Monday, May 21, 2012

Taking my eyes off the road

I was driving along the highway and the view of the valley caught my attention. For a second, I took my eyes off the road and realized instantly that I was swerving into the other lane. As I put the truck back on course, I couldn't help but think of the countless tragic car accidents that happen this way.

There have been so many times in my life that I have taken my eyes off the road. Moments where I unconsciously slowly swerve into oncoming traffic, causing chaos and pain. For myself and others. The perfect life analogy is when someone gains weight over time. They gain one pound after another, slowly over time. And then the shock at the doctor's office, or worse still, the emergency room, leaves one wondering "how did I get here?"

Keeping our eyes on the road, the journey, the path requires attention. A few weeks ago I attended a HR conference in Vancouver. An impressive list of speakers from various disciplines presented on topics arounding engaging people. Quite simply, if we know how to engage people, we can achieve our business/culture/service goals. Of course it starts with the right people. But one of the presenters spoke about "attention."

What do we give our attention to? When are we most present? There are so many ways to describe this and many of us have heard/seen/read something about this concept in the past few years. It is a thought that I keep coming back to.

I, myself, am a reformed multi-tasker. It took some time. And the jobs I had didn't help (retail management jobs that forced me to do more in every minute so that I would only be working 70 hours instead of 80). I learned the importance of choosing to be present. The importance of this became very clear to me when I became a mother.

Being in the moment, being present, paying attention- all ways of saying the same thing AND preventing us from taking our eyes off the road. If you are truly present, you will know where you are looking, where you are going, and what is happening each minute to the next.

I don't believe it is possible to "be present" 100% of the time. Nor do I think that is the goal. For me, I try to make an effort to be present when I need and want to. At the dinner table, playing with my children, speaking with a colleague at work. I have a mental checklist to scan my body, state of being, breath, and tune in to bring my attention to the moment. I am sometimes successful.

I noticed an interesting trend in my household. The second that my husband or I tap into our IPhone or jump on the laptop or make a phone call, our kids go crazy. Instantly, they are aware that our attention is off of them and on something/someone else. I saw the pattern and realized I had to change WHEN I do these things. The phone calls are usually to family and they talk to the kids. Somewhat fixed. The IPhone and laptop can wait. Until they are in bed, most of the time. So yes, I am blogging less, tweeting less, Facebooking (as my Mother calls it) less. I give my children more of my attention in those moments and reaffirm that they are my priority. Actions truly speak louder than words. This is the childhood mantra. What we DO as parents teaches them what we THINK and FEEL.

What would happen if I took my eyes off the road while my kids are depending on me? For fun, for safety, for love and comfort? What would happen if I took my eyes off the road of my life, health, happiness? As we all know, life seems too short. So now I am determined to make the most of those moments that matter. By paying attention and not taking my eyes off the road.