How to Be More Present & What Matters Most

Last week a young mom who attended my stress relief and relaxation workshop asked, “How can I be more present with my kids?”

A question I hear more and more.

One of the other women, a little older than the first, responded immediately with, “The only thing that matters is spending time with your children.  Do it now while you can.”  She had lost her son just last year.

I’ve always believed that good health and a loving family are the most important things in life.  When we are in good health – not just physically, but emotionally and even spiritually – we can work, play, live, love, and experience our environment fully.  When we are loved and have people to love we are connected to a world much larger than ourselves.

Being more present is something many are seeking yet a variety of factors make this harder and harder (ie, Back to School shopping begins mid-July!).  If you are looking to become more present with your family, at work, or anytime, below are three ways to get you started.

Meditate. Sitting quietly with a single focus – whether a word, phrase, or your breath – is the most effective (not to mention time and cost effective!) way to practice presence.  Meditation creates calm, focus and awareness, all necessary for increased presence.

Try this: Sit quietly, without distraction, and focus on your breath.  As you notice your thoughts appear observe and silently say, “thinking”, then, without judgment, bring your attention back to your breath.  That is the training for awareness and presence.

Be Grateful. Sometimes I’m moving so quickly I forget about the wonderful things I have already – a loving family, my health, and a comfortable home.  Taking a moment to pause and appreciate the positive parts of your life is a wonderful way to stay grounded in the present moment.  When you can find pleasure in what you have, you may realize it’s enough.

Try this: Grab a piece of paper and pen and write down all the things you feel grateful for right now.  How do you feel?

Avoid Multi-Tasking. There is a belief that multi-tasking = more productive. Based on recent research, multi-tasking is less productive and often leads to an increase in mistakes, forgetfulness and frustration, not to mention a lot of unfinished projects.  Oh, and it can be dangerous (think texting while driving).  Concentrate on and complete one task at a time to enjoy a feeling of satisfaction and success.  When you’re with your family, turn off cell phones and put away computers.  Focus on the people instead.

Try this: When you notice yourself doing more than one thing at a time (for example talking on the phone while you cook dinner or texting while driving)  take a page from the meditation above.  First, notice that you’re mutli-tasking, and similar to your meditation, silently say “multi-tasking” then put the phone down and bring yourself back to cooking or driving as your single focus. Notice not only the outcome, but how you feel as a result.

We often take for granted the people in our lives, believing that they’ll be around forever.  But nothing in life is forever.  You only have NOW.  TODAY.

The dust bunnies under the bed can wait if your child, spouse, partner, grandmother, parent, best friend, is seeking a little bit of your time.

Give it to them.

Because spending time with the people you care about the most is feel good living.

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  • Lance

    Dust bunnies are cheaper to feed than real bunnies, too…. (go figure – I’d focus on the dust bunnies from all this good info…)

    I’m all for single-tasking – it keeps me much more fully focused on that moment.

    Now, that idea of meditation…so interesting that I would read this today (after a coaching call earlier this afternoon). Let’s just say it’s like the stars (or perhaps those dust bunnies) were aligned….

    Nice picture, too – you look very relaxed and in that moment…

  • Chris Edgar

    Thanks for this. On multitasking, I find in observing myself and in working with people that it often comes from a desire to escape the experience we’re having right now — if we’re feeling sad or irritated, for instance, then we try to pile on the activities and distractions so we don’t have to feel them. The trouble is, like you say, that this actually holds us back from accomplishing what we want in life and work.

  • Peggy Nolan

    Hi Stacey!

    Dust bunnies be damned…they can wait :-)

    Even with grown up semi adult children, hubs and I make the time to spend time with them. Last weekend it was a hike near Bretton Woods with my youngest step-daughter, my SIL, and my one year old grand daughter (ok, she didn’t hike…she was carried!). Sunday we spent the day with my oldest step daughter and watched the Star Wars movie marathon (geeks, yes, and proud of it!)

    Life moves at the speed of life – we can’t slow it down or speed it up but we can make the time to be with the ones we love and value. Because we MAKE time for what we value.


  • Stacey Shipman

    Lance – When I multi-task I’m not focused, and that in itself is stressful! Yes, meditation is a powerful tool.

    Chris – Definitely one way of looking at multi-tasking – to not feel things. How about companies who put in their job descriptions: Must be good at multi-tasking…

    Peggy – Time with family is the best, isn’t it! Yes, I often have people ask me, “How do I make the time.” I don’t know when that became a struggle. But anything fun creates guilt – like people aren’t doing enough!

  • Evita

    Hi Stacey

    Oh this is such a big one indeed! Parents may be “there” in theory with their children, but all too often they are not present for their children. And the thing is, whether consciously or subconsciously, our children know this.

    Being present whether for our children, our spouses or our friends is perhaps the most important gift we can give them.

    Thanks for the great tips!

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