Wherever You Are . . . Be There

I tend to live for tomorrow.

Green nature scene

It’s not my intent.  I know you’re supposed to take one day at a time.  

But I have a really long to-do list.  (You, too?)  So when I tackle something on that list, my focus isn’t usually on the task itself.  I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, savoring the moments and experiencing each event.  I’m trying to get it finished so I can move on to the next one, getting me closer to the end.

Green nature sceneI get check marks.  But I miss the moments.

Most people live for check marks.  We spend most of the year charging forward, trying to catch up and stay ahead, then we look forward to our vacation to recover.  But on vacation, we use our unpressured time to catch up on our emails, even if we’re not physically in the office.

So we miss the richness of life by living ahead of ourselves.

It’s like a parent who videotapes every moment of their kid’s parties and special events.  But when viewing them later, they see their kids — but never see themselves with their kids.  By preserving the memories for the future, they miss being part of the memories.

Here’s the unsettling truth:

When you die, there will still be more to do. Make sure you do the important stuff.

The problem is that it carries into relationships.  If we have a long list of people to contact each day, we’re focused on getting through our list — and nobody feels special.  We’re driven by our list instead of the relationships.

My son-in-law, Brian, is all about living in the moment.  He’s in sales, and he could sell a fur coat to a wooly mammoth.  But it’s not because he has advanced sales training or special techniques.  It’s because whoever he’s with gets his full attention.  The relationship is genuine, and people buy from him because he’s fully present when he’s with them.

That’s rare for most people.  We’re not used to people really engaging with us without being distracted.  It’s refreshing when they do.

Look at your to-do list: Are you living for today, or for tomorrow? What if you took each item and tried to experience it fully and undistracted? 

Here are five ways to be fully present:

  1. Don’t look at electronics while in any conversation, whether one-on-one or in a meeting.  Set your phone down where you can’t see it until you’re done.
  2. Set appointments for your technology.   Decide how many times you’ll check your email each day and put appointments on your calendar for it.  Be fully engaged in technology when it’s technology time, and fully engaged in people when it’s people time.  Don’t let them get mixed up.
  3. Be aware of your environment.  Whether inside our outside, notice the details of your surroundings.  Take time to listen to the sounds around you.  Observe the little details you would normally miss, feel the temperature and the breeze.  Listen for sounds that aren’t man-made.
  4. Turn off the radio in your car.  Take time to think instead of having to have constant input.  If it feels uncomfortable, it’s probably a sign that there’s a problem.
  5. Don’t let a totally organized environment be your top priority.  Nobody cares if you die with an empty inbox.  They care when you’ve made a difference in their life.


What suggestions do you have for being fully present – not missing the moments?  Add your comments below.

  • Paul Schliep

    Good suggestions. Hard to implement. I remember a meeting with a member of a church I was pastoring. My phone rang while we were meeting and he stopped talking. I kept looking at him because I don’t even look at who the caller is when the phone rings while I’m in a meeting. He continued to sit there while the phone rang. After about 4 rings he asked me if I was going to answer that. I said “No, I’m talking with you right now. The phone has a voice mail feature that is real handy for finding out who it was and what they wanted.” He said he couldn’t remember the last time someone ignored their phone during a person-to-person conversation with him. The funniest/saddest part of this story is that about 30 minutes later my phone rang again and he stopped talking. He had been conditioned by the culture to assume he would take second place. For those who may want to read more about this issue I recommend “Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, Blackberry Moms, and Economic Anxiety” by Dalton Conley. Published in January 2009, things have only gotten worse. He has some good suggestions on taming the beast.

    • Thanks for the resource. I found a link to an excerpt and NPR broadcast about it at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100445061 . Same thing happened to me recently in reverse. I met with an exec whose cell phone rang several times during our meeting, and he ignored it each time. Neither of us said anything, but after the third time it happened, he simply opened his desk drawer, put his phone in and closed it. Made the point without words, and I noticed (and appreciated).

  • Linda Bishop

    Thanks Mike for a fantastic reminder. Here’s an irony: while on vacation with our
    “grown” family this summer the days didn’t rush by. We played with Audrey (14 months) and time slowed waaaay down. Those same kinds of long days were often my nemesis as a young mom. Now they are my heart’s treasure. Perspective can come out of hard facts and statistics. There are less moments left for some of us than have “spent”. What a worthy goal and gift it is to be fully present today.

    • Thanks – great perspective, and a good reminder. Seems like the older we get, the more our definition of “investment” changes. I wonder what would happen if he handled our human investments as carefully as many people handle their financial investments . . .