Presence vs. Presents

In a conversation with my hair stylist, I asked her what she would like to see me write about, geared toward preparing one for the New Year. Without hesitation, she said she would like to see people focus more on giving their time and presence to one another, rather than material gifts.

As we talked about her idea, the truth and simplicity of it rang deep and true. Many of us do not really need things but we do have a desire to be in relationship with one another. We often pride ourselves on how well we multi-task and how much we can accomplish. This provides us with a sense of being productive, which in turn enhances our feelings of self worth and value. What I have observed is that these good feelings often come at the price of our relationships.

It is so easy for us to objectify those who are closest to us for the sake of “getting things done.” How often are you driving somewhere with your kids or family but talking on the cell phone at the same time? Or sharing a family meal with the television on, or working on your computer while talking on the phone and catching a bite to eat? Do the people we say we value most in life deeply feel our focused presence? Do they feel valued by us?

I am guilty of these behaviors myself. I am easily distracted by things around me. Because being present and focused is the foundation of my work, my clients and business associates often get the “best” of my presence. But what about those closest to me who I claim to value most? I have to be alert and aware of these tendencies in myself so that I may stay aligned with what I value. Especially outside of my work, I need to mindfully practice focus and presence, in order to be congruent with my values.

What might the New Year hold in terms of possibility with our relationships, if we were to be fully present with those we claim to value the most? I believe we are all yearning to be heard and understood by those closest to us – to feel connected. We are so skilled at focusing on what we don’t want (our complaints) that we forget we can attract what we do want. We’re often blind to what we do not know or have not experienced, because we become accustomed to living with less and we unconsciously expect less from our relationships, over time. We often need someone like a coach or confidante who is our champion to point out what they observe and were they see us focusing which offers us the opportunity to explore how that impacts our lives. My best coaches and confidantes have helped me to get clear about what I want and challenge me to practice focusing and being present with what I value. The reward for focusing and being present is seeing, experiencing, and realizing new possibilities – in ourselves and in our relationships.

Focusing and being present is about changing our habits. It is natural for people to resist change, even good change. We become afraid of stepping outside our comfort zone into the unknown. We are afraid of losing our sense of efficiency or getting things done, and we have trouble letting go of the equation that says everything-needs-to-be-in-order before we can… Additionally, we are skeptical that what we are considering will really make a difference, and it feels like change will take too much energy, when we are already tired. Finally, we spend too much time thinking about change rather than jumping in and taking our thought out for a spin to see how it feels. We simply do not trust in ourselves – and our intuition – to guide our changes.

I ask each of you to contemplate joining me and my hair stylist this next year in giving the gift of time and presence to those we interact with and living a life aligned with who and what we say we value most. It is a gift that we can all afford to give and that everyone can appreciate receiving.

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