I was recently part of a workshop where we talked about different styles of leadership. One of the things which struck me most about the experience was how the facilitators slowed us down. They gave us time to digest. To process. To engage with one another. To use our brains.
No one can deny the frenetic pace of our lives and how much we rely on autopilot to take us through the never-ending list of things which “must” get done. I’ve heard countless people comment on how they don’t remember the drive home, they just remember leaving work and arriving at home. That’s kind of scary… what does being on autopilot while we drive do to our reaction times? And the same can be said for countless other tasks—making dinner, going through the evening routine, or getting ready for work.
At times, it’s another form of autopilot. We are so busy rushing through one thing to get to the next, we miss details. Or lessons. Or cues from other people. We become so focused on getting the task completed so we can get onto the next one that we mentally check out of the present. We are so busy thinking about what comes next, or tomorrow’s meeting, or next week’s presentation. Important stuff just blows right past us.
I worked with a team a couple of weeks ago who had to complete navigating an obstacle course while following specific rules. It was total and utter chaos. At the end of the activity, they all sat down, and the first question I asked was, “Well? How did that go?” A woman in the front laughed out loud and responded, “Welcome to my daily work life!” Everyone else laughed, too, but then got into a great discussion of how it really wasn’t a joke. The level of chaos this management team had been sustaining in order to try and meet goals was slowly unraveling their ability to work productively together.
Another team who struggled with a similar need to get off the proverbial hamster wheel came to one of our workshops with the horses. While moving through activity after activity, they had rich discussion debriefing each one. At the end of the day in the final reflections, they were able to see how being in the arena with the horses in and of itself was a tremendous exercise in staying in the present moment. Something about being around these animals (some of which are over 1,000 lbs) forces you to stay present and pay attention. The value they experienced from just that piece alone was enough to help them see how making intentional effort to slow down, engage with one another, and use their brains more would radically change their dynamics.
This week, I’d like to challenge you. Identify three times in your day when you are habitually checked out and operating without engaging your brain. These times you identify should be times when staying more engaged and present would make a difference. If you can’t think of three, start with one. Then practice intentionally staying present. Think. Reflect. Process. Listen. Pay attention. Engage. And see what happens. We’d love to hear about it.