I once worked with a man (who I will call Tom) who lived in San Francisco.
Tom would wake up in the morning to his ringing iPhone alarm, roll over, and immediately check his text messages, his Instagram, and then his two email accounts (in that order).
The texts were usually from his friends, the Instagram posts were from beautiful strangers who all seemed to have better lives than him, and his email accounts cumulatively contained somewhere between 10-30 emails (all labelled URGENT) about different metaphorical fires he needed to put out back in the office.
He would then switch on a new podcast episode (that had downloaded its way onto his phone while he slept) and quickly shower, eat a fast food breakfast, chug down a couple cups of coffee, and race out the door.
He then went to work where he sat in front of his laptop screen all day (taking frequent breaks to look at his smaller screens – phone, iPod, smart watch, etc.), and then he would go home.
At home, to reward himself for a long day in front of his work screens, he would either watch a few hours of Netflix while mindlessly checking his various home screens, or have a date night with his live-in girlfriend, which, you guessed it, often contained a lot of watching TV.
Tom hired me to help him get to the bottom of his increasingly painful and challenging situation. For some unknown reason, he had a perpetually twitching left eye, chronic tension headaches, and had a panic attack anywhere from 1-5 times on an average week.
It didn’t take long to decipher that Tom was suffering from a total lack of engaging in being a human.
Humans, in their natural habitat, tend to breathe fresh air, move their bodies, connect intimately with other humans, be aware of their surroundings, and inhabit their bodies. And Tom was essentially doing 0% of this, every day of his life.
If you can relate with Tom’s story, then you may be suffering from a lack of presence in your life.
The temptation to leave our bodies and live in our heads has never been greater. Why is this? The stronger and more fascinating technology gets, the more opportunities we have to disconnect from our bodies and not be present with the world around us.
I see the irony of writing about this on the internet, but hey, you have to meet people where they’re at. And if you already have a sense of where I’m going with this and your eyes hurt from staring at screens all day, turn off your device and go outside. Connect with someone you love by looking them in the eyes. Minimize digital distraction and just make a job out of getting engaged in your real life.
If you’re looking for some more juicy, present goodness, and you’re looking for ways to be more in your body and simultaneously improve your relationships, then read on.
Before we get into the practical steps of being more present, I think it’s useful to speak directly to what presence actually is.
What Is Presence?
Presence is deep, real-time awareness.
It is having enough free attention to truly be in the moment with someone.
It is the state of being completely undistracted. It is giving yourself in an undivided manner. It is total focus, with a sense of ease.
When you feel someone listening to you without a hint of distraction, they are being present with you.
Benefits Of Cultivating Presence
If you’ve read this far, you are likely already well acquainted with the down sides of having a lack of presence in your life.
Some of the most notable benefits of having more presence are:
– More deep, nourishing, connected relationships (friendships, intimate partnerships, interactions with people you’ve just met, etc.)
– More acceptance of the people, events, emotions, and circumstances in your life
– Less stress and tension in your mind and body
– More enjoyment, happiness, ease, and increased emotional intelligence
– Greater resilience to stress, illness, and the ego noise that our (less than present) mind can throw at us
When you increase your daily sense of mindful presence, you simply let go of resisting or trying to control life, and you drop in to the natural flow of how things actually are.
9 Ways To Be More Present In Your Life
1. Re-establish your core values
It’s easier to be present when you don’t have a lot of things clamouring for your attention. And the best way to minimize the number of things trying to get your attention is to get back in touch with your life’s core values.
When you know what things do and don’t fit in your life, it makes it that much easier for you to say no to things that aren’t aligned.
2. Declutter your calendar
If you’re always running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off from meeting to meeting, then you won’t have much of an opportunity to be present. Personally, I always aim to schedule a maximum of two things in my calendar per day, leaving room for spaciousness outside of those two commitments.
Keep your calendar clear of noise and distraction by saying no to all of the wrong things, and saying to all of the right things.
Say it with me now….. BOUNDARIES!!! <3 <3 <3
3. Fill your life with reciprocal systems
A reciprocal system is something that benefits both parties involved.
