How much in the future do you live?
How much in the future do you live? I used to live very much in the future. I would go as far as look at a piece of clothing that I wanted to wear, and think: “If I put it on today, what will I wear tomorrow?” That resulted in me wearing something less attractive, less what I felt like. Leaving the more appealing clothes “for later”. For that better suiting opportunity, which I expected to happen - in the future.
I would think about what I will do when I get home while I am at work, what needs to be done on the weekend when it is Wednesday. Counting minutes to the next activity, kilometers to the destination, or getting anxious about leaving on a trip next week - all those things are examples of being there. In the future.
Needless to say, this resulted in a pile of undone tasks and the constant being not fully available for the moment at hand. Unless I had wine and was relaxing with friends. :)
I got better over the years. I wear the clothes that I feel like wearing, regardless of style or even the occasion. I love and enjoy each day of the week for what it is. And I can immerse myself into the experience of bedtime with my kids without thinking about anything else.
Yet when it comes to work or projects, very often I keep thinking about what I need to do next instead of focusing on a task I am doing right now. Robbing myself of the opportunity to focus, and to create.
Last year, I went to two personal retreats, that were highly impactful for me. One detail about them both was that no agenda or the program was shared with the participants. We were advised on what clothes to bring, with some hint at the activities expecting us. But every day would simply unfold, without us having any knowledge about what was coming.
I did not see that as a big deal. Since this was a personal retreat, and I trusted the guy running it enough to be there - I was at his mercy anyway :). It was surprising to see how many people found it uncomfortable.
Seeming simple enough and not all that profound, I was even more surprised to notice how much freedom it created inside of me. Freedom from worry about what’s next, freedom from thinking about it even, or considering it. It freed my brain for whatever I was doing, and helped me appreciate it so much fuller. Be it a conversation, a game of soccer, or a bus ride.
Recently, I ran a strategic retreat for 20 people from our company. I was very excited to design the flow, the questions, and the pieces of the experience. One thing that I did very purposefully - was to not share the agenda. I gave the highlights, shared that we will be spending most of the time in the discussions rather than presentations, and informed on what supplies/clothes to bring. This made a number of people uncomfortable to various degree - all the way to feeling frustrated or even angry at me.
My goal was to shake us out of the norm, of the usual, take us out of the boundaries of each person’s area or team - and open everyone to a possibility that an idea or solution can be presented by somebody outside of their area. I wanted people to start hearing the others - and make deeper personal connections. Not sharing the agenda was part of that design.
Have you ever noticed how you can walk through the same street for years, and then discover a little shop that has been there forever, but you never saw it? Same with agendas for meetings or events - you tune in where you are accustomed to tune in, and tune out where you made a decision that it is not applicable to you. My desire was to break that, to help us be open all the time, to have open loops so that we are always on a lookout to receive.
Using personal retreat approach in a business setting might backfire, or prove dangerous. I was certain however, that it would be helpful.
Little did I know how helpful I would find it to be! 20 people gradually started to worry less and less about what was coming, releasing the grip on their “plan of attack”, focusing on the topic at hand and the session we were in. They participated full on, with their creativity fully engaged. Even I myself, who had a responsibility to guide us further - I had a complete trust that whatever needed to happen would present itself, and either I will know, or we will discover it together. So I was fully focused on the sessions as well.
As a result, we connected incredibly, we opened up like people normally do not in a business setting, and we endured a 20 people collaboration on our company focus for 2017 - which, under ordinary circumstances, would have probably resulted in people losing it and getting mad at each other.
People were stunned with how deep we connected, how much better they understood the others and their business areas - that alone seemed enough to take home. And we aligned on the strategic focus as well! Including the practical steps on how to bring it to the rest of the company.
When I came home, I had a most filled up weekend in a while. It was my mom’s birthday, my dad came to visit, and so did my brother. I took my family to a birthday dinner one night, got food and cooked a nice dinner the other night; went skating with my daughter twice, took my kids to dance and swimming; had lunch with my brother; and completed all the notes from the retreat. I even managed to connect with my husband after all of this, even though we were both exhausted from the week.
With all that on my radar, I was focusing on one thing at a time - fully immersing myself in it. Had a deep conversation with my brother, skated like when I was a kid myself :). And for the first time I felt that there was enough of me for everything and everyone important in my life.
Being in the moment is quite incredible. Not sharing the agenda can be a gift to help with that. ;)
(Thank you Philip McKernan for helping me experience what true presence in the moment is.)