Being ‘present’ is quite a challenge for our distracted generation. For example, our focus can become easily drawn away from surrounding contexts to the digital world in the palm of our hands. Of course, much of our daily lives is helpfully managed on our phones, but life’s intrusions can often rob us of many important ‘now’ moments, sometimes simply because we prefer, or feel constrained by, alternative ones. What can we do to become better at seizing the present so as to optimise our future?
1. Be attentive to opportunity
Instead of always making my own opportunities or setting my own priorities, I also find it is important to create space to be attentive to those around me. This is not about letting others dictate where our time goes but, rather, about a certain kind of perceptiveness.
As a Christian, I am trying to be more Spirit-led, asking “God, what do you need of me today?” or “what are you trying to show me here?” A prick of the conscience, a small whisper, and an internal ‘check,’ will all need my attention. Awareness, though, requires the discipline to stop and reflect with an unhurried interest in others.
I need to be better at realising how I might be a voice – a help – to someone I could otherwise rationalise as being less deserving of my ‘now’ moment (than, say, yet another email recipient). In saying “yes” to a clear prompt I might also become better at embracing some self-effacing humility.
Just maybe God might sometimes want to invade my purposeful planning with a nudge toward purposeful spontaneity. Just maybe, the time of God’s favour means the ‘now’ of his intervention of the lives of others (to draw from 2 Corinthians 6:2). Is it possible that, in being available to people around me, I might somehow become a little better myself, sometimes even saved from myself?
Naturally, being present for others is also about receiving from them. Humility positions us to accept that God’s prophetic moments of impact – especially when we already spend so much time asking for divine help anyway – could come by the agency of others imparting a revelatory moment of inspired counsel that we often need. We can indeed choose to cultivate an openness to such helpful ‘intrusions’ in our day.
Rebounding from COVID lockdowns we notice that there is much unspoken anxiety and adjustment at play in our world. This can benefit – and we can benefit – from an openness to relational exchanges of timely wisdom that so often surpass the insights gleaned from online news services. But we need to be ‘present’ for that to happen.
What opportunities to you need to be alert to, even when they might seem inconvenient?
2. Live with divinely-inspired urgency
The need to seize important moments was recently reinforced by the death of my father, and as I also reflected on the deaths of several others since. We all tend to think we will have more time than we do in which to make a difference, to follow through on important decisions, to get around to what is needed.
This can end up deceiving us into living out other priorities which would be far less important if we knew that our time was likely to be short. The season for our best impact is sometimes shorter than we might think and that fact alone needs us to re-evaluate what truly matters. Of course, we don’t need to wait for old age for that to happen.
A ‘can do’ mindset typically inspires positivity, but a ‘need to’ mindset inspires change. And when we truly believe there is something we need to do ‘now’ then that change turns from notion to motion.
Consider the short amount of time that a parent has to influence the shaping of their son or daughter. Being ‘present’ doesn’t have to mean overcorrecting from valid commitments elsewhere in life when the whole package naturally communicates with importance. Life is complex, after all. Significant damage can surely be done, though, where it is assumed that there will be more time to address relationship concerns (and those ‘tomorrows’ won’t always come). An impromptu lunch or outing needs the parent to be the adult and to assume appropriate proactivity. A non-choice in this area might feel like a deferred choice but might actually just be a preferred choice. What are you preferring unhelpfully?
Even COVID has taught us to make better use of available moments online, or to adapt productively to circumstances which are less than desirable. 2021 has not been wasted if it has refined our sense of what is important and what might be differently achievable.
Of course, urgency is often hastened by what happens to us whereas creating urgency for change is more about what happens through us. And some urgent changes needed for our own personal growth will happen as we more purposefully involve those trusted people around us in a shared journey of exploration.
What sort of renewed urgency might be needed in a key area of your life?
3. Deal with your baggage before it deals with you
Second-guessing your own capacity for difference-making in key life moments can have many causes. Imposter syndrome sometimes sees us question our ability in new settings. Many a friend, colleague, parent or leader can miss moments of potential impact when seized by an overriding fear. It often interrupts us (more than crippling us) from saying what needs to be said or from doing what needs to be done.
Subtle negative messages playing between our ears are unhelpful thieves of ‘now’ moments. Past insecurities, or hauntings from skeletons in the closet, will sometimes lead to us asking ourselves what right we really have to assert something that may not be our business or that may be missing the mark. On the contrary, stepping up in the right way and at the right time might just be life-defining for someone, even a growth moment for ourselves.
We earn the right to speak the truth in love to those we have relationship with, especially where we have been invited into a trusted space. Where we have an influential role we have also earned the responsibility to do the same.
The great regulator in being better at backing ourselves is humility. Every finger pointed at others is accompanied by three pointing right back, and we need to be open not only to engaging with or helping others but also to others calling us out when needed, even if what is said to us might not always be wanted. What we receive in those exchanges can redefine them as priceless ‘lighbulb moments.’
Again, relationship is the context that creates safe place, as well as necessitating our honesty, even if we are not (or have not been) perfect in some way. But let’s not miss the impact moments that matter.
There is a certain difficulty we will all face in overcoming the temptation to revert to choices that are safe for us. Life is too short, though, to always play it safe. People who are bold and daring – albeit humble – provide a certain value-add to others in their lives and allow value to be added back.
Surely that is worth the short-term sacrifice of some pleasurable distractions in the interests of being more ‘present’ in the moments that truly matter.