Presence. Being mindful. The “now.” This state of being seems far removed from a concern over results, especially the results you get from being present.
In fact, the more present you are, the better the results you achieve—in every area of your life.
Become more present at work, and you are more productive. Become more present in your relationships, and you are more connected to the people in your life. Become more present when you pray and meditate, you possess a higher likelihood of having a spiritual experience.
How Presence Affects Results
I’ve often thought about how presence affects my results.
- As a writer, if I’m not present, I am unproductive. My mind wanders, and I end up thinking instead of writing.
- As a Certified High Performance Coach, if I am not present with my clients, I don’t catch the changes in their tonality, the emotion in their voices, or the little details in their stories. These become missed opportunities to help them have “aha moments.”
- If I’m not present when I lift weights at the gym, I forget the correct form and end up with pulled muscles or, even worse, injured.
- If I’m not present when my husband or children speak to me, I make them feel unimportant, don’t allow myself to connect with them fully, and weaken my relationships.
I could list many more instances when the results I’ve gotten or could have gotten relied heavily on my ability to remain present. But I’d like to tell you just one story…
One Moment without Presence
When I was in my teens, I was a competitive equestrian. One of the horses I owned was a 17.2-hand, flea-bitten gray with a splash of roan colored hair running down his neck. I named him Splashdown.
Splash could jump. I mean, he could jump super high fences. So, my riding instructor suggested I take him to a horse show at the county fair and enter him in the jumping competition.
Until that time, I’d mostly focused on equitation classes, which required my mount and me to jump fences no higher than 3’ 5” tall. The fences in the jumping competition were an entire foot taller, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. Believe me.
Just before the event, we warmed up over a gigantic cross rail in a tiny riding ring above the main arena. Then Splash and I went to wait by the gate for our turn to compete.
I watched the others ride the course and rehearsed in my mind doing the same (only better), making sure I knew the order of fences. I visualized how I would ride each fence, each turn, each straight away, and Splash and I finishing the course.
I gave Splash a pat on the neck. He was calm as alway, but I was nervous.
As the competitor before me approached the end of the course, I gathered up the reins, sat up taller in the saddle, and took a deep breath.
The gate opened, and I gave Splash a nudge with my legs. We entered the ring, and Splash’s head came up. I asked him to trot, and he complied for a few steps then broke into a canter. He was ready. More than that, he was excited. He knew these jumps were different.
Splash was focused—ears pointed forward, eyes on the fence ahead, and neck arched. And I, too, became 100 percent present.
I could no longer hear the people screaming on the ferris wheel or the sound of the vendors calling to the passersby. I didn’t hear the horses whinnying or the people talking in the bleachers.
We approached the first of the eight fences. My legs were tight on Splash’s sides, and I closed my fingers on the reins as he tried to pull forward. He took off perfectly, rising gracefully and effortlessly into the air. I was aware that he was jumping high…higher than necessary to clear the fence.
Time stood still as we approached the next fence and the next and the next…I could feel his power beneath my seat and between my legs. I steadied him with my body and hands.
There was nothing else in the world but the two of us riding from fence to fence and sailing over each obstacle.
We approached the last combination of fences—what’s known as a triple. We had to jump one fence to land in front of a second. Splash had to take just one stride before jumping that second fence, and then, upon landing, he had enough room to take two strides before clearing the final fence.
I took a deep breath.
Up and over the first fence we went. Up and over the second fence…
And in the seconds before we reached the final fence, I lost my presence.
Some thought entered my mind, like “We are done…” As a result, just before Splash needed to take off and jump the last obstacle, I loosened my legs just a little on his heaving sides.
This caused Splash to lose his presence, too. He stopped focusing on the jump right in front of him and wondered why my legs weren’t urging him onward as strongly as before.
He planted his feet right in front of the fence, ducked his head, and stopped. I barely managed to keep myself seated in the saddle.
For us, the competition was over all because of one moment in which I was not present. That moment made all the difference between success—completing the course of eight fences–and failure—a “refusal” at the final fence. We did not achieve the result we wanted.
Focus on Now
When my focus turned from the present—riding my horse over that last fence—to the future—being done—I was no longer in the moment. I was not present.
As soon as I was no longer present, my results changed.
