“Wherever you are, be there. Lifestyle is not something we do; it is something we experience. And until we learn to be there, we will never master the art of living well.” ~Jim Rohn
I have been told again and again that our time is our most precious asset. But I disagree.
The blogosphere is filled with tips on time management—how to get more for our time. I am willing to bet my life that you have come across many such tips online yourself.
You have probably even adopted some of them.
I myself am notorious for scouting the internet to find any new tip to help me manage my time better. And yet I find that I am struggling. Yet I find myself constantly being a prisoner to my devices.
There is one thing that will beat time any day—presence. Time might be important, but our presence is paramount.
Tell me if you can relate: You are at a family gathering or a reunion and you cannot help but notice how disengaged everyone around is. Your cousin is busy taking selfies while your aunt is on the phone with her friend. Your dad is catching up on all the Donald Trump tweets and your sibling is making a tik tok video.
So, what do you end up doing? You pull out your phone and start checking Instagram.
I know it because I have been there myself.
Social gatherings are no longer what they used to be a decade ago. We are constantly connected now. Anxiety kicks in if we cannot find our phones or if the battery is about to die.
I am sitting in a cafe typing this and when I look around, I see a bunch of people sitting but busy on their phones. Present but only physically. Technology has made our worlds smaller, yet at the same time, made us more distant.
We have come to believe that just showing up is enough. As if just being present physically will make things better. It rarely ever does!
It is infuriating and frustrating at the same time—being there, yet not being present.
We show up to fit in, but if given a choice, we would rather not be there. Physically, we are in one place but mentally, we are busy wondering how life might be greener on the other side.
Mentally, we are busy trying to stay “up to date” with god knows what.
Presence is a big deal.
Imagine you’ve made a reservation at a fancy restaurant for a special night. You’ve heard good things about the food and the ambience of the place. You’re excited for one hell of a night, only to be served by a preoccupied server who ignores your table, messes up your order, and ruins your dining experience.
We have all been there, haven’t we?
Now, think back to the last time you got someone’s full attention. How did that make you feel? Tell me that the experience wasn’t memorable and pleasant.
It’s easy to tell the difference when someone is mentally absent versus when someone is fully present because presence cannot be delegated. You simply cannot hand it off to someone and get away with it.
You also cannot cut corners with your presence, because then you are as good as not there. You are either there or you are not. There is no in between!
All of us have to own our presence and choose to be in the moment.
In a world that is becoming more isolated, presence becomes a big deal because it is now a scarce commodity. There simply isn’t enough of it going around, which makes it more valuable than time.
As Maya Angelou said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Unlike gifts, our presence cannot be copied, imitated, or replicated. Just like our fingerprints, our presence is unique to us and without us, there is a void that nobody can fill.
Every opportunity you get—and trust me, they get fewer and fewer as you grow older—you should make a choice to be present.
Your relationship doesn’t need time, it needs you to be present. It needs you to take notice of the smiles, the laughter, the hugs, the sadness. It needs you to be an active participant in the uncomfortable moments, the difficult conversations, and the embarrassing pictures.
Next time, when you find yourself reaching for your phone, reach for it, switch it off, and put it away. This will allow you to one, be present and two, catch up with the people present in the room rather than stay up to date with the ones outside. In most cases, the ones that matter are right there with you.
Next time, choose presence because time only matters if you’re really there to enjoy it.