Paying Attention. Focus. Being Present. Mindfulness. Whatever you call it, people think we have lost the ability. They say we’re more easily distracted, because there are so many more distractions than there used to be. I’m slightly sceptical of these statements about the hectic pace of modern life. Mostly because people have been making them for 2000 years. Here’s a quote from Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor who ruled from 160 to 180 AD, I guess in response new papyrus technology, or recent increased chariot performance.
“Confine yourself to the present”
So how do you actually do that? What’s the instruction manual for being present? There’s been an upsurge in courses and writings on Mindfulness, because of the perceived benefits in treating depression`and anxiety, and reducing stress. It’s a bit of a mash-up of different Buddhist teachings, with a 21st century spin, and it seems to work. But for me, being able to pay attention to your own thoughts, and not judge them, isn’t being in the present. If your mind wanders off, wondering “What’s for Dinner?” , and you consciously attend to it, that’s being in a present that feels a bit irrelevant. I’m probably missing something, because it’s becoming big business – Google are running courses in it for their employees. Note to Google’s HR department, being present is different to presenteeism…… but they probably already knew that.
Here are some really easy tips for not only being present, but showing other people you are as well. I know they work, because my clients tell me they do:
- If you find your mind wandering while someone else is talking to you, you can keep yourself on track by silently repeating their words to yourself.
- Any form of exercise gets you back in touch with Now. Including sex.
- Become a good listener. Stop yourself from formulating snappy responses in your head, while someone else is talking. Just attend to what they’re saying, tune out those voices in your head.
- Do one thing at a time. However great you think you are at multi-tasking, you’re actually crap. You can’t check email and pay attention to your kid’s football match at the same time. You’re actually micro-switching from one task to another, and doing neither very well.
- Be spontaneous. Get comfortable with unpredictability. Learn improv, tell jokes. Take up a sport where you have an opponent, or a whole team of them.
- Stop making numbered, ordered lists.
Good Luck and let us know how you get on by leaving a comment.