Consider what happens when you aren’t present. More than likely, you are thinking about something that happened in the past or that could occur in the future. Or maybe you are simply distracted momentarily. And what then? Do you achieve your desired results?
No matter how hard you try, you can’t be present if you are thinking about the past or the future or allowing your focus to go to something else. And if you aren’t present, your results change for the worse.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
As your mind wanders, you lose focus and become less effective. That’s why the old coaching advice to “keep your eye on the ball” remains so powerful.
A baseball player has to be totally present and focused on that ball hurtling through space toward him at 95 miles per hour if he wants to swing at the right time so his bat meets the ball and he gets a hit that sends him to first base (or beyond). One second when he looks instead at the coach standing to the right of first base and that ball whizzes right by and the referee yells, “Striiiiiike!”
You have to be present to hit a ball—or anything. The results the batter wants is a hit so he can get on base. I wanted to jump all eight fences.
What outcome do you want, and how is your lack of presence making it tough to achieve that result?
How to Become Present Consistently
Whatever the results you want, being present will help you achieve them. So, how do you become present consistently? Here are five ways that work for my clients and me.
Sometimes your mind wanders because your brain isn’t getting what it needs to remain focused. That means you lose your ability to stay fully present.
Your brain needs oxygen to function efficiently. Therefore, one of the best things you can do to move into the present moment is breath…deeply!
Get up and take 20 deep, fast, and forceful diaphragmatic breaths in and out through the nose. You can swing your arms at the same time or bounce at the knees to get your blood flowing.
Then go back to your work. Try this any time you get distracted.
2. Keep a Record.
If your mind continually wanders to the same thought, record the thought. Writing it down gives your mind permission to focus on the job at hand, which means you will find yourself present again.
I’m not talking about spending 30 minutes journaling. I’m talking about jotting that thought down and getting right back to the task at hand.
3. Create Urgency.
While some people don’t like deadlines, they can be enormously useful when you need to come back to the moment…fast. That’s why you get more done in the 30 minutes before your children come home from school or when the boss tells you a project has to be done by tomorrow.
If you don’t want an actual deadline—like “finish cleaning out the closet by noon on Friday,” then use mini-deadlines. Decide to work on that closet for 20 minutes straight with no breaks or interruptions. Set an alarm, and go!
4. Create Necessity
Have you ever noticed how you stay present when you must? Like if the pot on the stove catches on fire, you are super present! And you stay focused on one thing—putting out that fire—until you accomplish your goal.
If you increase your sense of necessity, you’ll stay present. I know, this sounds like urgency, but it’s different. Urgency is normally time-bound, like a deadline. Necessity is aspiration bound, like wanting to fulfill your purpose, return to good health, become an author, or even earn a paycheck.
5. Drink water.
This may sound silly, but it goes along with the first tip—breathe. If you are dehydrated, your brain can’t work. And if your brain can’t work, you’ll feel tired, lethargic, and distracted. That means you’ll struggle to remain present.
If you aren’t present, drink some water, and then notice if you have an easier time focusing. If your emotional, mental, or physical state changes, you’ll know you were dehydrated.
Plus, drinking makes you breathe and provides a mini-break for you to get refocused again. So, keep water handy and drink…a lot…but especially when you feel your presence dwindling.
Presence Leads to Results
I know it can be challenging to remain present. We live in a very distracting world. However, if you want to achieve any type of results—personal or professional—learning to be present will help you accomplish those goals.
The more present you are, and the more consistently you remain present, the better your results will become.
I’d love to know your tips for staying present—and to hear about the results you’ve achieved by being present. Share them in a comment below. And please share this post with someone you know who would like to achieve a higher level of presence—and better results—consistently.
Never miss one of my videos! Click here to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Would you like to improve your results as well as your ability to remain present? Give me an hour of your time, and I’ll help you see how to start completing projects and fulfilling commitments. In the process, you’ll take huge strides toward fulfilling your potential and purpose and realizing your dreams. Apply for a FREE Certified High Performance Coaching strategy session. Fill out this application.
Or register for my Certified High Performance Group Coaching program here. It’s a great option if you don’t feel ready for one-on-one coaching and want to enjoy the power of group learning.
Photo courtesy of Annika Loewe