by Steve Adubato, PhD
Did you ever notice that you can be someplace but not be truly present? You’re there in body but not in spirit. With today’s technology, it’s easier to be distracted, unfocused and less present than ever before.
I was coaching our 8-year-old son’s baseball game this week and one of the boys on the team cracked a line drive into the gap and wound up on second base with a double. The crowd cheered and his teammates were all excited. But I noticed the boy’s father had his head down the entire time, texting. He’s not the only parent who does it, but he does it more than most.
As I watched the boy on second base look back at his dad, who was still texting, you could see the disappointment in his eyes. All he wanted was his father to see him hit that ball and run the bases. His father was there, but not really present.
The next inning, that same kid made a terrific play in the outfield, but once again his father didn’t see it. This time, he was on the phone, head down, involved in whatever “business” was more important than seeing his son play baseball in that moment.
My question is simple — why come to a game to see your child play baseball if you’re not going to actually watch him play? But it isn’t just this dad, it’s all of us. I’m guilty as well. And it’s not just parents, it’s also our kids. Like I said, technology is making it even harder to be truly present. The irony is that, in a high-tech, internet-driven world, we’re supposed to be more connected than ever before, but that same technology is actually creating more distance in certain cases.
The other morning I walked into our 8- and 10-year-old sons’ bedroom to say good morning, but both of them were on their computers wearing headphones. After several attempts I finally walked up to them, tapped them on the shoulder and yelled “Good morning!” They nearly jumped out of their skin and asked “what’s the matter?”
At dinner time, there are children and parents who bring their technology to the table and are more interested in what’s going on in cyberspace than what’s happening in the lives of those around them. They’re there, but they’re not really present, and our communication suffers.
Consider the following tips:
Put the phone away. If you know you’re going to be tempted to text, e-mail or place a call when you should be present, get rid of the temptation. Put the phone away and engage with the other person. Stop multi-tasking. When we divide our attention between the phone and where we’re really supposed to be, we lose out on the true value of the experience.
Stop. Realize that being present takes work. It’s a learned communication behavior. Our minds are scattered in so many different directions that we must simply stop. Consciously unscatter your mind, and be present. This awareness allows you to get the full value of where you are and why you’re there.
Rest and exercise. What does this have to do with being present? Everything. If you’re exhausted in a meeting, how present are you? You can’t focus when your body and mind are barely awake. People who exercise on a regular basis have more energy and are therefore more alert. Their communication is sharper and they’re more present.
Simply put, being truly present pays off big time.