Where are you right now?
If you’re reading this you’re probably staring at a computer so maybe you’re at a desk, or on a couch. With tablets and phones you could be anywhere I suppose.
I’m not talking about where you are physically though, I’m asking where are you right now mentally?
Are you here?
Is your mind present on reading this post? Or are you in a number of different places at once?
Increasingly it seems people struggle with remaining “present” in their day to day lives. So you may be reading this while thinking of any number of other things that are going on.
Maybe you are thinking about what to cook for dinner tonight, where to go on the weekend, what to wear, what the kids need, when you are going to find time to…
…well, anything really.
The list is often endless.
There are always a million things that need to be done, and thought of, and planned. And it’s very easy to get overwhelmed in all of the “stuff” that needs to happen.
The Myth of Multi-tasking
When the brain is doing a number of different things at once, this is often referred to as multi-tasking. And for a number of years multi-tasking was being talked about as this great thing. Multi-tasking was the future of productivity, and companies wanted to hire people who could handle multiple tasks at once.
Well, it turns out multi-tasking isn’t what it was cracked up to be. In fact, studies show people can’t actually multitask – the human brain just doesn’t work that way.
What appears to be multitasking is actually the brain quickly switching from one task to another and then back again.
And doing this comes with a cost.
A Wikipedia post on multitasking states:
Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.
We all know this, and it is the reason many places are starting to bring in laws and heavy fines for things like texting/using your phone while driving.
When you are distracted, it’s much easier to make mistakes. If you’re behind the wheel of a car, the consequences of those mistakes can be significant. But the inattention and potential for error exists no matter what you are doing.
The Wikipedia post goes on to discuss another form of multi-tasking that it calls “continuous partial attention”. This involves:
skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish.
The Need for Connection
I write about relationships, so what does multitasking and being present have to do with anything?
Why does this matter?
I think this is hugely important, because when we talk about relationships we are really talking about connection.
Take a look at this quote from Brene Brown:
Feeling seen, heard, and valued. THAT is what we are all looking for. THAT is what we need. In relationships, we want to feel like we matter to the other person.
Without connection, a couple is not a “we”. They are just two individuals who happen to be occupying the same space. They are there, but they aren’t together.
And connection requires both people to be present. Physically, emotionally and mentally. Connection requires the ability to let go of everything else, and live in the moment.
When I talk about living in the moment I am not talking about YOLO (you only live once) or some other selfish bullshit like that. I’m not talking about having a bucket list of things you want to accomplish and then making sure you achieve those things.
I’m talking about taking the moments you have – whatever they are, and experiencing them fully. Slowing down, letting go of all the noise that is caused by all the “other stuff” in life. I’m talking about allowing yourself to connect with those moments. In in those moments telling yourself that at this moment, the experience I am having and potentially sharing with my partner, or my child, or my friend is what truly matters.
I think this ability to live in the moment is something that is sorely lacking today, and I think it’s probably one of the leading causes of failed relationships because it breaks down connection.
Studies on multi-tasking show that attempting to multi-task leads to reduced levels of attention to the primary item and also leads to people missing out on what is right in front of them.
One of the growing issues in North American society today is the rise of mental health issues, with the leading issue being depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety
In Depression people often get stuck in the past, and struggle with letting go of negative events. We all encounter disappointments and setbacks in our lives, but instead of using them as an opportunity to grow people who struggle with depression will ruminate on them.
Anxious people allow future events (and worse, potential future events) to dominate their thoughts. As one sufferer describes:
as an anxiety sufferer, my mind is constantly vibrating. Even if I am technically “resting,” my brain is making to-do lists or worrying. Essentially, my brain wants to live in the future. I am much more comfortable doing and acting. I have trouble simply being.
The past shapes us and allows us to grow; and the future gives us thinks to strive towards and look forward to.
But the only moment we actually have is right now.
So be present.
An inability to be present (whatever the cause) reduces connection and damages relationships.
And it’s pointless.
The past has already happened and we can’t change it. The future is not guaranteed, and in the current moment the little details of everyday life don’t matter (well, they matter, but they shouldn’t be allowed to distract from the present).
So look, listen, focus and breath. Appreciate where you are, right now. Learn to let go, be present, and live this moment fully.