Be present; don’t run the red light!

Red traffic lightIn an unpublished essay, “Lessons Learned From the Masters”, written by a wise mentor of mine, Robert J. Brinson, he shared some valuable lesson learned over the years during his professional career. One item of discussion was “The Three Be’s”: 1) Be on time, 2) Be prepared, and 3) Be present. I totally related to being on time and being prepared, since those two “B’s” are my own pet peeves. However, to be present is one I had to ponder, process and put into practice. Of course, most of the time I make a conscientious effort to change my behavior, I’ve had to learn a valuable lesson the hard way through my mistakes.

We live in a society that connects us in so many ways to so many people. Unwritten expectations include immediate gratification or receiving a response 24/7. So how can we focus on the present when we have way too many items on our plate to handle? We multi-task. Is that being present? We can trick ourselves into believing the present has our full attention, but nothing could be further from the truth. This reality hit me one day. While driving to an important meeting, I was thinking about all the tasks on my to-do list for that day. I was so totally distracted by my own thoughts that I suddenly realized I had driven straight through a red light. How in the world could my thoughts have drifted so far that I neglected to notice the light at the intersection was red and that I failed to stop the car? Fortunately, I was not involved in an accident. But let me tell you, it got my attention. I was so shaken up I had to pull over and process what had just happened. It was one of those “aha” moments, and I immediately knew what it meant to truly be present. I was so overwhelmed with all the demands on my plate that I was just going through the motions unaware of what I was doing. I changed that day. My thought process changed, and I began to eliminate bad habits that I had allowed. Not every fault has been completely eliminated, but I’m definitely more conscientious of being present to one task at a time, and I work very hard at making sure I am always present with people. People always take the number one priority.