A few years ago, I was talking with a small group of guys. One of them was sharing his story – what life had been like growing up, things that had happened to him, conclusions he had drawn about himself. Growing up in a large family as a younger, quieter, kid, he often felt unheard. Now an adult, he struggled with giving up the microphone once he got it. We knew this, he knew this, we had talked about it before. But it was still a very long story that he told that day. Honestly, I struggled with paying attention. I wanted to, but it was hard. My mind wandered. But every single time I looked over at my buddy Sam, he was dialed in completely. Totally focused, listening attentively. It was actually kind of inspiring. Later on that week, I asked Sam about it. Was he actually that captivated by the story? What was going on for him that he sat at rapt attention for almost three hours? He said that he had remembered this guy’s past. And Sam decided, for one night, to give this guy the gift of being present.
The most challenging resolution I have made for 2011 is to offer the gift of being present. To my family, to my wife, to my friends, in meetings, in my life. To consciously try to be present instead of just sitting there. I’m not where I want to be right now, but I’m getting better. A conscious decision to not get up and start clearing the table when I’m done with dinner. A conscious decision to close my laptop when one of my kids asks a question instead of saying, “…just a minute…” Which frankly is just my code for ‘what I’m doing is more important than your question’ most of the time. And unfortunately, if it’s my laptop that’s open, then what I am doing is almost surely less important than their question.
We went to a concert the other day and I was shocked at the number of people who spent most of the concert looking at their phones. Granted, I understand that it was going to make a sweet YouTube video, but I really think they missed out on part of the concert experience. I don’t know for sure. But I know for pretty sure. If you’re standing 10 feet from the stage, but looking at your LCD screen the whole time, you’re missing something. A few days later I took my son to his karate class. Looking down the wall of the karate studio, it was lined with parents. Faces lit up not with the joy of seeing their sons and daughters learning karate, but with ipads, iphones and laptops.
Please hear me. I’m not on a technology rant. It can be helpful, fun, relaxing or a way to make our living. But for me personally, this year, I’m realizing how much of real life I’m missing when I’m plugged in. And so my resolution is to live life acoustically, to experience life more through taste and smell and hearing and touch and sight. To give those that I love the gift of being present.
What about you?