The art of Being present…
In this article, I am going to share the Top 5 most common causes of DISTRACTION that lead to a lack of BEING PRESENT, and the top 5 SOLUTIONS to help you BE MORE PRESENT.
I was speaking with a client (let's call him - Peter) the other day and Peter wanted some coaching around their latest 'project'. Peter shared with me "My biggest challenge at the moment is focusing on family life”. Peter and his wife had just had a newborn baby and he was aware there was something to be worked on but wasn’t sure exactly what.
We jumped on a call to go a bit deeper into it and we explored they couldn’t 'switch off’ while away from work with family. They would drift off mid conversations worrying about things like their team not being able to get things done correctly and making mistakes. He was unable to fully switch off and be fully focused on his family.
Peter had started noticing themselves getting DISTRACTED by their thoughts and seeing where they were drifting off mid-way through conversations becoming absent-minded.
Peter was physically present but emotionally absent.
I shared with Peter that It is quite common to be absent-minded and get caught up in the mental chatter of the mind.
The goal I helped Peter define was to be more PRESENT.
Many people experience conversations with others they love and care about where they are not engaged in the conversation and add their own thoughts over the top of the conversation. It’s easy to be physically there, but you are not mentally or emotionally connected to what is happening. Whenever there is a break in the conversation it’s easy to see this as an opportunity to solve a problem or do some future planning, however, this is another way of avoiding being truly in the moment in connection to others.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with us at a neurological or psychological level with a lack of presence. After all most people naturally thrive on using their mind to solve problems and coming up with new ideas. The key is knowing when to use the mind strategically versus being fully present to someone else.
I said to Peter that Sometimes distracting thoughts are simply worries that seem to be necessary to deal with at the time. But after a while, your quality time with loved ones gets contaminated with thoughts about planning your day or solving your latest business problem in your head. At this point, you know you’ve lost connection and you’re no longer Being Present.
Being present is simply being fully engaged with what is ACTUALLY happening in real-time.
All the distractions in our mind are just reactive habits of thinking that happen as a response to an unconscious concern.
To paraphrase the Buddha - 'No matter how much you worry or obsess about the past or future, you can't change either one. The present moment is where all the power lies.'
This means you are fully alert to the situation and your attention is undivided on what you see in front of you. This means if your partner is talking to you, you actually are listening to the feeling behind the words, and the true intention of the words, not just hearing the words and giving an automatic response.
To use a car metaphor; When you are present it's like you are able to see through a clear front car windscreen and see where you are going. When you are not present your view is obstructed by a dirty windshield not able to clearly see where you are going.
The cause of the distractions is a multidimensional one. So here is a deeper look into the nature of what Distracts us and stops us from Being Present.
I want to present a more holistic solution so that you know how to go about cultivating a mindset that is able to be fully present to everything you do.
The core solution is to address the underlying causes of distraction in our unconscious mind is by using transformational coaching strategies to reduce the intensity of our reactive thinking. Once we subtract away the contaminated thoughts like imagining the future and ruminating about the past and what you are left with is PURE PRESENCE.
The first step is to notice the very first moment when your thinking starts racing away. If you can catch the first moment where your attention wanders off, you are already cultivating the skill of BEING PRESENT.
So, how do you know if you’re not present?
The thing to pay attention to is noticing where you are not fully participating in the conversation.
Examples of a lack of presence are
1) Your partner calls you to let you know dinner is ready; and they need to repeat themselves.
2) Someone asks you a question, and you don't realize they asked you a question.
3) You find yourself automatically nodding and agreeing without actually considering whether or not what they are saying is truthful.
You need to know the difference between being with what IS in the moment, and being with your own THOUGHTS.
The mind when unsupervised will run all of its default programs. These might be things like worry, anxiety, problem-solving, brainstorming, or just feeling bored.
Here are the Top 5 most common causes of DISTRACTION that lead to a lack of BEING PRESENT, and the top 5 SOLUTIONS to help you BE MORE PRESENT.
Imagination is simply the mental tool for creating future scenarios. We can deliberately use our imagination for planning or creating ideas or our imagination can be totally unconscious and our thinking just drifts along almost like it's being carried along by a force of its own.
Tip: I recommend that you plan for deliberate moments of creative thinking in your week so that your Daydreaming becomes powerful and strategic and gives you clarity on your desires and goals so there is less need to use quality family time to dream up your future visions.
When we are ruminating we get stuck replaying old negative Memories and we have gotten stuck in the past. If you are getting hung up on events of the past, this is a sign that you are being invited to forgive yourself, or others, to let go of judgments, or criticism, and let these go and be at ease with the past. The key to letting go is having compassion for yourself and others, and realising you did your best.
