Some time ago we had supper with a delightful couple. Our friend was going through a particularly difficult time in his life at that time. After the meeting I commented to Kris “I feel such compassion for Steve” To which Kris replied, “His name is not Steve. It’s Joe!”
Where was my mind when I had dinner that night with Joe? I was busted for not being fully present on our dinner date.
We live in a hyperkinetic and multi-tasking milieu and there is no more important advice that we can give or receive than
BE HERE NOW
We all have experienced some or all of the following. We are
o On a conference call checking our e-mail while others talk
o Listening to our partner with half an ear and thinking of several projects at the same time
o Continually distracted by intrusive thoughts
o Totally or partially disconnected from our feelings
And the result is
Everyone knows we are not fully listening
We miss important pieces of information
We live with unnecessarily high levels of stress
We lower our intellectual and emotional horsepower
And we call Joe, Steve.
In fact, we live up (or down) to the spirit of the ditty
There was a man my grandfather knew
Who had so many things he wanted to do
That whenever he thought it was time to begin
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.
So what is the answer?
First, one does not have to become a spiritual expert with high levels of mindfulness that can be sustained for long periods. That takes years of meditation practice. We can start with small steps now.
Second, there is no second. In fact, there is no excuse for us not developing the clarity of thinking, focused listening, and inner tranquility for short periods of time that help us be more effective leaders and empathic partners.
Here are some possible rudimentary steps we can take.
1. Take time out from electronic devices in meetings and in general. I know an executive who receives 300-400 email a day and has learned so to prioritize that he only responds to 10 a day. Such prioritizing is not easy but is possible.
2. When you listen to people, hit the pause button in our minds. Don’t try and formulate an answer and ask yourself not just “What is this person saying?” but also “How do they feel about it?” and “Why is it important to them?”
3. Recognize that there will still be more work to do after your fourteen-hour day. So set limits on yourself and go home and have supper with your family, turn off your Blackberry, and focus fully on the people most important to your life.
4. Get a life apart from your work. The list of possibilities is endless but do something where you make a contribution and above all have fun.
Have you ever noticed the gaps between musical notes. If these spaces were not there one would have noise. Reduce the noise in your life by finding silent spaces. And post a notice in your office “Be here now”.
What small steps have you taken to “Be here now”?