I'm sure we are all guilty of it, in some form or another. Not being present. Not being mindful or in the moment. Whatever you want to call it, it often means that we aren't focused on what is right in front of us (In this digital age, it also means spending way too much time attending to our devices. Checking one more email in class when your students need your attention. Looking at your phone instead of into the eyes of the person you are with. Watching the TV instead of focusing on a conversation with your spouse. Looking at your Twitter feed instead of playing with your children. Sound familiar?) As hard as we try not to, we do this. I do this.
I recently read The Happiness Project, a book by Gretchen Rubin. She devoted a year of her life to figuring out how to bring more positivity and happiness into her world. She identified several things that she focused on each month to increase her happiness: getting organized, capturing memories, starting a collection, and creating a blog, among a number of other things. So much of what the author suggested resonated with me, but the one that stood out the most was mindfulness. Like Rubin, I don't want to take up meditation or learn yoga. I just want to make a conscience choice to focus on the people I'm with and not take that time for granted.
I'm an educator, an author, a wife, a mom. I struggle to balance these in my life and often allow myself to get distracted much more than I should. (I hope that it doesn't show, although I'm sure that it does.) When I'm at work, I think about the plans I want to make for an upcoming party for my sons. When I'm writing, I think about the favor my husband asked me to do, which I forgot. When I'm at home, I think about the meeting I need to schedule with a colleague. My mind is always in a dozen different places--and often not in the place where it's supposed to be.
So after reading Rubin's book, I thought more about the time and energy she dedicated to increasing what happiness meant for her. If she can commit to 12 months and over 40 different tasks that she accomplished, I could at least try to focus on one, right?
So, I figured that the best way to commit to something is to put it in writing. I'm going to take the next 30 days and among all of the balls that I try to juggle, I am going to make a concerted effort to be more mindful. There are 3 things within my personal resolution that I'm going to do:
1. Ditch the devices at home.As a first step, I'm going to put my personal electronic devices aside, including my old-fashioned paper planner and my notebook. I'm going to push away all potential distractions and focus my attention on my family. Our time in the evenings and on weekends is precious and I need to appreciate it.
2. Engage with people.I'm going to check in more with friends and show thoughtful support. I'm going to have more face-to-face conversations at work instead of emails. I'm going to devote more time to my husband (who is a saint) who stays at home with our boys and give him the adult conversations he misses during the day. I'm going to engage with my kids-- play and laugh, run and chase, draw and sing, even when I'm tired and have work to do.
Every night, I'm going to write down one positive step that I've made and another thing that I still need to work on. These quick notes will help me stay on track and be accountable.
So, should I have been doing all of these things all along? Yes . . . and I do try, but some days I'm better at doing it than others. Some days I get pulled into work drama that carries over into home time and I miss out on doing a puzzle with my son. Or I'm so tired at night that I fall asleep before taking time and talking with my husband. I've found it easy to let those things slip, which is why I am making this commitment to be more mindful. As Rubin reminded me, I don't want to set a goal that I accomplish once and disregard. This is my resolution moving forward to changing my practice.
- What habits have you developed to become more mindful?
- What tips can you share for those who want to be more present with their families?