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4 Ways to Practice Being Present

John Gilman June 16, 2016

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I realized recently that I’ve developed a bad habit. When my children are talking to me I’ll look at my phone and continue with whatever I’m doing instead of looking at my child, I’m not fully present. It’s an awful habit, that I am fully aware of, yet habits are not always easy to break.

What I’m doing on the phone might be important; texting my boss, reading an email from their teacher, ordering a needed item, but nothing is as important as looking my child in the eye so they know THEY are important.

How did I even get here?

We live in a world of constant distractions. These devices we carry around that alert us to phone calls, emails, social media notifications, bank account updates, our daily step count…they have begun to dictate our lives. The continual dinging and alerting can keep us in a state of mental distraction that affects our interactions with the people around us, including our children.

I want to make memories with my children. Memories are made in the moments, and I don’t want to get caught looking at my phone and missing the moments. I want to see my son’s awesome cannonball into the pool. I want to watch the way my daughter’s face lights up when her favorite song comes on.  There is a sobering chance that I could miss these moments because of my bad habit.

The people I’m with deserve my attention, especially my family! The greatest gift I can give my children is my presence. So I am making some changes and adopting some new habits.

Here are my 4 Ways to Practice Being Present:

1. Make Eye Contact

No more looking at my phone when my children are talking to me, or anyone for that matter. I will either put down what I’m working on, or quickly ask for a moment while I finish the task; and then give them my attention with eye contact. Matthew 6:22 says “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” So much can be communicated through eye contact and I certainly want to model that for my children.

2. Fully Engage

I will participate in the conversation. I won’t rush off to finish the next item on my to-do list or let my brain wander ahead to what I have to do next. I want to engage with the person and show that I care by responding. If my child wants me to watch while he does a somersault then I’ll do that. If my spouse wants me to help with a task, I’ll gladly jump in. Too often I find myself partially listening while thinking instead about what I’m going to eat for dinner or something coming up in the day. I don’t want to be “that” person anymore. When I do that I’m choosing myself over the other person.

3. Pause Technology

I will put down my phone. When I get home from work I have designated a specific spot where I put my phone and leave it there. This is going to take practice; because sadly the phone usually goes with me through the house. If I’m constantly distracted by checking my phone, then it inevitably causes interruptions. I am not fully being present when I am looking at my phone every 15 minutes to check if someone has texted or something significant has happened on social media. My family deserves my presence without distraction.

4. Set Limits

There may be times when I need to check my phone for emails coming in or important texts. However, I’mm trying to determine specific times during the day when I truly put down my phone and establish these as distraction free zones. For me it’s when I pick up my kids from school or practice and when I get home from work. It’s easy to carry work into home life, but I want that to change. I’m going to set my phone down and leave it there. I can re-engage with whatever happens on my phone once my children are in bed.

Things are going to be different. It’s going to take some discipline to break this bad habit, but I’m convinced it will be worth it. I don’t want to risk missing anymore moments!

What will you start doing this week to practice being present?

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