The Power of Presence
My mom always makes the greatest faces. Of course, as a kid, I’d die of embarrassment every time she’d squint up her eyes, but as a grown up, I realize she taught me something special. She’d pinch one eye with her pointer finger, while framing the world with her other hand, tilting her head this way and that. My artist mother can see fifty shades of green in a leaf and will oooh and aaaahhh like an indiscretion at the way the light would reflect off a puddle.
“Look at that, Kimberly!” she’d gasp, stopping the car on the way to school. “It’s a watercolor sky!” It’s a watercolor tree. A watercolor mountain. A watercolor bird. All of Nature’s gifts are celebrated in my mom’s expression of child-like wonder and captured magically on the canvass, as if she’s bringing the soul of the world to life.
What would our lives be like if we could bring such presence and appreciation into our daily activities? If, when we listened, we really listened? If, when we spent time with our kids, we really stayed present?
Kids are a great meter for letting you know how present you are. I’ve got a four year old kiddo who is an absolute joyous bundle of energy. Curious, smart, funny, kind, mischievous – everything that a four year old is suppose to be.
One morning, several months ago, we were doing our normal routine and he said, “Mommy come play with me!”
“Not now,” I said. “I want to read the paper”.
“In a minute. Let me get dressed”.
“Hold on. I need to make your lunch”.
After about an hour of him playing quietly by himself in the next room, he disappeared. I finished what I was doing and went to look for him. Coming from the sunroom, I heard giggles. Very cute giggles, but they always mean he’s up to something.
I turned the corner just in time to see him proudly splattering shaving cream all over our new flat screen TV, like he’s Pollack at a public paint-out. When he saw me, he looked up with a big smile and a twinkle in his eyes and said, “Hi Mommy! Are you ready to play now?”
At work, in what speaker/Olympian Vince Poscente refers to as our “24/7 crackberry world”, it’s hard to be present. Our minds are constantly ticking off mile-long to-do-lists, while putting out fires, and doing more with less. It’s hard to take the time, when it feels like there’s no time.
And yet what is the price that we pay for not taking the time? If all we had to lose was a flat screen TV, then maybe it would be worth the gamble. What are we communicating to the people we work with, to our customers, to the people we love, when we don’t take the time, just in that moment, to be fully present? What might we be missing, when we don’t really see and listen?
We may not always know the impact of our presence. At work, we don’t always hear, “thank you”. We don’t always see the difference that we can make. But it’s there. And it’s passed along.
“Mommy! Mommy, look!”, cried a little voice from the car seat in the back. “The sky looks like it’s on fire! Isn’t it sooooo pretty!”
“It’s beautiful, Sweetheart”, I replied, smiling. A watercolor sky.
How can you bring an artist’s presence and appreciation into your daily life? You don’t have to change everything you’re doing, simply try it a little bit every day. Who knows what might be possible…
©OnStage Leadership, 2009 (re-posted 2014)
Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying!