How many times have you been out in public some place – it could be the mall, a city street, a restaurant – and you see those folks who are so busy looking at their cell phones that they are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them? How many times have you seen someone walking along and you can tell they’re not really there? That mentally they are somewhere else; they are “day dreaming?” How many times have you caught yourself doing the same? All too often we disconnect from the real world in ways that lull our mind into a sleep-like state; at least where our awareness is concerned. In doing so, we cost ourselves the potential experience of seeing beauty or blessings.
In today’s world the distractions can get overwhelming. But allowing ourselves to be distracted from reality is seldom a good thing. Yes, there are times we need to “escape” from the business of life for a few minutes. We all need a nap now and then. We need to veg out in front of the television. We need to do SOMETHING that allows us to enjoy a small reprieve from the stress and anxiety that can be caused by all of the things we need to get done and all that is going on around us.
Let’s think about this for a minute though: if you’re spending your time stressing about all you have to get done or all that’s going on around you WHILE you’re getting stuff done, that’s one way of spending time. If you consciously disconnect for a few minutes – a preset period of time anywhere from a one minute break to a thirty minute power nap – that’s a conscious choice to use that specified time to recharge your batteries (for lack of a better way of saying it). That’s a second way of spending time. If you are ALWAYS disconnected or distracted anytime you’re not actively engaged in accomplishing a given task, that (to me) is a waste of time. While you’re disengaged from reality, you’re missing all of life that is going on around you; or that you’re moving through. That time you spend NOT enjoying life, or at least looking at the life around you, is time you can never recover.
That is time you could spend accomplishing something which would help to maximize the personal and delivered value of your life in those moments. And sometimes we miss that small factoid too: the time we spend accomplishing a task isn’t always serving ourselves. Sometimes that task accomplished serves someone else. So when we’re wasting time we’re potentially also missing an opportunity to do something for someone; to accomplish something that would be beneficial not only to us but to those around us. Is there a greater motivation to be had?
The goal though is to keep yourself mentally active enough that you stay alert to all of the opportunities presented; or opportunities you can seek out; or opportunities you can create… and to use those opportunities to fuel a positive outlook. If you’re too busy “living” in the virtual world, then you miss unrecoverable moments and opportunities in the real world.
To fully maximize your potential (and shouldn’t that be a goal we ALL have?) you need to stay reasonably focused on life; REAL life; the life you live as you interact with the reality that surrounds you. You need to interact with others, engage with them in meaningful discussions and not just talk back and forth, but actually communicate and potentially learn. You just never know when someone might say something… you might see something… something might happen around you that delivers to you that one piece of information that can literally change your world. It might change how you look at the world or it might change how you look at the person you’re in conversation with, but either way YOUR perception of reality can be changed.
Of course, although this sounds arrogant, YOU can also change the perception of reality for someone else or even a group of people. YOU can say something, accomplish something, present an opportunity… YOU can alter the world around someone and you might not even intend to do so. The fact is: we all do it and don’t even realize it. We all change something for someone each day, whether we intend to or not, and in doing so we either add or subtract from their day. If we are aware and alert to the world around us, eager to observe or make positive change, and then to leverage that change to the maximum benefit of all involved (including ourselves), we can have a positive impact each day; sometimes each moment.
Consider the last time you were in your favorite coffee shop, met the eyes of someone and said, “Good morning.” Whether they reacted or not, you impacted their day. IF they reacted in a good way and replied, BOTH of you had a bit better day, no matter how small the “better” may have been. And you just never know: That person may have been having a really bad day and that simple smiling interaction may have helped them in a way you’ll never be aware of. But you’d have missed it… not had it… not created or experienced it if you were too busy being distracted by something else not in that moment.
When I was an MP in the Army I had a sergeant that always said, “Stay alert; stay alive.” I like to think that we should all stay alert not only to stay alive but to create opportunities where we can help keep life worth staying alive for.