• Renea Skelton, PhD

Being Present in a Rushed World

A parent walks into a childcare center with a sense of purpose. From your observation, you can easily conclude that they are very busy, a bit distracted, and a little too impatient. Their child, maybe no more than 3 or 4 years old, is tightly clutching to the hand of the parent; seemingly used to the fast-paced daily routine. This is “normal” for them.

The child just abides and follows through with the consistent drill. As the parent quickly enters the room, they instruct their child to take off their coat, quickly wash hands, and immediately sit in circle time with the rest of the children. The child obeys as the parent signs them in. As the child is following orders, the parent provides a quick and causal smile to the caregiver in charge; then leaves the room in a hurry. This parent has already made their way out to their car, waving to an empty classroom window from the parking lot. This is the same window that the child usually runs to and waves back; it is comforting and almost as if it is permission for the child to start their day. But this is not the case.

The child notices that the parent is no longer in the room, quickly rushes to the door and softly commands, “Please! Can I have a hug and a kiss?” The parent waved to a window while their child was at the door begging for a little more attention; a little more closure before the day begins. The child was simply begging for a quick hug or a gentle kiss. The caregiver notices that the child is disappointed and gestures the child to go to the window to wave to their departing parent. It is almost as if it would help in alleviating some of the disappointment. The caregiver is obviously used to this daily routine between parent and child. As the child rushes to the window, climbs up to the perch with optimism, and steps up on their tiny toes to peer out, they notice that the parent has already departed the parking lot. Not a wave goodbye, not a smile, not a kiss, not even a hug. The child slowly places their head in their small hands and quietly sobs. What just happened? What was so important that the parent could not be “present” with their child? How could they have avoided this? What mark will this leave?

We have all been there. Caught in a one-track mind with a purpose to accomplish. We are surrounded by white noise that includes deadlines, appointments, and social media. This white noise can consume us to the point that the noise becomes habit. We may not see it at first because usually others see it for us. Unfortunately, most of us quickly deny it. Because why not? We have it all together. It works for us. It is self-serving. We feel accomplished.

Now, all white noise is not bad. You determine what is beneficial for you and what deters you from being present with others. Being “present” is living in the moment. It is eliminating the white noise to create more white space. The white space is your canvas in life. You can fill it with anything you wish, even white noise. You fill it with what is important to you. But as you are thinking of the importance in your life, think about what is, or who else, is being affected. Think about the example of the young child who just needed a hug or a kiss during a hectic day…in a fleeting moment.

As a leader, is it important to design your own canvas in life free from white noise that affects you and others. People watch and emulate leaders. We all know of a leader that consistently brags about the long hours they serve at the office. They brag about how late they had to stay accomplishing deadlines or how they were the “only” one that could close a project due to their experience. They create a self-serving white noise in their white space. Organizational members hear about it and begin to possibly judge themselves. They may think: “Am I doing something wrong because I am not staying late?” or “I need to obviously be like them that way I can progress.” Imagine the tone the leader is setting for the organization…the habit that they are creating and the developing leaders that surround them.

Conscious leaders set boundaries and strategically eliminate the white noise that infiltrates their life. They set the tone for the organization. Monkey-see, Monkey-Do.

Move at the pace of appreciation. Life is a pace, not a race. It’s more about having moments than chasing momentum.

Self-reflection questions:

o Where do I tend to move too fast and miss the value of being “present?”

o What is my white noise that causes barriers for me being “present?”

o How can I use presence and the elimination of white noise to become an effective leader within my organization, my home, my life?

o What is one action that I will commit to in being more “present” and with whom?

- Renea Skelton, PhD