Tip: A regular journaling practice is good to reflect on anything from the past that causes you to ruminate. A good question to ask to do some powerful journalling is: "What are the memories from my past that keep coming up in my mind that I am regretting, resenting or haven’t let go of yet?” or “What positive learning did you get from the situation?"
Worry and anxiety is another unresourceful use of our Imagination. This is a fear of future imagined events. As Terrence McKenna says "Worrying is praying to the devil. Worry is betting against yourself". Worry is caused by imagining Doomsday forecasts and then we get swept up fighting mental fires and obsessing about possible go wrongs. A key part of letting go of worry is actually addressing the fear at its core. Dealing with our fears one way of letting go of our thoughts.
Tip: : A great journalling question you can ask yourself is: "What am I really afraid of happening that causes me the most worry?” When you discover the answer to this question you will see themes in your life emerge. When you can identify the fear, you can now do the work on transforming your relationship with worst case situation by realising that even in the worst case scenario you will always find a way through every situation.
If you are trying to solve a problem without all the information or resources. So you inefficiently wasting time and energy in a conversation that doesn’t have a solution. A common problem is trying to solve problems or check off to do lists in your head before bed. Whenever you catch yourself Problem Solving during a moment you’d rather be present in or go to sleep, make sure you have a specific place you can save a quick note of the problem in a notes folder on your smart device to come back to later. When you have a dumping ground to save all problems you will become less likely to try and solve them in your head and you’ll be more strategic about it later on when you have time allocated to problem solving thinking time.
Tip: I recommend using a project management, a planner, or note taking system like Trello or Asana or Evernote for keeping track of problems or complaints then dealing with these at strategic times in the week when you can put your problem solving hat on and crunch through the problem with powerful deliberate thinking rather than a half-baked approach.
Many people who are bored with a conversation or a situation find it difficult to stay focussed. The key to avoiding being bored is to seek to be stimulated or engaged in an activity. If someone is not engaged in the moment doing something they find interesting they will default to wanting to avoid the moment and their mental focus will stray to something else.
Tip: I recommend speaking up if there is something else you would rather talk about. Either get more curious about the person or conversation to go deeper into something that you’d like to know more about or lead the conversation in a direction that is more stimulating or engaging for you. Great experiences are always created from knowing what you’d like to experience more of. So take a moment to ask what would make the experience better for you and be the change you wish to see in the moment.
PRACTICES TO CULTIVATE PRESENCE...
Sometimes others will distract you when you are in the middle of doing something important. Putting in place boundaries solves the problem of being interrupted. This can be as simple as putting a busy sign on the office door or putting your headphones in to symbolise you are in the middle of something.
Tip: If you are in the middle of something important and don't have time to speak to your partner let them know that you are not available right now, but want to speak to them when you are fully present. Let them know that you need a period of time before you are free to talk, then let them know when you will be available.
Various types of journalling can be a great way of purging your unconscious concerns. When you write down your thoughts this tends to empty your mind and reassure yourself that you have captured and understood the unconscious concern and catalogued it for some kind of resolution.
Tip: My favourite journalling process is called Stream of Consciousness Journalling. I do this every day for 7 mins and it allows me to purge most of the concerns that come up to feel at ease knowing I am on top of any arising concerns. I have recorded a FREE TRAINING on SOCJ that you can watch here.
Learning a mediation practice is a good way of training your mind to calm down and cultivate the habit of letting go of all your thoughts.
Tip: I recommend learning a simple mediation practice with One giant mind or Calm. For those looking to go further into learning meditation from a numero science perspective, I recommend the work of Dr Joe Dispenza.
4. Strategically use technology
It’s also useful to setup times in your day and weekend where you switch off all technology so that there are no distractions.
Tip: I recommend turning off your phone when you want to be fully present, having a calendar reminder for all your appointments, work start and finish alarms, or setting timers during moments of family time allows you to be present without needing to be checking devices or the clock to know where you need to be next. I also recommend using screen time function to limit your time on social media and other apps that can steal away precious time.
Working with a coach is one of the most powerful ways of Being More Present because a coach can go much deeper into all of the above areas help you create breakthroughs in these areas, (plus many more) to be more present because you are able to eliminate the distractions in your mind by identifying the beliefs or fears that cause the need for the thinking in the first place.
Tip: I recommend speaking with a coach about their recommended ideas about being Present to come up with an overall life strategy for dealing with all of the above challenges that is tailored to your unique situation.
In summary, BEING present is something you cultivate over time. So just like a Farmer sows the seeds of future generations of vegetables, our consistent dedication to these practices is what cultivates a more present way of being for our future self. So when is the best time to start working on being more present?
The only time… NOW!
Want to speak with me about how I can help you become more present? Please drop me a message and be delighted to share more with you!