Ask yourself if you have anything to worry about right now? Are you anxious at this moment? Not tomorrow, not an hour ago, now. No, I didn’t think you were. You have just had a taste of being present. If you want to learn how to eliminate stress from your life, have better relationships with others and most of all, a greater connectedness with yourself--learning to focus on the present is a powerful technique to do so. When I first heard the expression "being present," I didn’t know what it meant? But, I have discovered since then that it is one of most powerful de-stressors you can ever use. It simply means that you give your full attention to the situation or person in front of you right now.
If you ever slow down and check your thought processes, you will notice that you probably spend vast amounts of time brooding on the past and maybe even more speculating about the future. This all means that you are not paying attention to the very task or person in front of you that needs to be attended to. If you are obsessed with the past or wondering about the future, it is very easy to miss the opportunity, the delight and joy that is right in front of you. Speculation can cause great mental suffering. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, "I’ve been through some terrible things in my life--some of which actually happened."
In fact, if you watch your own thought processes, it’s interesting to observe how we can rapidly concoct a whole saga from random incidents. Next time you try on a garment in a shop and it doesn’t fit, watch how your thought processes can rapidly move from “it doesn’t fit” to “I’m fat and ugly” to “No one will ever love me” in the space of milliseconds and the suffering that causes you.
Being present doesn’t mean that you stop wanting to achieve and be ambitious, but it does mean that you enjoy the journey as much as the destination. And because you are giving high quality, focussed attention to the tasks and people around you moment by moment, it means that your path will be a smoother one. Begin by paying attention to small everyday tasks (i.e., washing your hands, driving). Slowly, you will find that this habit of paying attention will take root in other areas of your life and will be a powerful change agent.
Five Ways to be Present
- Pay attention to what your five senses are telling you now--what do you hear, smell?
- Ask yourself what is the one thing I have to do now?
- Check in with yourself. What am I feeling right now?
- Ask yourself, what would I do if this moment was exactly what I needed?
- What am I thinking right now--simply observing what you are thinking can be an eye-opener!
Benefits of Being Present
- Seeing the world and the people around you with fresh unbiased eyes.
- Increased quality of work as you focus exclusively on the task in front of you.
- Improved relationships with the people around you. Few things are more attractive than a person who is truly present.
- Elimination of the “when x happens, then I’ll be happy” mindset. Greater enjoyment and gratitude for what you currently have.
- Greater awareness of current opportunities.
Anne Walsh is a coach who works best with high-achieving people who need to develop focus in order to achieve goals that have been put on the back burner and who want to tap their hidden greatness.