We are ‘human beings’, but most of us spend time being ‘human doing’. Being present without necessarily ‘doing’, is an art.
I was reminded of the beauty of showing up and being present last week, when I launched the first of many Dr. Indigo’s Women Forums. The theme was “Moving Beyond the Glass Ceiling”. My intentions were to pour into women and support them with their career management and development. My programmes always start by creating cohorts. I found this very effective to achieve synergy and support from others. During the session, pictures were taken. It would have been easy to post activities throughout the day on a variety of social media platforms, but I was busy working with the group. I learned something very valuable, and that was, to be present and then, to be reflective. What I thought about over the weekend was different than what I thought about during the session. When people post on social media, there is no real thought and definitely no reflection by and large. This can be habit forming in how we make decisions on the job and show up as professionals.
I owned a very successful business in the US. And, I had moved beyond conducting sessions. I was more like the conductor of a symphony. I just made sure people were doing what they were tasked to do, leading and supporting employees. Thus, I had a team to help with such projects. There was someone who marketed the company’s programmes, someone who handled all the logistics to include hiring speakers, facilitators, even registration, etc. and then there was the person who developed materials and the finance arm that managed the budget, etc. I was the conductor waving my baton. But, here in Asia… Whew, I’m wearing many hats and I play a number of instruments without a robust team. This forces me to be present at every given moment. But, you know what I found? I connect on a deeper level. I hear things that enrich my life. During this launch, I was able to pour into the women with authenticity and genuine love. That is what being present does.
I shared with the audience that I have a slight hearing problem. So, when I’m with a date… I often must lean in and listen intently and read his lips to some extent. That usually gives the impression that I’m in to him and hanging on his every word. That leads to multiple dates because he feels valued. Well, that is what being present is all about, i.e. leaning in and making whoever you are with feel valued. So, how do you “be present”? When I coach leaders, I tell them that people all over the world, regardless of their race, gender or diversity dimensions, want to be heard, seen and respected. Here are a few tips in being present:
You truly must move beyond hearing and start listening. That sounds easy, but it isn’t, given the many distractions that take place all around us every minute of the day. Even when you are alone, you have the distraction of white noise. So, there are constant distractions that prevent us from truly listening. And, when I say listening, I’m saying, listen to what is being said, and listen to what is not being said.
Make eye contact
As I walked around the room during the forum, I connected with people by looking into their eyes to make sure they knew that I saw them. Eye contact shows that you are seen. How often have you been just another face in the crowd? How does it make you feel when people don’t even know your name, but you paid for a service from them? Let’s not get it twisted. When someone facilitates, speaks or trains, that is a service that a client is paying for, and that client deserves your attention. If you want to be present, start making eye contact. Eye contact is so crucial that research has shown, that you are less likely to be a victim of a crime if you make eye contact when you enter a space. It’s the people who look away, showing weakness, or who look down, not paying attention, that often get their purse snatched, etc.
Commit to the Here and Now
It’s easy to think about all the other things that are waiting for you elsewhere. We are complex beings with many things vying for our attention. As I shared with the group, people depending on their culture speak between 150 to 250 words a minute while the brain processes around 400 (some say 600) words per minute; thus, giving the brain too much time to wander off. You start to think about the heap of work on your desk, the children’s recital, the dog’s veterinary appointment and the upcoming holiday. Then when you are on the holiday, you are busy thinking about the work piling up, and everything but the holiday that you are on. Then when you are back at work, you are thinking about the holiday that was too short. It’s a cycle of incomplete living. To commit, simply remind yourself to stop thinking about other things and refocus your attention back to the room.
Why is it that we cannot enjoy where we are to the fullest, when we are actually there? Why must we live in different spaces at the same time, rather than being present in one space and accounted for? Once you master the art of being present at any one time, you master yourself. When you do that, you can truly be reflective. Reflecting allows you to evaluate something based on the entire picture, versus only seeing parts of something. Reflecting means, to think, not to react. A lot of social media posts are reactions. They are not thinking. “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford. Thinking could be a whole other blog post based on a chapter titled ‘Thinking That Through’ from my book series Playing by the Unwritten Rules. I will leave you with that, and hope that you will be reflective about this blog post.
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