I used to be one of those people who rushed through my day checking off every task on the to do list I created in my head every morning. The more I completed, the better I felt.
In the interest of time, I typically told others what to do—how to solve their problems. My eye was always on the prize. I loved hearing others comment on my capacity to get so much accomplished in any given day. I felt quick, competent, and oh so busy.
The adrenal rushes I experienced throughout my day fed my need to rush through every day, always thinking about what I needed to complete next.
February 5, 2006 was the day that all changed.
I was busy going about my day, completing all the tasks I had set for myself when I realized that I had no idea how I had gotten from my home to my client’s office, where I had parked my car, or what we had talked about. My morning was a complete blank and it scared me.
I knew I had gotten to my client’s office and she was happy with the work we had done. Just, I could not recall most of it. I had been on automatic pilot—going through all the motions and yet not really there, not paying attention to what was happening.
It wasn’t until that moment that it occurred to me. How much of my life was I missing by always living in the future—a place that did not even exist yet? What was I doing? What was I missing out on? How connected was I with my husband, my kids, my friends? My reflections of past experiences, if available to me, were vague with little detail or meaning.
I realized I needed to change. I decided I wanted to slow down, stop thinking about what else I was going to do, and stop rushing through my day.
I wanted to focus on becoming present in my own life in the moment so I could appreciate what I was doing, how I was interacting with others, and really savoring my day as I lived it.
I became curious. After completing some research, I began to try different strategies to become more aware in my life and be present as I lived each day.
I learned that what worked for me was setting an intention around being present each morning. I began to meditate on a regular basis, slowly increasing the amount of time I practiced meditation until I was able to “sit on the cushion” for at least 30 minutes. I felt proud of myself when I accomplished this. Back when I started to meditate, I could only be still for 2 minutes!
I knew I was making progress. I was feeling less rushed, more present and more attentive as I moved through my day. I began to practice yoga, first a couple of days a week, then gradually increasing to 5 days each week. I felt so good, calm and centered in my life, connected in my relationships.
With time, I became aware of when I was present in my life, what this felt like, how it affected my relationships and my work. I could still accomplish as much in a day, typically with fewer errors and misunderstandings.
I could never go back to my old ways of rushing through my day! Since then, I have focused on always being present. I now feel disrespectful towards myself and others when I am not!
Here are the ten most important side effects that I’ve experienced as a result of becoming more present:
- I now see the world around me with added clarity and definition. I appreciate everything more fully, savoring each moment as I interact with the world around me. When hiking through the forest after a rainstorm today, I noticed how the raindrops lingered on the tree branches and sparkled through the sunlight. Such beauty, I would have ignored in my previous life.
- I value conversations more. I connect and seek clarity. I am more attentive towards others, noticing both their verbal and non-verbal messaging. I stop what I am doing when in conversation, recognizing that multitasking detracts from the other person. I am more open and non-judging when listening to their perspectives.
- I am calmer as I move through my day, and I find that the negative self-talk gremlins in my head are quieter, allowing me to focus with greater clarity.
- I am more grateful about my life, and I feel I live a life filled with every type of abundance.
- I have a greater awareness of my body, how it feels when it is healthy and what I need to do to keep it in a healthy state.
- I am more open and inclusive, interested in exploring possibilities around me instead of judging and blaming (which only create self-limiting perspectives that do not serve me well).
- I am a learning junkie and presence helps me continue to learn every day. When present, I find I have the space in my head to reflect more easily so I can continually learn and change.
- Being present supports curiosity. I find I am generally more curious with others. I have the space and time to focus on them and to ask open-ended questions that help me I learn more about their perspectives. I may not agree with everything they say, but I can better understand them. I can identify common ground so we can discover ways to connect as we move forward.
- Being present helps me stay calm when my emotional buttons are pushed because I can access my curiosity skills and stay connected with others.
- When present, I know I have the capacity to respect myself and others at all times.
Yes, the adrenal rushes are behind me! They have been replaced with cherished moments with family, friends and colleagues. I am able to connect with them in a deeper way where I seek to understand them. This creates great experiences in the moment that become wonderful memories. These memories feed me in a different way—one that is warm, empathetic and filled with appreciation. This is a trade-off for which I am exceedingly grateful.