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The Power of the Present
Thursday, July 6, 2017
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Power of Present
When I speak and write about mindfulness, the question I get most often is, “If I practice mindfulness, what does that get me?” I usually point to the growing body of research that demonstrates the results of mindfulness. I also tell people that when they are mindful, they are more present and aware, and this in turn supports the development of certain leadership skills and capabilities, such as attentive listening. But when you put the pile of research aside, what is the effect on our lives of living in the present, in this moment? And what does it mean to actually live that way each day?

Mindfulness can help us accomplish the following things in our day-to-day lives. 

Connect With People, Not Technology 

We give so much habitual attention to our smartphones that we have a hard time putting them away. When we have the chance to interact with others in person—loved ones, co-workers—we keep one eye (or both eyes) on our phones. We miss the chance to connect, to listen, to empathize, to share. I recently had dinner with four people at a conference, and three of them spent most of the meal on their smartphones. They were new connections, and I didn’t know much more about them afterwards. What opportunities do you miss when you give more attention to your phone than to the people around you? 

Slow Down and Pay Attention 

The other side effect of constant email, texting, social media, and web surfing is that it’s easy for us to feel bored. But there are things around us every day that are worth paying attention to. When was the last time you noticed the blue of the sky, or the smell of rain, or the new flowers blooming in spring? My spouse and I go on motorcycle trips every year. We deliberately choose scenic routes and stop to take in the sights along the way. What is in your everyday experience that you haven’t noticed lately? Or ever? How does your day, your energy, your perspective change when you pay attention more? 

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Feel and Express Gratitude 

I used to think that if someone was doing their job, why should I thank them? Isn’t paid compensation enough? But now I thank people all the time—the bus driver, the coffee barista, the mailman—for the little ways they make my life easier. During employee appreciation week, Bill Marriott, the chairman of the board of Fortune 100 company Marriott International, stands at the front door of the Marriott headquarters office, shakes employees’ hands as they enter, and says, “Thank you.” Take a minute to look at the other people you interact with every day—your family, your friends—and ask yourself, “When was the last time I told them how much I appreciate them? What would be different if I told them more often?” 

Stay Focused on Today 

I had a number of unexpected opportunities come my way in the last year. It’s been exciting and sometimes a little overwhelming: I’d look ahead to three months from now and wonder how on earth I was going to get everything done. So I made a long-term plan for meeting my obligations, but then I focused on what I needed to get done today. When the day was over, I gave myself credit for what I accomplished, and I unplugged from work for the evening. I’m far less stressed, and I acknowledge and appreciate the progress I’ve made. What would be the result if your view was focused specifically on today rather than a nebulous tomorrow?

We often spend much of our days and lives in a reality other than the present moment—either a virtual world, or the abstract worlds of the past or future. When we do specific things to reconnect with the present moment, we begin to shift our experience: of ourselves, of other people, and of our environment.

For advice on how to bring mindfulness to work, join me in November in West Palm Beach for ATD’s TalentNext: Building an Engaged Workforce.

About the Author
Michelle Somerday is an Executive Coach and Leadership Development Consultant and the Founder of Neo-Strategic, LLC. She is an experienced speaker and lecturer who has taught at the university graduate level and spoken at international conferences, and she facilitates leadership and workplace skills trainings with a particular interest in The Mindful Leader. She spoke at the 2016 ATD International Conference & Expo on Mindfulness At Work: Why Western Companies Embrace An Eastern Practice, and she has written on mindfulness in the workplace for the ATD Human Capital blog.  Michelle is a Certified Leadership Coach through Georgetown University and through the International Coach Federation (ICF).  She has practiced mindfulness since 1999 and holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Virginia. Michelle’s complete bio is available at www.neo-strategic.com. 
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