Spending time with a good friend that you like is engaging in a reciprocal system.
Going to a job that you enjoy is a reciprocal system.
Playing music with your band is a reciprocal system.
Make sure you’re engaging in win-win situations across your entire life, and, with your integrity fully in tact, you’ll be that much more present across the board.
4. Cultivate rituals
By cultivating daily or weekly rituals, you won’t have to use up excess mental bandwidth on making thousands of low leverage decisions every day.
Pick your clothes from a simplified wardrobe of outfits that you own and love.
Have a weekly dinner with your favourite friends on the same night of the week so that you’re always kept abreast of each other’s ever changing lives (no phones allowed at the table, obvs).
Eat the same thing that you like for breakfast every day.
Figure out what makes you happy, make it a habit, and then stick to it. Voila! Increased presence.
5. Reclaim your attention from technology
Technology was supposed to make our lives easier… right?
In many ways it absolutely does.
But it’s also one of the biggest things to erode our ability to pay attention to our lives, and our partners.
Implement a few of the following strategies and watch your presence skyrocket by the end of the week.
– Unfollow everyone on Instagram that doesn’t inspire you or make you feel better in some way
– ‘Kill’ your Facebook news feed entirely with this app
– Get comfortable saying no to people’s requests for your time
– Mass-unsubscribe from a bunch of email lists that you no longer receive value from (including mine if you’re over it – I won’t be offended)
– Say no to watching most TV shows (especially if they have a ton of seasons for you to catch up on). Believe me, you won’t be cast out of society if you’re not up on the latest character gossip.
– Stop watching porn. It’s a huge time sink and, especially if you’re a male who watches a lot of it, it messes with your sex life and you ability to get and maintain erections.
– As a default (especially when you’re spending time with friends, family, your children, your intimate partner), and as often as you can, leave your cell phone on airplane mode. Because you own your phone, it should not own you.
– Batch check your emails. Once in the morning, once at night. Maximum. Once a day, only on week days, if you can get away with it. Or hire a personal assistant to manage your email inbox if you can afford it and your email inbox gives you a headache.
6. Create space by feeling through your emotional clutter
One reason that many people struggle to be present in their lives is that they have yet to work their way through their internal emotional clutter.
Feel your sadness. Your anger. Your hurt. All of it. Let your emotions move through you.
As Curl Jung once said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
7. Practice single tasking and deep work
Don’t pride yourself in being a proficient multi-tasker. In truth, no one is an excellent multi-tasker. The energetic cost of task-switching is a lot higher than most people will readily admit to themselves.
Focus on one thing at a time, always. First things first, second things never.
8. Listen to your body
Your mind will always be beckoning you away from being present and in the moment. Conversely, your body brings you back into the here and now.
If you want a shortcut to cultivating more presence in your life, listen to your body. And if you want to more readily access your body, let your breath be the bridge that you take.
9. Make spaciousness your default
Don’t pack another five things into your day-planner.
Don’t say yes to that added responsibility/social event/obligation when what you really want to say is ‘No.’
Don’t maintain a calendar that makes your mind and heart race every time you look at it (i.e. from anxiety, not from excitement).
Make spaciousness your life’s default and presence will be the natural progression.
If your life isn’t cluttered, your mind won’t be as cluttered. Then dropping into your body and into the moment will have that much lower of a barrier to entry.
Remember, the primary way that we relinquish our presence is by retreating into our minds and getting caught up in all of the anxiety, future-thinking, incessant worrying, and other head-noise.
Drop back in to your body… back into the realm of the senses… and re-acknowledge that you are not just a walking brain with hands whose sole task is to accomplish/do/achieve things. But rather, you are a human being who is having a real, right-now existence.
Your life is right here. Take a nice, full, deep breath.
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. If you enjoyed this article, you will also love checking out these articles:
– How To Fiercely Protect Your Time
– 7 Daily Habits That Have Contributed To My Success
– One Tip That’s Guaranteed To Improve Your Relationship
And these books:
– The Five Minute Journal (by my good friends Alex and UJ! It’s super famous too, and it totally deserves to be)
– The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
– Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less
– The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing