Most of us don’t realize how frequently we are checked out of our life. We struggle to stay present in the day-to-day with the never-ending onslaught of digital feeds and new devices that offer superficial connectivity at best, but we lose out on the true contact that feeds our soul and makes us human. More and more scientific research is showing how much we give up when we trade the voyeurism of social media for the real-time relating that makes us feel seen and heard. Even more disturbing is how we are losing the muscle memory to do the messy and gratifying work of truly showing up, risking our heart, and communicating. It is in the trenches of our life, in the mess of people’s feelings spilling over onto us that we are really connected and that we can offer our best self. Start today with one of these tips and see how different life can feel when you fully show up!
1. Count your attention as you do your money
Our attention is, in fact, an even more limited resource than our money and treating it with the same reverence and respect as we do the financial currency in our lives will help you both quantify where you squander it and make choices about spending your focus on what matters. The truth about most social media is that at best, it’s a distraction. And at worst, it’s killing your brain’s capacity to fully attend to your life.
Choose a specific time each day or even once a week when you put away your devices and choose a task that requires all of your attention. It could be time spent cleaning out a closet, organizing a meal with friends, or solitary time on a walk. Just do it wholly, without interruption or distractions. Notice what happens with your thoughts when your attention is undivided. Even more gratifying, notice how other people respond when you give them the gift of your full attention.
2. Take more, true emotional risks
Most of us are risk averse when it comes to matters of the heart. This is why so many things that need to be shared are never uttered. It also explains how so many relationships expire long before their work is done. Staying connected is only possible through the work of taking emotional risks, of having your heart out there on your sleeve. Other people – even those closest to us – don’t know what is in our heart unless we show it. “Hooking up” is oddly less risky than asking someone out.
Defying the possibility that you might be rejected or that someone might not understand what you are trying to say and extending yourself anyway is how we know who we are as our most basic human selves. So, resolve to try this bold and daring act once a week. Take a risk with your heart and see what happens. I guarantee it will surprise you.
3. Cultivate real dialogues
We are losing the art of conversation, the very basic human capacity to express ourselves and listen face to face. The exchange of meaning that happens in an intimate conversation – everything from the other person's facial expression, tone of voice, and even the light in their eyes – teaches us how to feel and how to respond. Replacing this with cursory text, chat, or email messaging eliminates the contact that cultivates our capacity to empathize.
Commit to at least one real, face-to-face conversation a day – or at least in a week. Stretch your ability to listen and see what you can hear behind the words. Gaze at the face speaking to you, notice the blinking or twitching that might happen when someone reveals themselves.