Welcome back to the One Better Choice series. I hope these articles allow you time to reflect on ways to meet your goals through incremental successes. As I mentioned, I think our choices are reflections of our priorities.
For me, the overall health of the relationships in my life is incredibly important. My ability to achieve goals, and the energy and passion it takes to reach them, is positively impacted when my relationships are strong. The term “relationship” doesn't strictly refer to the romantic variety, although that is important too. Relationships involve all of the closest connections you have in your life. These are the folks who truly matter to you.
Maintaining those relationships requires being present.
The problem is so many things in our daily lives interrupt our relationships. There is always another email, text message or news story vying for our attention.
Recently when traveling through an airport, I was able to stop and grab breakfast. I stopped into a café and noticed something truly amazing. In front of each and every seat in the restaurant, an iPad stood waiting to take my order.
This is not a diatribe on convenience or some plea for us to retreat from technology. I’m as connected as the next person. But I'd never seen an iPad available for every customer.
If a group of four wanted to sit and enjoy each other’s company during a meal, they would have had to compete with not only their personal electronic devices, but also the one mounted in front of them.
It is almost as if the world is challenging us to be less personal; even if you wanted to ignore the iPad, you couldn’t.
Being present involves so much more than simply occupying a physical space. It requires that you actively and purposefully invest yourself in what you are doing. This is particularly important in our interactions. You can communicate how important someone is to you by being present with them.
As a trained sociologist, I genuinely believe we need each other. We crave meaningful, deep connection. We aren’t meant to be isolated.
The next time you are out in public, do a little social experiment - see how many people in groups are actually “present” with one another. More likely than not, you will see people sharing a physical space, but failing to actually be present with one another.
As you notice this, I want you to ask yourself an important question… Do those people seem like they truly prioritize their relationships? If so, are they demonstrating it?
For someone who is easily distracted by people-watching or social media, the act of intentionally disconnecting and being present in the moment is difficult. It will require practice and patience, but it is an important skill to master. Along with the hundreds of choices you are faced with each day, you are also faced with opportunities to be distracted.
The difference between those who meet their goals and those who fail often comes down to attention to detail… the act of being present.
When I have found myself failing others in the in my life, the vast majority of the time it was due to my failure to be present. This can take a variety of forms - do you check on your friends? Do you respond to their messages, phone calls, letters, etc.? Do you give these important people your undivided attention when they need it? If your answer is “no” to any of these questions, I think you will find this challenge significant and it will improve the depth of your connections.
Over the next few days, challenge yourself to choose to be more present for the people you care about. It can be as simple as clearing your mind during a conversation and offering them your attention, calling someone unexpectedly, or doing a nice thing for someone who needs it. Practice being as present as possible, limiting your distractions, and truly being there for those who matter.
A word of caution… this exercise will not make you superhuman. You will still find times that you are distracted from the moment. But if you consciously choose to be present in your relationships, I think you will find yourself more successful and happier!
What’s the worst that could happen?
One Better Choice series is posted every Tuesday.