Dropping off my Highschooler today, I saw something interesting. I am not referring to the “you smell like fart” t-shirt, although that may be fodder for another post. Turning in toward the parking lot, as I was leaving, I saw a lady driving, perhaps by tele kinetics. She has a lit cigarette and a cell phone in one hand and was driving with the other. She seemed deep in conversation with anyone except those in car with her. This isn’t a rant about her, though. I don’t know the specifics. She could be getting biopsy results (in which case, talk away), or she could be discussing the Full House reunion commercial (can this wait?). This also is not a post about distracted driving. This is a post about distracted living. We are all guilty. Jeff Goins does a great job addressing this in his recent book “The In-between”, but he didn’t invent the concept of “smelling the roses”. Seeing this lady talking away while her teenage passenger stared into space reminds me of the many times I was checking e-mail while my daughter discussed the intricacies of her 4th grade tether ball tournament, or my boy giving me play by painful play of jumping his scooter off the curb. I’m reminded of “helping” along stories my kids have shared with a “yes, yes…and…and”.
lonely kid on a beach … standing (Photo credit: Pierre Metivier)
We are busy, and that’s ok. Somehow, in my impossible attempt at becoming the perfect parent, I have discovered something way better than perfection: Presence.
The idea of being present doesn’t end with our kids. Although I’d argue that this is the most important and most neglected opportunity. Being present takes intentionality. Ultimately intentionality as a lifestyle makes this easier. When I am in control of my goals, projects, and tasks, I am much less distracted by the “stuff” of life. Intentionality toward being present is also key, and a great opportunity to develop much deeper relationships. The ability to hold a cell phone to your ear in the same hand as a lit cigarette without igniting your hair is a great skill, perhaps that energy and focus could be used toward awesome intentional living. I challenge you to find 2 people in your life (child, spouse, co-worker, etc.) who you let the rules of presence slip. You may have slipped into distracted habits or finishing sentences to “move on”. Be fully present to them today. Turn off the cell phone, the TV, or whatever has your mind.
Share the “relationship changing” results.
I recently had the opportunity to share some wisdom with my 17 year old daughter on the drive to school. Most days the 2.5 mile trek to school is no more than a song or 2 and the click…click of her texting her friends regarding her upcoming arrival. This day was different. College is less than a year away, and with the college discussion comes the life discussion. What to do, how to live, and what is an acceptible standard of living. This 5 minute conversation stirred up some great thinking and some real questions, especially as I reflect upon my life.
Horse Racing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
She’s a smart kid. One of the features she gets from me is the uncanny ability to get things done. Maybe they aren’t done smoothly (maybe they are), and maybe not according to the plan, but done nonetheless. Many times she, and i alike, achieved great grades and successful marks without too much challenge. This ability is a double edged sword.
Seeing results without intentionality trains the mind to feel entitled.
I lived, and sometimes still do, this way for many years. I am happy with my life and career but wonder what could have been. I have worked hard to get here, but not always intentional, strategic, and certainly not open to much risk. The question I posed in our discussion was what if I had added 1 or 2 of those elements to my earlier years (as I am incorporating them now)?
My success today does not mean that I arrived here in spite of my lack of intentionality, strategic thinking, and risk aversion. I believe my success today is just the tip of the ice that could have been massive success beyond what I have achieved today.
This is not to say I am regretful or in any way unhappy with my life. I love my life and my family. This is about others, in particular, my 17 year old daughter. This could be you reading this post today, or your very own 17 year old daughter. Life is a constant moving object. You are moving at 1 speed, and life (society, careers, family) is moving at another. I told her that for many years I thought I could find a trajectory and get comfortable. I even fooled myself that I had arrived there several times. While I never went backward, life kept moving forward. Soon, life was moving faster than me and I had to catch up. There have been other times where I have been so overly ambitious that I outpaced life with the power of a bullet train. The problem with this isn’t my ambition, work ethic, or intelligence; its my perspective.
Move too slow in comfort, life passes you and you live with regrets. Move too fast and you miss the moments life was designed for.
I told my daughter that you need to find a pace that is comfortable, sustainable, and slightly faster than the speed of life.
What do you do to keep perspective without loosing out on opportunities?