The Fulfillment of Being Fully Present
By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus
It is, undoubtedly, a term each and every one of us has heard before. But what does it mean – to not be distracted? To have our entire attention fixated on one single thought, thing, or person?
The difference in these statistics likely makes your mind wander and wonder.
Add these rates to the fact that the ever-increasing busyness in our daily lives is always climbing and it is no wonder that we are literally thinking thousands of thoughts a minute while we should be listening to the person in front of us.
Most probably tell ourselves (and others!) this is called "multitasking."
But here is the caveat – multitasking (in its purest form) is not actually possible for the way our human minds are designed.
Sure, we can focus on one thing and then another – then back again and again and again. We can make these transitions with speed and deliberation, but make no mistake – we are, in all actuality, only focusing on one thing at a time before switching gears.
To be fully present means to have 100% of your attention focused on the task, the person, or the thought in front of you.
Charisma, Focus, and Science: The Factors of Being Fully Present
Often, people are identified as being charismatic when they are able to make others feel like they are the only people in the room, the only ones who really matter in a single moment.
Sound familiar? Being charismatic (at least in this way) typically requires the skill of being fully present.
In the same way, when athletes say they were in the “zone” when they achieved an incredible feat on the athletic field, what they really mean is that they were fully present and 100% focused on a moment.
Anecdotally, all of this makes sense. But these facts are just based in stories; science tells us that our bodies and minds have this incredible ability to hyper-focus when we need to.
This is obvious when someone is faced with a life-threatening situation: our bodies and brains are capable of reacting at higher speeds than we could imagine. Our innate stress responses can enable us to already be ready to jump out of the way of an oncoming car before we can fully, consciously perceive the danger.
So, if we can achieve such great feats when we focus all of our attention on the moment in front of us, the real question is this: Why do we not do it more often?
Or rather, why do we not at least focus all of our attention on the activity at hand?
Our experience tells us the answer to this stems from the following factors:
Influence from too many environmental stimuli: Your phone, your watch, the noise around you.
Laziness: We do not want to work hard at what is in front of us. This is “check-the-box” style of thinking. A “get-it-done-and-move-on” mentality that supports getting back to something we care more about.
Selfishness: This stems from not being as concerned about understanding what the other person is saying or being much more concerned about what you are going to say when you get the chance to talk. This also stems from doing just enough to get by because we have trained ourselves for instant gratification.
Trained for divided attention: Maybe we trained ourselves, or the environment we are working and living in has trained us. Either way, we've created a habit.
The Consequences of Divided Attention
Even if we all agree that working, thinking, and living this way might be the norm now, divided attention – faux multitasking – can have repercussions in our lives, our work, and our ability to determine what actually requires our full attention.
We are not as effective as we are designed to be.
We make silly mistakes in our speech and in our work.
We alienate those that we work and live with.
We cannot remember things that were said in a conversation (e.g., person’s name).
As leaders, we walk right past issues, problems, and people without even knowing it.
As workers, we wonder why others get more, have more, and achieve more.
As parents, we wonder why our children do not pay attention to us.
As individuals, we wonder why we do not have deeper, richer relationships with others.
As a workforce, we become more fragmented and individualistic.
We over-communicate with the result being less communication.
This type of divided attention is becoming prevalent in everything we do – even interacting on social media platforms.
Think about it: we spend a lot of time hitting the ‘like’ or thumbs up button without really looking at the post.
Why? Because we want them to hit that like button when we have something important to share – but is anyone really paying attention? Were you?
If you know our consulting business, you likely know this phrase very well:
“As evidenced by what?”
The evidence is all around us.
Consider the fact that research says that distracted drivers are responsible for 2.5 million car crashes per year. It takes the average brain 13 seconds to fully re-focus after using your cell phone. So, even just a brief glance at your phone is all it takes to pull your attention away for longer than you think.
Here are a few more evidence-based stats to consider.
The number of people with ADD or inattentive behavior has more than doubled in the last 20 years according to the CDC.
The number of emails sent each day is over 300 billion worldwide! Plus, the number of email users is growing with mobile users being the largest.
The average office (or remote) worker in the US receives 121 business-related emails each day.
These statistics might feel unrelated, but they are not. Even with all the communication going on, people feel less connected than ever before. In fact, a recent report by Harvard tells us that 61% of young adults report being seriously lonely. And now more than ever, people are desperately trying to work remotely with as little interaction with others.
What does all of this add up to?
More than ever, we are struggling to interact with others.
Many of us are not wanting to interact with others – and when we do, it is through texting, email, and chat platforms.
These things are not the recipe for better human interactions.
Instead, we are creating a breeding ground for less collaboration, worse communication, and ineffective social interactions.
We are training ourselves to be present only for the very vital information needed to accomplish a task, then shutting down and opening the door for distraction without seeing the true value of being fully present beyond what we think is necessary.
Being Fully Present: How to Deter our Own Brains From Multitasking Behaviors
So, how do we un-train ourselves? How do we re-focus on being fully present and deter our minds from running the route of multitasking?
Here are some techniques that you can employ if you want to be more present with the ultimate goal of learning how to become fully present.
Do not have your phone in sight when you are having a one-on-one conversation with someone. It worked for the last 10,000 years of human interactions, did it not? Why change now?
Practice active listening when in a conversation or on a conference call. Take notes to keep your mind occupied with what is being said.
Active listening will increase your ability to be more empathic – so actively listen at every opportunity.
Focus on the speaker and how they are communicating. About 70-90% of information is non-verbal, so engage your attention and focus on what is really being communicated.
List the activities you need to accomplish in a given time period. Rank them in order of importance for completion. Then, do them in order – one at a time. You will see your productivity grow.
Care! Care about who is in front of you. Care about the task in front of you. If you can not give it your UNDIVIDED attention, then do not schedule it. Tell the person that you want to really focus on the task or conversation and you should schedule it for later when you can give it your full attention like it deserves.
Have you ever received an email from a person as you were talking to them on the phone? Have you ever been telling someone a personal story and they glanced at their watch or looked at their phone? Have you ever told a story and before you were finished, the other person jumped in and one-upped your story because they thought they were identifying with you? These are everyday examples of what it feels like to be around someone who is not fully present.
So, if you want better relationships with loved ones, if you want to achieve better results in a shorter period of time, and if you want to be more productive in your personal or work life, then retrain yourself to become someone focused on being fully present.
If you or your team need more techniques on becoming a fully-present person, then reach out to us at email@example.com
We promise to have a fully present conversation with you that details how you can achieve these goals!