Having a rich and vibrant inner-life is highly important and a fantastic way to better understand yourself. It can also help with becoming more creative, make you better at planning ahead and even more thoughtful.
All this is great, but what's just as important is that you maintain the ability to turn that off. In other words, you need to be able to sometimes switch focus from your inner monologue and instead focus on what's going on in the world around you. This is a critical ability in business, as well as in relationships and for your general wellbeing and happiness. Read on and we'll look at why that is and at how you can go about improving your connection with the real world.
The Importance of Presence
Have you ever been in a meeting or a conversation where you find yourself going through the motions to such an extent that you subsequently hardly even remember being there? This can happen when you're too tired or disinterested to properly engage in the moment or when you're too distracted by other matters to focus on the matter in hand.
The problem is that many of us would often like to be somewhere else, or have other things going on in our lives that appear to demand our attention more. You might be in a meeting with your colleagues, but really your mind is busy thinking of how you're going to afford next month's rent, how much you enjoyed that TV show last night, or how you might be able to start earning money from a blog you've been dreaming of creating.
The problem though is that by failing to be present, you will damage your physical presence in that conversation. People won't take you so seriously and you'll appear less switched on and less charismatic. Meanwhile you'll fail to take in matters that might later prove important, and your relationships can suffer (there's nothing worse than feeling like someone isn't listening to you on a date). If your mind is elsewhere when you're trying to relax then this can prevent you from getting any real benefit from time out, while failure to be present when exploring or travelling can mean that you miss out on amazing sights and experiences. Simply increasing your sense of presence can improve your happiness and your appreciation for the world. Don't let it pass you by!
To summarise, the benefits of improving your presence include:
• Greater wit and repartee leading to increased perceived intelligence and command
• Impression of greater confidence and charisma
• Attention to detail
• Improved relationships
• Greater gratitude, awe and happiness
Tips to Increase Presence
So those are some compelling reasons to start living in the moment again. The remaining question then is how you actually go about achieving that and what you can do in order to get out of your own head.
Here are some strategies you can try using next time it's important to be switched on, alert and in the moment.
Health and Mental State
Sometimes we fail to be in the moment not because we are distracted or disinterested, but because we lack the energy or the focus to concentrate. This is what happens when we aren't thinking about other things, but are instead staring blankly at the wall not paying attention to much of anything.
This is why it's so important to make sure you do everything possible to improve your energy and vitality prior to important events. This means making sure to eat plenty of carbs for energy (start your day with a bowl of oatmeal for a steady supply of blood sugar), it means making sure to get lots of sleep which will improve almost every aspect of your health and wellbeing, and it means maintaining your health generally. If you can improve your circulation and fitness this won't just mean more energy for climbing the stairs, it will also mean more energy for boring meetings and better blood flow to your brain.
And if you're feeling lethargic and struggling to focus, then you can use a few strategies in order to get your blood flowing again and to increase energy. One simple one is just to get up and walk around or to jump up and down. Another is to splash cold water on your face which can wake you up and rush blood to your head. Alternatively you can try having a strong coffee or just a quick banana.
Get Inside Your Body
Often when we drift off into deep thought it's almost as though we've left our body and have travelled into some alternate place. We become so detached that we can almost forget where we are in space and this is what leaves us often very disengaged from our surroundings.
A simple way to fix this then is to 'bring yourself back' into your body by reconnected with it – just simply becoming a little more aware of it. You can do this very easily too simply by wiggling your toes or tensing some of your muscles. Immediately you'll feel your body and this will remind you that you have a physical body in a physical location. Welcome back to reality. If you need to maintain this presence for a sustained period of time, then you could even try keeping the toes moving or perhaps just gripping the floor with your feet. Believe it or not, being a little cool (in temperature) can actually help to keep you connected to your physical body too.
Find a Hook
While we will often drift off and stop listening in meetings or when our partners are telling us about their day, rarely do we drift off when we're watching trashy TV programs. It's kind of an unfortunate imbalance, but it's not really our faults – it's more to do with the way our brains are programmed and the way we focus our attention.
Difference is, films are filled with emotional storylines, heightened by lots of vivid imagery and orchestral sweeping scores in the background. All this tells our brain that what is happening is important, while the plot is purposefully constructed to be as engaging and dramatic as possible. How can your partner's account of their day possibly compete?
The trick is to find some way to make yourself more emotionally invested in the conversation and to think about why it's of value to you and what you can learn from it. In a meeting, set yourself an agenda such as improving the way a particular person in that discussion sees you, or pushing one of your ideas slightly. You could even try practicing your gravitas. When talking to your partner make it your mission to learn something new about their workplace, or to try and make them feel that bit better about their day. By setting out with an objective, you can bring yourself more into the present and feel more engaged with what's going on around you.
Likewise you can also achieve a similar effect when exploring a dull museum or when watching a boring TV program. Think about how you can relate it back to something you do care about. If there's nothing else to enjoy about the TV program you're watching, look instead at the way it's made or the locations it's filmed in. If you look deep enough, everything can be interesting.
'The most valuable use of my time is right now' is a positive affirmation you can use to remind yourself to be present and to focus on what's going on in the current moment. Often our lack of focus and presence comes as a result of us simply forgetting that we should be paying attention and not drifting off into a dream. By reminding yourself this way to be focussed and present you can bring yourself back to reality and help yourself stay more engaged with what's going on around you. Repeat this mantra in your mind a few times and it should remind you that you need to be in the moment.
And in case you forget to repeat the mantra, you can even try wearing a bracelet or using some other totem just to remind yourself.