Being Present in Life and Work

I have written a lot of articles about work-life balance. Back in 2010, I shared that to be balanced in work and life we need to stop compartmentalizing our lives and look at bringing our work and life into wholeness. I have encouraged you to explore the cost of constantly “doing.”   And we have looked into our thoughts about time – as David Byrne aptly sung, “Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us.” Through all my exploration of work-life balance, at the core of finding our balance, of releasing the pressure to do, of getting out from under the time crunch, is learning, becoming, and being more present at work.

For a long time, being present was the subject of yogis and spiritual leaders. Now it is becoming more mainstream and has been adopted by many companies. Catherine Johns shares a great article of how mindfulness has entered the workspace, and how it is changing our experience and efficiency of work. To be present or mindful is to be aware of and in control of your experience. I agree with Eckhardt Tolle that now is a time of awakening of our consciousness. This can be on a deep spiritual level for some of us, and for many it is simply the opportunity to stop being stuck in the routine of life and finally take the time to ask why before we act.

man outside of swimming pool
Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash

Being present is moving up to the 40,000-foot vision instead of trudging through our daily life. Being present is stepping back and seeing the broader picture of what we have agreed to participate in. Think of it like being in a swimming pool. When you are in the water, you are focusing on staying afloat. Maybe you are struggling. Maybe you are floating gently. Maybe you are splashing your pal. But you are in the water and all you can see is water. When you are outside of the pool, you can see the boundaries of the pool. You can become aware of how others are using the pool. You can see those who are afraid or those who are Olympian swimmers. Being present is having the perspective of being outside of the pool, while being in it.

Another way to look at this is when a friend shares with you issues in her workplace. She tells you about issues between departments and people. She expresses challenges with deadlines or technologies. You can understand what she is sharing, but you are not experiencing it. You are separate from it. Often you can provide insight into her situation because you are outside of it and can be objective.  Being present is being outside of and objective about our own lives.

Being present is watching our emotions instead of being sucked into them. Being present is realizing we are not trapped in a certain situation. Being present distances us from challenges where we can rise above and make choices based on perspective, not fear. Being present is knowing we are separate from our thoughts and beliefs. Being present is rising above life, so we can make better choices in life.

Have you experienced being present? At home or at work? What did it feel like? What did being present allow you to do that you couldn’t when you were unconscious in the situation? How do you include being present in throughout your day?

embracing the journey

The Journey

Lately I find myself yet again being consumed by responsibilities. My day job. Writing blogs. Trying to write a second book. Supporting my husband’s business. Rental property issues. Supporting others. My checklist has grown, and my happiness has diminished. I am not complaining. I have chosen to be involved with everything on my plate and, for the most part, I enjoy the things to which I have committed.  My challenge is that when the “doing” is first, foremost and only, the rest of my life begins to fade away. It is not the work that is the issue. It is making the work a priority over living which is the cause of my unhappiness.

I wake up early in the morning, not because I excited for a new day, but because a litany of problems to solve and things to do replay in my mind. I am not truly connecting with those I love, because I am distracted by trying to solve an issue. I am not in the moment because I am planning what I need to do next. I am not stopping to smell the flowers because I feel compelled to complete the next task. I am not enjoying connection with others because I am focused on the project, not their feelings. And I am unhappy.

As usual, the things I am concerned about have not happened yet, may not need to be resolved, or may not need to be resolved by me. Yet I am taking myself out of my life and concentrating on issues that are either not really issues or are not really important in the scheme of things. Somewhere, somehow I learned and believe that life is about responsibilities, accomplishments, making things happen. Over the years, I have been trying to accept and embrace a new belief.

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

I am coming to believe and fully embrace that life is just about experiencing. Learning to accept life on life’s terms. Releasing any meaning, judgment and expectations I have. To just truly be. To release my desires and simply experience what comes to me. To see an experience for what it is, not what I interpret it to mean or what I would have preferred it to be.

Alan Watts shares this as the Chinese concept of purposelessness. Purposelessness is not a negative. Purposelessness is just being. Purposeless removes the meaning. Purposelessness removes the focus on the outcome. Purposeless is simply being. It is The Power of Now that Eckhardt Tolle talks about. It is the enlightenment Michael A. Singer writes about in The Untethered Soul. My friend Dave Werhane sums it up well, “When I accept that my life is truly a journey, then there is no reason to do anything solely as a means to an end.” Let’s stop looking for the meaning, for the result, for the conclusion. Let’s stop worrying about results, fixing things, trying to accomplish things. Let’s stop labeling things, judging them, trying to uncover their meaning.

Instead let’s be, truly – deeply – solely be, in each and every moment. Let’s experience. Let’s let colors and sounds and tastes and touch wash over us. Let’s do what we are driven to do, not what we think we have to or should do. Let’s create to create. Let’s get out of our minds and be fully in the moment experiencing with all our senses. The deepest sense of peace, well-being, and love have always been experienced when I let go of my mental monkey chatter and allow my full consciousness to be in the moment.  

