In Zen Judaism: For You, A Little Enlightenment, David Bader writes, “Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?”
It shouldn’t be that complicated. But, somehow, it happens a lot less than it should.
Think about today. Do you remember waking up, how you felt, where you did–or didn’t–ache, how rested or tired you were? Do you remember your shower or bath, what the water felt like on your body, the temperature, whether you were hurried or leisurely? What did your breakfast taste like this morning? Do you remember the experience of preparing it?
For most of us, getting dressed for work is a straight-forward routine. We may have to reflect on what is on our calendar (is it business, business casual, or casual), but chances are even that reflection is so routine as to be lost as quickly as it is completed. I will never forget my first meeting with my new supervisor at the University of Minnesota. I was Assistant to the Vice President for Finance and Operations; David Lilly was a founder and retired as the CEO of Toro before serving on the Federal Reserve, becoming Dean of the School of Business, and now, the Vice President for Finance and Operations. As “Assistant to” I realized my status was particularly vulnerable. I spent a great deal of time thinking through the value-add I would bring to the University, and to David; I had my talking points. I also had down the questions I would ask. I got dressed so routinely the day of our meeting that when I crossed my legs in front of him I realized I was wearing one brown shoe and one black one; they were the same style…but definitely different colors. I spent the rest of the introductory conversation with my feet tucked under my chair. I spent my lunch hour running home and changing one shoe! Clearly, I was someplace else (most likely reviewing my speaking points and my questions in my mind) when I should have been present to getting dressed.
Many of us spend much of our time someplace else, or no place at all. We are “zoned out,” neither present nor “in the zone.” We are couch potatoes at home, and desk potatoes at the office. We have the conversations. We do our jobs. We parent our children. We partner with our spouses or significant others. At the same time we think about yesterday. We plan tomorrow. We replay the conversation that went awry. We try a thousand ways to have an upcoming conversation in our heads. We find excuses. We look for ways around a problem we don’t want to address head-on. We plan our vacation, or the new home, or… We do everything except “be here now.”
I recommend that all of us (including myself) intentionally work to “be here now” more often then we are. It is important for our lives, for our careers, and for our relationships with others. And, it is definitely more stimulating than “being someplace else now!”
That being said, “being here now” is vital to success when you are involved with a change of any magnitude. These changes introduce new and unanticipated challenges. They require you to think differently, to behave differently, to let go of many of the anchors that let you move through the world without being present to it. They require that you be “in the zone” of navigating change, rather than “zoned out.”
Much about succeeding with major change is counter-intuitive, yet when we aren’t fully present we aren’t even accessing our intuition.
Mistakes during change are inevitable. We even make them doing our daily routines when we are “someplace else.” How far have you driven before you became present enough to realize you had missed your exit, or a turn? Can your change–can you–afford the lost time, the lost investment when you make a mistake and keep on traveling for days (or longer) before you realize it?
People communicate with you in ways–and with messages–that are different during change. While their agreement on day-to-day issues may be genuine, their agreement during change (especially change that is going to disrupt their lives) may be superficial. The words may tell you one thing, while their body language–and subsequent action–says another. if you aren’t here with them in the moment, you’ll miss these cues.
During change their are cues all around you, if you are present to them. The whispers at the coffee pot stop when you approach. The conversations at dinner become more superficial. The late nights at the office, or at the library, become more frequent. The “open door” is closed more and more often, or–if it is your door–fewer and fewer people are walking through it. Each of these warrants investigation, understanding. But, if you aren’t “here now” to them, they don’t register.
There are numerous things you can do to help yourself spend more of your time “here now.” I am going to suggest a few that work especially well for me.
- I start early, and give myself more than enough time. I get up early, so I don’t need to “be someplace else now” as I prepare for the day. I try to get to appointments early, so that I can spend time preparing while I am preparing, rather than while I am traveling.
- I take breaks, unless I am “in the zone.” I actually use a timer on my computer so that I don’t spend time “zoned out” while I am working on things. When it goes off, if I am in the zone, I reset it. If I am present, or zoned out, I take a break, get up from the desk to quite literally be someplace else for a few minutes, and then return to work again.
- I focus on being consciously here during the most routine of my activities. One of these is my shower…about the most routine thing I do. I have found that if I consciously attend to being here now as I shower, that attentiveness tends to carry into the day.
What do you do that helps you “be here now, be someplace else later?” Comment below.