I first started thinking about the power of presence as I looked at the pile of mail that had accumulated over the past two weeks while I was traveling. It resonated again when I considered the new exercise routine I’ve started to lose some body fat that somehow just showed up. But it really hit home when one of my team members asked to speak to me about something that was bothering her. To me, this issue had just started, but for her it had been months.
When we fail to stay present, we also fail to notice things around us, causing us to feel like they’ve just magically happened. How does that happen? Could it be that the small choices I make every day are more impactful than I realize? I mean, something must be happening, because on Monday I had no papers on my desk and by Friday I had a stack that looked like I owned a mail marketing company.
There is a word to capture this experience: insidious. It means, “proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.” Yikes! Without presence, we are doomed to fall prey to the insidious curse of insidiousness.
“It’s easy to forget what’s important, so don’t.” – Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) in Mr. Mom
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—don’t ask me who “they” is because I don’t actually know). But I do know that “they” are wicked smart. And I wholeheartedly agree with their point. But how do we prevent potentially insidious life events? By being aware of what is occurring in and around us. Note that I said in and around us. That means in my mind, in my body, and in my external environment:
Being present in my mind requires me to connect with my thoughts. For example, is there a thought or opinion that I didn’t share with someone that may have been valuable to him or her? Why did I withhold it? Fear? Anxiety? Anger?
Being present in my body means considering how I feel: Am I hungry? Do I need sleep? Better food? More water? But it also means taking note of the physical sensations I experience as a reaction to my environment. For example, as that team member is talking about the issue that is bothering her, I notice that my jaw is starting to feel tight and there is that familiar aching in my right shoulder. Maybe I’m feeling scared? Or frustrated? Or both?
Finally, being present in my external environment means observing what and who is around me. Maybe I become aware that the radio is too loud as I’m trying to talk to someone in the car. Or perhaps I notice that one of my business partners seems to have shut down in the middle of a meeting.
But in a world full of sensory overload, it can be difficult to consciously connect with these internal and external factors at all times. It’s important to check in with your mind, body, and environment on a regular basis by asking yourself these questions:
- What have I complained about three or more times that I’ve taken no action to address?
- Did I ask for feedback from one of my team or friends to support my growth?
- Was there a conversation that I walked away from feeling like I didn’t fully express my feelings or my thoughts?
- Did I do one thing today that nurtured my spiritual, emotional, physical, or mental well-being?
- Did I laugh today and appreciate at least one thing or person in my life?
These questions continually bring me back to presence in my day-to-day life, and support me in moving past those insidious occurrences. If you think these questions would be valuable to you, please use them. And for more tips on how to maintain your sanity, check out my podcast: The Super Fantastic Leadership Show (specifically episodes 35, 56, and 67).