Tips on how to be in the present

What is the cost of not being present?  I had a minor car accident once.  I stepped out of my house, noticed my empty driveway, watched my footsteps carefully on the icy driveway and got into my car.  I checked my mirrors and then backed up into my turnaround space.  CRASH!  Someone had driven into my driveway (it’s a long driveway) and parked in my blind spot during the thirty seconds between getting into my car and backing up.  My insurance company is poorer by $2500 and my claim-free record is gone, not to say anything of the shock to my visiting friend!  If only I had been present and turned my head to have a full look.  Such is the cost of assuming that what was true before, is still true now….even if the past is just thirty seconds ago. 

Three nothings equals true love.  Today, I give you the bottom line on how to be a loving person in the present moment.  Are you ready?  Nothing to hide;  Nothing to prove;  Nothing to lose.  When these three “nothings” are true for you in a given moment, you will feel love bursting out of your chest.  If you don’t feel that way right now, I guarantee it is because one of these “nothings” is a “something”!  I wish you a happy, loving, “nothing” of a Valentine’s Day with the one you love….

Life at the edge.  Have you ever experienced a panic attack?  It’s an overwhelming feeling of being out of control.  The fear is tidal wave in size.  I once experienced three days of this terror when I put myself in a deep financial hole that looked like a five-year mountain to repay my way out of it.  Psychologists call this ‘existential fear’.  No amount of logic can persuade a person out of this extreme level of anxiety. 

What’s the way out?  There is only one way – to turn around and look the fear in the eye.  This is the very opposite of what you want to do.  This same principle applies to ANY fear you might be facing, from making cold calls as a salesperson, to dealing with a personal embarrassment.  When you can dare to accept that what you fear may indeed happen, you’ll return to the present, clear about what your present moment choices are and what’s most important for you to do…now.

What limits a leader?  All of us are called to be leaders in our own way. Leading your work group, your family, your friends, your company, has one thing in common:  Your ability to positively influence others.  The number one influencing factor in human relationships isn’t “smarts”, isn’t “right answers”, isn’t “best ideas”. What’s number one is EMPATHY.  Empathy builds trust, opens ears and opens hearts. It’s even medically proven in Alzheimer’s care and in Autism care. 

You can only give empathy to others if you can give it to yourself.  If you can’t be supportive to yourself when you make mistakes, you won’t be able to support someone else either.  In trying to “be present”, you notice when you’re unkind to you.  Once you notice and accept this, you will find it fairly easyto make changes that are real for you…and positively influence those around you.

Are you in control of your thoughts?  For years, I had a flood of thoughts that exhausted me at night, woke me early in the morning, and pre-occupied my day.  I could not even control the kind of thoughts I was having.  Negative thoughts, defeatist thoughts, resentful thoughts…all playing as if on a tape player, leaving me feeling powerless to shut them off.  I noticed this especially when I truly wanted to shut them off – the first two days of a vacation, hitting a golf ball, meeting someone important… When you are in the present moment, you think less because you trust you will handle the future when it arrives, while humbly accepting your powerlessness to rewrite or undo the past.

By the inch, it’s a cinch. By the yard, it’s hard!  Few goals worth achieving happen in one day, or even one week.  Major goals take years, and even a lifetime.  My book took me 2 1/2 years full-time to write, for example.  The thought of what needs to be done in order to achieve your dreams can seem overwhelming.  Thoughts like these are called “living in the future”.  When you live in the present, you focus on the inch in front of you, clearly committed to where you hope that inch will lead you, yet unattached as to whether the whole yard happens today… or this year…or ever!  Then you will be completely focused on NOW.  You may be surprised how fast you travel the distance, and you will definitely be delighted at how much more you enjoy the journey.

Never assume.  I met a friendly man at my church a year ago.  He bought my book and greeted me enthusiastically each time we met.  Then I didn’t see him for a few months.  The next time we met, he seemed noticeably distant and cool.   I immediately remembered that by coincidence, I had met  a friend of his who had wanted to meet me for lunch.  I declined at the time, offering to help him by phone instead.  The person never followed up.  Suddenly I wondered if this person had spoken negatively about me to my church friend? 

A few weeks later, I bumped into this friend at a social gathering.  After three tries, I managed to get a conversation going.  To my amazement, he looked at me rather sheepishly and blurted out, “I’m sorry.  I haven’t had time to read your book!”  Then he brightened up. “But my mom has read it!”  Then it clicked for me.  He was distant because he felt embarrassed.  My assumptions were wrong, as they almost always are, I find.  I reassured him and we enjoyed a pleasant conversation once again.

A surefire way to end a conflict.  One of the great “present moment” struggles we all face is when someone wants a fight we don’t want.  In effect, they want to have a “tug-of-war” with us and are throwing a “rope” at us, hoping we’ll pick it up.  Let’s say they accuse you of hurting them.  Then you defend yourself…and bing0…you’re engaged.   You’ve picked up your end of the rope. 

The solution?  Don’t pick up your end of the rope. Don’t defend nor explain.  Make other choices. Thank them for the information.  Empathize with how they feel.  Assert your unwillingness to have the discussion.    Choose to deal with it on your terms – when the accusations are no longer flying.  Then you’ll be doing what’s important now for you…and them.

I wish I’d thought of that sooner… Ever have a brilliant thought that showed up just a little too late?  The smooth comeback line, the innovative suggestion, the smart response… You can cultivate your talent in this area by learning to trust your inner knowing “in the present.”  How?  Don’t think.  Just make it your practice to speak what comes to your mind.  You may occasionally regret it, but you must risk this possibility in order to let your brilliance emerge.  You will be at ease with this risk when you are at peace with making “mistakes.”

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