When do you feel most trapped? When do you experience unhappiness? If you are like me, it is when you are trapped in your mind replaying the past or worrying about the future. Try to find time each day to be in the moment without your thoughts. Remove your regret or anger of what happened. Stop playing mental scenarios of what could be. Be. Here. Now. Enjoy the journey!

dog on tightrope

Achieving Balance

Here is a dog on a tightrope. Really. It. Is. A. Dog. On. A. Tightrope. I don’t usually share cat, or in this instance, dog videos in my posts, but better way to get your attention about what balance really means. As you watch this talented guy, you will see that he doesn’t get on the rope and stand perfectly still. He is in constant motion. He is constantly readjusting. To balance on the rope, he is moving and adapting in every moment.

dog on tightropeIt is the same with our balance. To be in a state of balance takes continual readjustment.

I think the pain many of us feel is that we expect to one day reach a state of perfection; to find the perfect way to be and handle our day – and that it is repeatable in the same way every day. We believe there is one perfect state of being and once we find it life will be steady.  This steady state of perfection does not exist. As life constantly changes, so too do we need to continually shift. Balance is not a point on a graph, it is not a timetable to be adhered to, it is not the perfectly planned execution of our day. Balance is our ability to constantly shift and adapt to the ever-altering and ever-changing way of life. When things are not shifting and changing, they are dead. To be alive is to be constantly moving, shifting, changing, and growing.

Somewhere along the line, work-life balance was assumed to be a steady-state. It was assumed there was a mythic point were the needs of our personal lives meet perfectly with our work responsibilities; 8.75 hours at work, 10.2 for personal care, and 5.05 for our family each and every day, not shifting, but uniformly working like clockwork. Sorry folks, a perfect ratio of time does not exist. Work-life balance takes constant readjustment. Child gets sick – life needs a bit more time. Deadline for your work presentation is tomorrow – your career gets the focus. Unexpected guest pops by – plans are dropped and redeveloped. Throughout the week, day, and each hour we are constantly adjusting our focus and efforts to maintain balance based on the changing world around us.

To gain balance sometimes we need to add one thing, sometimes another. As I tend to lean towards being a stressed-out Type A, I often write about bringing calm and self-care to my life. But sometimes I need deadlines, focus and concentration. Perfect balance is not just adding one thing. It is the pendulum swinging from surrender/peace to concentration/effort. Back and forth, and back and forth, in a continuous state of movement.

As you head into this new year, do not set resolutions to bring you what you think is perfect balance. No one formula exists which will work every day and in every situation. Instead, set a resolution to go about your day in a state of constant readjustment. It is in the moment by moment choices we make that we find happiness, good health, and success. The plan you make now for the rest of 2019, will be foiled by the gifts, glitches and unexpected changes which will happen over the next 365 days. Focus on the next 24 hours, not the next 12 months. See how focusing on the moment will give you the power to find as much balance as you can each and every day.

Wishing you all the best in the new year!

soccer ball

Get on the Ball

At a lovely breakfast with Marlies, a dear friend of mine, she told me about an issue she had with a recent boss. The analogy she gave to describe the situation was brilliant, so I asked if I could share it will you all.

Marlies was very frustrated with her boss. The manager was not very focused. Marlies’ told the manager to stop treating her like a soccer ball – telling her to do one thing, then minutes later redirecting her to do something else. Like a soccer ball she was sent right then left then backwards then diagonally. Either the manager didn’t know what needed to be done, was reactionary, or maybe she was just on a power kick to boss people around. Whatever the issue, Marlies requested that she be treated like a golf ball not a soccer ball. A golf ball is focused on one result and is continually sent closer and closer to that goal. No distractions. No side trips. No confusion over the goal to be accomplished.

soccer ballDo you have a manager that treats you like a soccer ball? How frustrating is it to never know the goal, to never be able to complete the task? With all the changes of direction it is hard to do our best work and to feel fulfilled.

If you run your own business, are you treating it like a soccer ball? Are you distracted by a new technology, a sudden opportunity, or the next best way to run your business? Often businesses, especially in the early stages, are running in circles on the soccer field. A clear strategy is not put to paper and followed. Perhaps the owner does not know the right course and is jumping at whatever comes up in the hopes that it will lead to success. Success, however, is usually the result of focused and consistent efforts.

For us personally, the soccer ball analogy is usually the cause of overwhelm and stress. We are the old juggler trying to keep fifteen plates spinning. We are running from one commitment or emergency to another. We are trying to do too much because we have over-committed and won’t ask for help. We have put the importance of the tasks above our own health and run ourselves ragged. Instead of finishing one task before moving to the next, we are inefficiently switching between tasks.

Besides being a soccer ball – those of us being pushed or pushing ourselves in multiple directions – sometimes we are a ball in a pinball machine. We are floating through life, failing to act, and being sent this way and that depending on what we bump into. We do not act. We are only reacting to things around us. The result is the same as the soccer ball and is even more harmful because we are completely out of control of our personal goals.

Where in your life are you unfocused and constantly shifting? What is the result? How does it feel to constantly change directions?

