The Power of Presence

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

Presence or paying attention is essential to high performance, resilience, happiness and overall well-being. Although it’s very simple in concept, it’s very difficult in practice. This is because as human beings, we are constantly thinking in our heads instead of giving our full attention to what’s right in front of us at this very moment. Many of us are also more focused on achieving the end result than enjoying the process of getting there. You can see how present you are in your daily life by completing the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS).

The only time we can experience anything or take any action is NOW. We can’t do something yesterday or tomorrow, we can only do it in the present moment. Therefore, our only point of power is NOW. When we trade the present moment for something that’s over or not here yet, we miss out on fully experiencing life, and we give up our power. When we think about the past, we experience sadness, longing, or regret. When we think about the future, we experience worry, fear, or anxiety. When we focus on the present moment, we experience happiness, peace and serenity.

In the book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle says that we can begin to be more present by consciously noticing what we are experiencing through our five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. (Thinking is not one of them.) We can also become more aware of what we are thinking about and remind ourselves that these are just thoughts. We do not need to be preoccupied with our opinions, worries, regrets, or to-do lists. It’s not what’s happening NOW that creates negative emotions, but rather our thoughts about it.

Here are 10 tips for cultivating presence from the book Bring Out the Best in Every Employee by Don Brown and Bill Hawkins:

  1. Breathe one count in, two counts out. Focus on your breathing instead of your thoughts.
  2. Audit your continuous partial attention (CPA). What are your distractors that cause your mind to wander?
  3. Dedicate time and attention to those you are with. Declare that you are trying to be more present with others.
  4. Disconnect from technology. Designate technology-free zones and technology-free times.
  5. Narrow the scope of your intentions. Focus on one thing at a time with your full attention instead of trying to multi-task.
  6. Notice the impact you have. Noticing is paying attention. Pay attention to your ability to be present with others.
  7. Reboot your RAM. Go for a short walk, get a cup of tea, take a few deep breaths – whatever it takes for you to reboot and focus again.
  8. Substitute a new route or routine. Changing any habit can heighten awareness, and that’s halfway to being present. Routines dull our awareness. Change your route, your breakfast, or your customary dress code.
  9. Silence the auditory interruptions. Your auditory interrupters may be the television at home, the radio in the car, the sound of the engines on the airliner. Take steps to find a short, quiet respite from the noise.
  10. Condition your physical being. Rest, diet, and exercise play more of a part in your ability to effectively interact with others than you might imagine. The less we care for ourselves, the less we are able to care for others.

NOW is the only time we have. If we live for outcomes at the expense of the present journey, then we ultimately miss out on living our lives in the moment and experiencing the gifts that each new day brings. May we all experience life more fully with heightened awareness and presence for better performance, resilience, happiness and well-being. May we use the power of NOW to make each moment count.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” – Eckhart Tolle

Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.” – Oprah Winfrey

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