I’ll never forget it. 5 years ago, I blocked off 30 minutes of time to go watch my daughter’s swimming lesson at the gym. During lessons time, the pool is packed with parents and their young swimmers.
Halfway into the lesson, the pool maintenance technician walked through the pool area and stopped by my chair to say hello. Moments later, I heard him say, “Derek, look up!” I immediately looked up and said, “What?” He shook his head and said, “Look at all of the parents. They are all on their phones, and not one of them is watching their child swim.” “Wow, you’re right,” I said, “and thank you for pointing that out… I’m totally guilty of this!”
Ever since that moment, I had wanted to block off an entire day to allow my kids to create our itinerary, for the whole day. So, during our annual “staycation”, I did just that. I blocked out a full 24 hours to be with my daughters, Ellie and Mia. We didn’t do any work at all, instead we only participated in kid-directed fun.
I started out by asking Ellie and Mia what they wanted to do on our special “Daddy-Daughter Day.” They gave me quite the list and we ended up doing pretty much everything. We played Legos, dressed American Girl dolls, went to the city pool, kicked the soccer ball around outside, created an obstacle course at the gym, made art projects, and ate at their favorite pizza place. They wanted to end the day with a sleepover, so they could fall asleep watching the movie “Barbie and the Dream House.” As requested, we hauled out all the stuffed animals, sleeping bags, pillows, and snacks, and headed downstairs to our special sleepover sanctuary in the basement.
After we got comfortable, Ellie quietly said something so small, but ever so consequential. She said, “Daddy, that was the best day ever.” At that moment, I couldn’t focus on the movie, or on the articles I was about to read, or even the yummy snacks. I was overwhelmed with how meaningful both being present, and being in the moment, really is to others. I thought about what it had meant to my impressionable young daughters. I spent the hour before we drifted to sleep thinking about the benefits that I received on this extraordinary day. She was right, I also had the best day ever, just being 100% present.
3 Benefits of Being Present
Increased focus: I was entirely present and didn’t allow random distractions to ruin our day. I concentrated completely on my kids’ agenda.
Increased productivity: I didn’t feel that I was wasting my time by “not working.” Instead, I accomplished having the best day ever with my kids.
Increased happiness: I didn’t stress out over the little things that my kids did that would typically annoy me on days when I was worried about other things. I walked away with a lot of laughs at 4- and 7-year-old moments that I’ll never have again when they are all grown up.
The benefits of being present also relate to our daily activities. Think about your routine agenda.
Do you want to be more focused on your co-workers? If you answered yes, then it is time to stop looking at your phone when you talk to them. Have a real conversation for a change and maintain steady eye contact with them while doing so.
Do you want to be more productive in meetings? If so, it’s time to stop gossiping afterward, about how boring and mundane the meeting was. Instead, spend more time listening to the perspective of others, and work at offering up some positive solutions.
Do you want to be happier? We all do, so stop dreaming about possible future happiness. Stand up, live life while being present, and start creating your own happiness right now!
How Do You Become More Present?
I must admit that unlike just about every article that I’ve read about “being present,” I didn’t use any special mindfulness or breathing exercises to be more present with my family that entire day. Instead, I blocked off the time and committed to doing it. Quite simply, I decided to focus my full attention on exactly where I wanted it to be.
Do you want to be more focused, productive, and happy? If so, be more present.
ACTION: Schedule a “be present day” with your family, friends, or colleagues.
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