I have been asked multiple times in the past few weeks what my biggest lesson has been since I started my practicum placement. And whilst I must say that the whole placement experience has been a massive learning curve that has thrown me completely outside of my comfort zone, one thing that I have come to intimately know and warmly embrace is the power of being present.
“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment”
I must admit that being — and more challengingly, staying — present is not something that has always come easily to me. As someone who is goal focused and outcome oriented, growing up, I felt like stopping to just be made me feel like a restless racehorse at the starting gates. I cringe looking at my school self. A friend of mine once told me that I used to have “white outs” with her – her gentle way of saying that she was fully aware that my mind would wander off during our conversations. I hate to think back to how many times I been having a conversation with someone only to realise I was distracted thinking about something that happened in the past, or something that needed to happen in the future, only to realise that I totally missed what the person was saying. Setting aside how disrespectful to that person that those moments were, they were also missed opportunities to spend precious time building a relationship through showing that I care enough to completely give my time to them in that moment.
Thankfully, I have become far, far better at being present with age and experience. But it is still something that I have to mindfully engage in – not just with others, but in my everyday life. The importance of this has never been so evident to me since I started working one-on-one with people on placement. In the same way that you can tell when somebody is not really there with you, others can tell almost immediately. There is limitless value in just being present with someone whose life is caught up in a flurry of activity. Slowly drinking a cup of tea together. Helping them with an activity that they love – no matter how long it takes. Taking your time to hear what they have to say. I have even noticed that the calm that I find through being completely present has a ripple effect.
There is now a growing body of research showing time and time again that being present is undoubtedly one of the best ways to enjoy life to the fullest. It allows us to develop deeper relationships, be more productive, find more fulfilment in everyday tasks, and contributes to improving our overall wellbeing.
In an age of distraction, this is easier said than done. At times, it is almost like we are so connected that we lose the ability to connect to the moment.
So here are 5 things to help you be present.
- Slow Down.
- There is a big difference between being busy and rushing through life. Even when there is a lot going on, take a moment to take your time and be deliberate with what you are doing.
- Do one thing at a time.
- Yes, sometimes multitasking is the only way to get things done. But most of the time it is far better to do one thing well than many things haphazardly.
- Focus on what is happening around you.
- Ask yourself “what really matters in this moment?”.
- To what others are saying. To the sound of traffic. To a bird chirping. You will be amazed at how much you miss.
- Breathe deeply.
- Taking deep breaths is a great way to relax and help you to focus. There are even some fantastic apps that you can now use.
I challenge you today, to really listen to the people you are with. To slow down. To take a moment to notice what is going on around you. To just be present.
You might be amazed at what you find.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
Alice Morse Earle