I have been aware for quite some time the amount of ‘busyness’ that we deal with. Work, school, before and after school activities, before and after work activities, children, older parents, church, play, responsibilities, house, social media, 24-hour news cycle, parties, meals, life. We are bombarded with ‘stuff’ every day. Much of it we are complicit in. Some of it feels like we aren’t – that it ‘flies’ at us and we must deal with it. I would invite you to consider that even with those items, we are often complicit because we ‘choose’ what we pay attention to, and what we don’t. Because we have convenient access to so much, we create the illusion that we must pay attention to it.
Almost without noticing, all the busyness competes with our ability to be present – to be ‘awake’ and ‘aware’ of the events and people in front of us. What is the cumulative affect of this behavior? You tell me. Has there been an erosion in our relationships with our spouse, our children, our friends, work colleagues, others? Does are work suffer? Are we as attuned to the needs of others? I’ll come back to these questions.
I remember 15 years ago becoming aware of a desire to change the ‘pace’ of my life. Some of this feeling was due to my being in the same job for almost 20 years at that time. There were parts of the job that I no longer enjoyed. I began to notice that I didn’t have the same need/desire to be ‘the person in charge.’ I longed for things to slow down. Some of this was related to issues we were having with our son, much of it was the desire to change the pace, to slow down.
I smile and remember, as I watch my son with his three children now, what it was like in my 30’s with one child – the pace of life ramps up with children. The more children, the greater the pace, depending on their ages. For many of us, we chose to take on this responsibility, and accept that life moves from one responsibility to another, to another, to another. Many of those choices are really good choices (building positive memories for and with our children). And then there are those times when we become ‘whelmed over’ by the unplanned, the unwanted, the ‘noise’ in our head and in our life.
There is also another dynamic, perhaps more subtle, but it is the degree we are present for ourselves. The degree we are ‘awake’ and ‘aware’ of our own needs, our own emotions, our own lives. The ‘noise’ in our head, and the busyness in our lives has a way of deadening our sensitivity to ourselves. We go through our days ‘checking’ off the must do’s, the to do’s, and the things we just do. I notice this in the people that I coach. They are tired. Many are ‘whelmed over.’ Many also feel powerless to do it differently, to make any different choices.
“It is more important to manage your energy than your time.” I first read that in the book, The Power of Full Engagement, by Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr. I read that phrase over and over again, as it was a foreign concept. The pages that followed continued to explain why our energy was our only renewable resource. It was at the center of our life. It affected our relationships, our work, our play – everything.
From that reading, I went on my own journey to changing how I managed my physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy. I made more choices to care for me FIRST, to insure there was a balance in my energy. I worked hard on being more present for myself and others. It was transformative.
Perhaps the key to my learning was realizing (or remembering) that I was in control of my choices. If I wanted a different outcome, I needed to make different choices. It’s simple, but sometimes I think we forget we have that power. Another way to look at it is, “Is what I’m doing getting me what I want?”
Back to our questions – Has there been an erosion in our relationships with our spouse, our children, other family members, our friends, work colleagues, others? Does are work suffer? Are we as attuned to the needs of others? The simple answer for me is that from time to time I’m not as awake and aware. From time to time this does impact my relationships and what I am doing. This is where being present for yourself has an important impact. ‘Reconnecting’ with myself enables me to reflect more on what is going on around me, and how my lack of presence with others is affecting those relationships. Reconnecting on a regular basis helps me prevent long periods of lack of presence in my life.
As I have ‘slowed’ my pace over the past couple of years, I have recognized how being ‘present’ for myself and others is a ‘present’ (sorry, couldn’t resist). It is this action that helps affirm others, helps them to feel heard, helps them to feel like they matter. Witnessing the power of this act with others is very uplifting; witnessing the degree to which we are not present for ourselves or others brings on sadness for what we are missing.
Does the ‘knowing’ create change? That is what we hope for. Unfortunately, the ‘knowing,’ or awareness, don’t always lead to change . I heard recently this about the connection of knowing and doing, “To know and not do, is to not know.”
All of us can think of many examples of where we know something (i.e., health related decisions with smoking, diet, exercise) and yet we are not willing to make a change. Some of this relates to our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. Human beings are not great at reacting with urgency to the ‘unseen.’ If it isn’t an immediate threat, we don’t react with the same degree of need for action. It is not the only reason for lack of action, but it is at work.
Another explanation is that sometimes we are not in enough ‘pain’ to warrant change…yet. I see all of these at work in my coaching. I am sometimes baffled by a person’s resistance to change until I understand that they are getting something from their current behavior. Sometimes, that exploration and understanding of what they are getting helps the individual to build a path to ‘letting go’ of their current behavior in order to make a change.
Are there areas of your life where you are not getting what you want? What would it take for you to make a different choice(s) to get more of what you want? Is that time now? If not, when?
To a better you…