Over the years, I’ve had countless opportunities to speak with people from all walks of life – children, adults, clients, colleagues, blue collar, white collar – it’s spanned the gamut. One unifying phenomenon I’ve noticed often is that when people speak, they tend to spend a majority of their time discussing what’s happened to them in the past (e.g., “I shouldn’t have done that.”, “That meal was great.”) or about what’s yet to happen (e.g., “I can’t wait for this project to be finished.”, “Vacation is going to be so nice.”). Keeping this observation of others in mind, I’d imagine it probably wouldn’t take long for you to find this to be true of your own encounters as well. There’s nothing wrong with thinking or expressing the past and future in this way, but it does preclude one key experience – the now; the full experience of what’s happening in the present moment.
In Daniel Goleman’s latest work, “Focus,” he makes mention of this “problem” in another way. Goleman’s research indicates that more often than not, in general people tend to be thinking about something other than what they are currently doing. People are therefore not fully in tune with what they are doing. I’d argue that as a result, we too often experience life on the surface; there is not enough processing of the current moment. By living life in this manner, we aren’t giving ourselves the opportunity to fully experience the now, and all of the emotions that it potentially encompasses.
If you agree with this basic premise, it follows that there are clear implications from this in the business world, including employees’ ability to focus on their work in any given moment or leaders’ ability to focus on the needs of their team. These of course beg the question of how to counteract this tendency.
- I’d suggest four steps you can take immediately to be less consumed with the past and future, and be more concentrated in the present.Take stock – turn up the dial of your own curiosity; be actively curious about your surroundings and the impact they have on you if you let them
- Take note – be conscious of all of your senses; what does whatever you’re doing right now feel like? smell like? sound like?
- Take breaths – focus your full attention on your breathing – in through your nose, out through your mouth; practicing conscious breathing allows for you to bring your mind to the present
- Take up a hobby – research shows that you can be more alert doing things that are active and engaging
So, what are you waiting for? Just focus on the present moment reading these words. Now these words. Now these.
How does that feel?