How would things shift if you focused on a single goal? You don’t have to make a hole in one. It is not speed but efficiency we are after. Being focused and not changing course constantly gives us the power to more effectively achieve our goals.

Take some time to review your work and home life. Are you a soccer ball or golf ball? How are ways you can become more focused?

time pieces

Sorry, I’m Not Available Right Now

Part of my day job is to make engagement calls to my career transition candidates. Sometimes I reach them. Sometimes I leave a voice-mail. The one situation that always intrigues me is when someone answers my call and then says in a huff tone, “I’m in a meeting.” Although I’m pretty brilliant, I am not yet psychic. I don’t have the foresight to know what people are doing when I call. The onus is not on me to not call, but on them to not answer.

The issue is not when to call or not, but one of control – or lack of control. Is it a badge of pride in our busy-ness that we have to take a call during a meeting? Is it the feeling of overwhelm that compels us to answer messages immediately to prove how much we have on our plate? Is it the lack of self-respect that we put the caller’s needs above our own? Is it feeling the victim of technology instead of using it for our benefit?

time piecesWhen we reduce ourselves to mindlessly answering calls, texts and emails when we are in the middle of something else, we are not only rude and unprofessional to those we are meeting with, but to me, more importantly, it means we are not being present. If we were 100% present in the meeting, we would not answer our phones.

A friend had the honor of meeting Sir Richard Branson on his private island. Here is a man who heads more than 400 companies. If anyone had to take a call during a meeting, we could understand why he would. But he didn’t. My friend mentioned how Sir Richard was solely focused on the individual speaking. No distractions. No impatience. Just a solid concentrated focus.

It is the same state I can get into during yoga and am trying to bring fully to the rest of my life. When I am “in the zone” during yoga, I am hyper aware of my breath, conscious of my movement, actively relaxing and deepening the pose. I am at one with the pose and there are no other thoughts or actions. Imagine what life would be like if we could approach everything that way.

Imagine being 100% present when your child tells you about their day. Imagine being fully with the one you love, without thinking of how the laundry needs to be done. Imagine focusing solely at the task at hand instead of being tormented by the other things on your to-do list.

One cool thing I have learned about being present during yoga, is that time expands. A 90-minute class feels like two hours. In fact, the first few times this happened, I got worried. I thought the instructor went over time and that I would be late for my client. But nope, same recorded amount of time, just a different experience of it. As I slowly bring this singular focus into my daily life, I find that my work day is less hectic. Time expands with my clients and between clients. What used to feel like constantly being behind the eight-ball, is now a work day of expansion and extra time. Nothing has changed except my focus, my ability to slow down and be in the moment.

Start taking control of your day by first controlling your phone. Turn it to silent and ignore it when you are working with someone else. Then, as best as you can, focus solely on the task or person at hand. Give them 100% of your attention. Then see how your efficiency, joy, and time all increase.

three leg stool

Three-Legged Stool

Yoga is part of my current daily practice. I have been learning many new lessons through the practice which I am bringing into my daily life. Today I would like to share with you three elements of yoga which can be the foundation of how you approach your challenges – on and off the mat.

A decade or so ago, I went briefly to a weekend workshop focused on finding your “one thing.” After the opening two-hour introduction, it felt like a cult and I high-tailed it out of there. The basics of the book and workshop were that if you found your “one thing” then you built your life around it. What I found funny was that some of the participants had been attending these workshops for years and either could not find their one thing or had changed it many times.

I think one of ththree leg stoole issues of the program was the focus on results and the physical world. The idea was to find a singular purpose, something tangible and achievable, and then create your life around that making it happen. Instead, what I have found in yoga and in my own life, is that a focus on ways of being allows a purpose to be revealed, evolve, and lead us on an amazing journey.

The three ways of being I am learning through yoga are: strength, balance, and flexibility.

Strength

For me, this one is easy. My Type-A personality is all about strength, perseverance, and making things happen. What I have had to come to accept about strength, is that I am not strong in all areas and that leading with strength is not always the best choice. I am learning my limits; where can and should I be strong, and what is not in my ability. As I flow more into Type Me, I also am releasing strength as my go-to tool and am learning to find other ways to approach life.

Balance

I write a lot about work-life balance, but balance is more than juggling the things in our lives. It is also about being centered. I am learning to be physically centered in my body on the yoga mat and out moving in the world. I am also returning to being centered in my mind and thinking. Balance is an inner strength and confidence no matter what is happening outside. It is calming the mind.  It is remaining still in the center of a storm.

Flexibility

When I think about flexibility, it is not giving in and bending over backwards for others. Flexibility is about remaining open; it is being a young branch swaying in the wind not an old brittle hardened stubborn branch susceptible to damage because of its rigidity. To be flexible is to be open to what we know and what we don’t know; being open to new opinions, personalities, and ways of living.

Strength, balance, and flexibility work together to create a powerful way of being. If we are only strong, we may become exhausted or rigid. If we only focus on balance, we may never move forward. If we only choose flexibility, we may be swayed too much by the wants and needs of others. When we use all three legs of the stool, strength, balance and flexibility, we create a strong foundation for living.