Often when we think about “Presence,” we think about a person’s bearing or how they present themselves. There are some people who seem to have tremendous presence. When they walk into a room, when the participate in a conversation, all focus shifts to them. There’s a lot to be said for this kind of presence–but I think most of the time it has to do with a different sense of presence.
The part of presence that we don’t seem to pay much attention to, is “being present.” That is being totally focused on what’s happening now, being in the moment, paying attention.
It seems this becomes more and more difficult for all of us, there are so many things that distract us and keep us from being present.
I suppose I’m writing this more as a mea culpa or a reminder to myself. Last night, I was shifting my focus between a conversation with my wife, my preoccupation with catching up with emails and reading on my iPad. The television was on in the background and my wife was trying to have a conversation:
Wife, “I had a great lunch with Anne, Linda, Nancy, and Judy today”
Me, “That’s nice, where’d you go?”
Wife, “Oh to that new place in Laguna Beach….”
Me, “That’s nice, what did you have to eat?”
Wife, “They had a terrific cioppino and salad, it was really good….”
Me, “Ummm huh…..”
Wife, “Nancy told us about her vacation, it sounded really nice, we should think about doing something like that”
Me, “That’s nice……”
Wife, starting to get frustrated, “I decided to pay the check for everyone’s lunch in the restaurant, not just our table….”
Me, “That’s nice, did you enjoy the food….”
Wife, really getting the picture now, “Yes, afterwards, I went on a $50K shopping spree, felt really good about spending the money…..”
Me, “Terrific, glad you got yourself some nice things…..”
Wife, “Had trouble coming home today, I decided rather than parking the car in the garage, I parked it at the bottom of our swimming pool….”
Me, “That’s nice, did you close the garage door…..”
I think the conversation continued for a while, I wasn’t really there, but I know she enjoys these evening discussions ;-(
Move to our conversations with our peers, colleagues, and customers. They are just as bad–if not worse. There are lots of distractions—managing email, texts, messages, tweets and other things from too many devices while we are in meetings. Too many people with too many agendas–and no clear meeting agenda objectives. Too many meetings stacked on top of each other. Continued information inflow and overload. The rush of every day business, with each of us having too much on our plates.
To often, we may be in a meeting (either 1 on 1 or in a group), but we aren’t really present. We are distracted by other things, our minds are elsewhere, we can’t focus.
It’s no wonder why we don’t seem to accomplish much in our meetings. When we look back on our days, we have so much left to do (or re-do).
Being focused, being present is the greatest productivity gift we can give ourselves, our customers, our people and colleagues. Putting all distractions (externally or internally imposed), focusing on being present in each thing we do is critical. Giving the person you are talking to your total, undistracted attention is one of the most powerful things we can do.
There are some easy distractions to eliminate or change–all our devices, meetings without goals and agendas. But then there’s clearing all the clutter in our minds, focusing on what we are doing at the moment, eliminating everything else. This is harder–I always have too many things flying into and out of my mind at any moment–each of them distracts me from what I’m currently doing. A certain amount of discipline is helpful with a lot of this. Writing things down, so we don’t have to clutter our minds with remembering things. Having good to-do lists, other things are helpful.
But they still don’t clear our minds of other distractions, we still have lots of stuff going on which distracts us.
Personally, I struggle a huge amount with this last part–clearing my mind, being present, being focused. There’s a lot being written about “mindfulness.” My simplistic view is it’s simply about being “present” as much as possible. There are some tools that help us learn about mindfulness, and to practice-improving our abilities. I’ve read a lot about it, I’m learning, I do see a huge difference. While not a “paid” advertisement, I find Headspace.com tremendously powerful.
But study and find something that works for you. Being present also helps your presence.