Our minds, by design, wander almost constantly. From past to future to past to future to past to future. Often, this time-traveling thinking is filled with worry or fear about a possible future event or sadness and reminiscing about a past one.
While this is a natural, human tendency and can be both a blessing and a curse, the risk of this incessant wandering is that we miss out on much of the EXPERIENCE of simply being alive.
The Presence Prescription
As the beautiful, brilliant, creative person that you already are, chances are that you’ve learned along that way that you can do quite well, thank you very much, by relying on your keen mental abilities. But this is only a small subset of your natural abilities.
Our bodies and minds are deeply and innately connected. Being more present in your body allows you to open up to the wisdom and intuition stored there so that you’re bringing your full self and skill set to bear on any creative challenge, opportunity – or simply to lunch with a friend.
Studies have shown that there is incredible power in sensitizing yourself to the signals your body sends and in bringing your full presence (mind and body) to your day.
The most present person in the room has the most power. Not power as in I win-you lose or ego-driven I’m-stronger-than-you stuff… but rather a presence that others will sense.
You speak with more authority, take in more of what’s being said, and, by making full use of your entire tool set, you can tap into creative solutions and ideas you may never have realized before.
How do you do this, you ask? There are lots of simple ways to start…
- Awareness of Thought: Begin by noticing when your mind is wandering (tip: for most of us, almost always!) and practice pausing, taking a few deep breaths and just feeling yourself in your body, feeling the support of your chair, bringing awareness of your surroundings.
- Find a Regular Practice: For more “preventive medicine,” personally, I find that a regular meditation and yoga practice both help me to ground myself in the present moment… not surprising since an important component of both is focusing on the present. In fact, studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even IQ scores while meditation does much to aid being awake to our lives, present to each moment just as it is.
- Body Basics: Of course, all of the above is much easier to do if you’re well-rested, hydrated and taking care of basics such as fueling yourself with healthy, energizing food. And physical exercise – even if it’s just standing up and walking around every hour or so – is not only a basic need but it’s also helpful in bringing us back to the present moment.
So it’s pretty basic, really: Breathe. Pause. Move. Sleep. Pay attention. Be present. Repeat.
You’ve probably heard some version of this before. I’m certainly not the first person to talk about the power of presence – you’ll hear variations on this theme from philosophers and sages to athletes talking about being ‘in the zone.’
The challenge – and the incredible opportunity for change – is in putting this tool to practice. I encourage you to move past “I’ve heard it before” and to try it for yourself. Allow it to work for you.
There are lots of reasons to do so:
- Empowering yourself – and others in your life
- Getting more creative insights to challenges and opportunities
- Making more significant contributions to the team
- Improving your leadership – and authenticity as a leader
- Making faster decisions
- Finding more meaning in every moment
- Recalling more of your day-to-day experience
- Making more choices that are in alignment with your values, your goals, your priorities
- Noticing and appreciating the beauty around you every day
- Experiencing more frequent laughter and smiling
- Leaving jobs, relationships and other circumstances that no longer fit
The bottom line is that the present is where you need to be in order to perform at your best. This is not to say that you avoid planning or thinking about the future – or reflecting on your past. There are great lessons from our past (not to mention wonderful memories) – and it’s tough to achieve your goals without any plan for the future. So absolutely – plan away! Envision where you want to go, what you want to achieve. Post those vacation photos on Facebook and remember what a great time you had while you’re at it. And moment to moment, try having more presence.
Presence Prescription: Try it for 21 days, risk-free! Notice any changes.