My life is like yours: busy.
As a husband, dad to three wild boys, and pastor of a growing church in fast-paced Silicon Valley, I deal with the ever present temptation to not be fully present in the moment. The demands, stress, and surprises of each day tempt me to withhold my full presence and attention, to abandon focus.
This temptation is a lie. Abandoning focus and presence does not equate to a greater ability to handle everything that comes at you. Instead, failure to be fully present results in ineffective leadership, people not feeling cared for, and a loss of personal joy.
Many of us feel ever-present low grade stress and lack joy in large part because we’re rarely fully present. We try to be three places at once and do four things at once. This is dumb. I don’t want to live this way. We are not designed to live this way.
Obviously the first step in solving this problem is to refocus: to reassess the priorities we want to give our time and energy to. I take extended time both annually and quarterly to reassess my chief priorities and goals. Another critical and often over-looked need is to commit to being fully present with/fully focused upon the person or task we’re currently engaged with.
The happiest, most loving, and most effective leaders learn to be fully present. You can learn this to. Instead of each day feeling like an endless, grueling marathon, each day can feel like a series of varied, interesting, and challenging sprints where your focus and full presence shifts throughout the day to the project or person of the moment.
Here’s one example of how I practice being present: My days are often packed with meetings and projects. It’s common for me to leave behind an unfinished task, rush into a meeting at a coffee shop, and to have the person I’m meeting say to me, “You seem really busy. You have a lot going on.” My standard reply is to say, “Yes, I’m very busy. But for the next forty minutes you have my complete attention and focus. I’m here to listen and to help you in any way I can. Tell me, what’s going on?” The person then notices my full eye contact and attention, and begins to talk. I determine to be nowhere else but present in that coffee job, enjoying this unique moment in time that I will never get back. And, then, when the meeting is over, I turn my attention to my next project or meeting feeling refreshed and recharged, eager to give my full energy to what’s next.
The ambitious missionary, Jim Elliot, said it best: “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
You can do this. You were created to live and lead with full presence. Where are you? Wherever you are, be all there!