they say something or not, that you were not distracted.
And this is true in the workplace.
I’m trying to get better about silencing Slack, email, and keeping my iPhone face down and on Do Not Disturb while meeting with my clients–I do have my Apple Watch in case there is an emergency and I need to be contacted.
It’s become normal to multi-task and have a conversation while scrolling through social media. But, just because it’s become accepted does not mean that we should do it or even that it’s ok.
Eliminating the distractions of our devices is one the most impactful ways to become more present in your interactions.
Before you shut down implementing a meditation practice, let me share with you that your interpretation of what meditation is, looks like, and how it is practiced is probably skewed by what you’ve seen on TV and in the movies.
It took me a few years of trying different meditation apps, reading books, watching YouTube, and trying to meditate to realize I was overcomplicating it. I realized there’s no “right” way to meditate. You can meditate sitting down with your legs crossed, laying down, walking, or any other position that is comfortable for you. When I realized trying to meditate properly was getting in the way of quieting my mind and to just sit, focus on my breath, and just be, I began to have a breakthrough on my ability to experience the benefits of meditation.
Meditation and the complementary practice of mindfulness are almost superpowers when it comes to being present. Through meditation and mindfulness you can/will develop the ability to identify when your mind is wandering and how to bring it back to the present moment–often it is by focusing on your breath or having a phrase to anchor to.
There are other benefits I’ve found from meditation but that’s for another post…possibly over on PRST one day.
For inquiring minds, I did find an app that has enhanced my practice and that I really like–Open. The app not only has guided meditation but also has breath work and yoga.
Prioritizing Your Physical Health
I haven’t found any information that connects improved physical health to being more present but I know once I prioritized my health by getting back to regular workouts, starting yoga, and revisiting my nutrition I noticed changes. I found myself with more energy, happier (although I never felt unhappy), and better for everyone in my life.
My friend, Dr. Phil Pearlman, told me years ago that in order to be the best version of ourselves for others we have to be our best version of ourselves for our Self. It took my a little while to figure that out on my own, but I can confirm that my improved health had a direct impact on my improvement in being more present.
These few suggestions are hardly the only ways to help improve your presence. I encourage you to experiment with your own ways of becoming more present with the important people in your life. Your attention, energy, and love will be the most valuable gift you will give anyone…and yourself.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog should be considered advice, or recommendations. If you have questions pertaining to your individual situation you should consult your financial advisor. For all of the disclaimers, please see my disclaimers page.