By Ruthanne Esparza
There is a time in life from post-college to pre-empty nest years when we’re in the thick of it all. Up until this age, we’re children, adolescents, teens, then young adults. During that time, we are learning about the world and life, then creating our identity as an adult, whether by default or design (most of us definitely by default).
As we enter the thick of it all in life, however, we make critical decisions: career, marriage/significant other (or not), children (or not), our relationships with our family of origin, friends, colleagues, and many others.
When we are smack-dab in the thick of it, the conveyor belt that is our path in life speeds up. It gets tough; it gets blurry; it gets overwhelming for sure. But it’s also a time in life for the most spectacular life events you’ll experience.
For most of us, when and if we get a chance to pause and consider our lives during these crazy years, they can feel like an uncomfortable blur. The feeling of contentment and being grounded can be an elusive longing, seemingly just beyond our grasp. So we put our heads back down and carry on. There are always crucial things that need our attention right this moment, necessary things: our work, our home lives, our bodies/health, our finances.
Well, I’m here to tell you there is a way to be present by design rather than default. It is possible to find your flow through these years and not look back feeling as though life passed you by in a blur.
I love this quote: “Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.”
One great tool to use today is to begin to live in the now. If you’re fully present in the now, giving your attention to this moment only, you have the luxury of giving your full attention and energy to one thing. What a concept, right? We have so many different areas we’re trying to balance in life. We all know that juggling all the balls in the air gets precarious. What if we only had to juggle one ball at a time? Imagine throwing only one ball up and then catching it, instead of five or six or 99 balls all at once!
An easy way to begin to live in the now is to practice presence. This is where we get out of our head and into the moment as many times as we possibly can throughout the day. This is not easy! We have so many thoughts running around in our heads every day, it does take work to slow them down and bring our minds to the present moment. The goal is to ultimately be conscious of being in the present moment, or at least have the ability to pull ourselves back into the present moment for the majority of our waking hours.
A baby step to begin practicing presence is to consciously listen when speaking with others. Look into their eyes; hear them; stop the mind chatter and really listen. You can use this trigger to snap into the moment; it’s easy because of all the conversations we engage in during any given day. This goes for conversations with our colleagues and coworkers, family members, friends, and even our children.
As a former court reporter, I’d say this is the difference between taking testimony when you’re on autopilot, planning the rest of your day, and taking tough technical testimony when you literally don’t have a second to think about anything but the next word spoken from the witness’s mouth.
Think about what normally goes on in any given verbal exchange with another. As we listen, we have an agenda: We’re simultaneously crafting a response, what we’re going to say back. That is, we listen in a reactive state, constructing our reaction/response to what the person is saying.
Try listening with no thought in your head; clear your head, stop analyzing, stop mentally reacting. Concentrate solely on the person’s words, his or her expression – his or her eyes, voice, and mannerisms. At first it’s difficult, but with practice, it becomes a relief. You begin to notice how letting your guard down and not being ready to react feels like a reprieve: “Oh, wait, I can just listen here. I can pretend I’m watching a video and there’s no need for me to respond. Wow, how freeing is this?”
After the initial discomfort, you’ll be amazed at the sense of freedom this gives you. You’ll also be amazed at getting to the end of the other person talking and then just responding from a pure and natural place. It’s really the art of listening. The beauty of being a reporter is that we master the art of listening in our professional lives; we can simply transfer this skill to our non-reporting interactions by being fully conscious and present in the now.
Ultimately, this practice allows us to be so much more effective and confident in our exchanges with others. By practicing presence, you’ll see how your responses to others become natural and meaningful. You give your brain time to relax, and that’s when a sort of magic happens: You become much more effective in conversing with others. You are empowered. You feel confident.
Learning to live in the now, in the present moment, slows the conveyor belt down a bit, and with practice, it actually gives us access to a sense of control of our lives. We can find our flow while being right in the thick of it all!
Ruthanne Esparza, now a life coach, is a retired court reporter. She worked in the reporting industry for more than 27 years. She is now trained and certified to work as a coach-advisor for the Robbins-Madanes Coach Training Program. She currently practices as a certified strategic intervention life coach. You can reach her through her website RuthanneEsparza.com.