A few days ago, I came across this beautiful blog post and it got me thinking about how we live our lives, especially me.
We spend tremendous amounts of time locked up inside our heads that we forget that we are here for others. We are supposed to be working together to achieve a common goal, whatever that goal is.
This post is really good at capturing some major flaws of the current human psychology. Today, we find it really hard to open up to people. We can’t express our emotions, we can’t say what we feel and we can’t feel what we say. We live in a constant state of alert, taking in everything around us. We get surrounded by the notifications, the emails, the messages, the calls. We enjoy it. We like feeling busy, perhaps because that makes us feel like we’re doing something important, even if we aren’t.
Tell me, when was the last time you sat back and enjoyed the feeling of actually being alive? Of actually appreciating other people around you? When was the last time you accepted the fact that perhaps you won’t be here for eternity and that everything is temporary; your phone, your emails and your tweets. Everything passes. The only thing that may reside to future generations is how much others enjoyed your presence. Did you fully appreciate them? Did you love them? Did you worried about them? Did you felt his/her pain every day, just like they were yours? Did you felt compassion and did you helped them with everything you possibly could?
I believe these are the things that people are remembered for the most. Sure, your work is a big part of your legacy. But if our legacy consists solely on what we achieve, aren’t we being a little bit superficial about our sense of success? Aren’t factors like caring about others, being there for them and helping them as much important? Perhaps that’s harder to see as part of our legacy because we can’t really see it as something concrete, like our achievements and successes. We can measure our successes with money, fame, cars and houses. But how can we measure our impact in others?
We can measure it if we are able to say “His/her life changed for the better, because of me. I was an example to him/her. I helped him/her with tough life choices. I was there for him/her, and I enjoyed his/her presence, every day.”
Success doesn’t have to be concrete or physically visible, it can be an emotion, a transcendent feeling, something we can achieve easily and without requiring years of work. Success can be achieved in 15 minutes, just by talking to others.
I want you to take a quick exercise right now: try to think about the last stranger you met and talked to. Take a few moments to think about this. It must be a stranger that you talked for maybe only a few minutes. It doesn’t matter what the chat was about. The most important thing is that you have to remember it as a nice and genuine conversation. If you find it difficult to come up with an answer, we can conclude two things: either you actually don’t remember talking to a stranger in the last few weeks or months and if that’s the case, I recommend you do it the next time you go out. Trust me, it can make the day of that person, even if it’s just the cashier. Or, if you do remember the last time you talked with a stranger, but you can’t remember anything about what the conversation was actually about, it’s because you were not fully present in the moment with that person.
However, if you do remember such a conversation, tell me, what do you remember most: the fact that you thought he/she was a genuinely nice person? Do you remember him/her telling you about his/her day? Maybe the fact that that person was happy because something awesome happened that day? Or he/she was sad because something wrong happened that day?
If you felt either compassion or appreciated by that person, then you succeeded. These types of things can sometimes make the day better for another human being. And even though you might think is irrelevant, it isn’t. You made that person talk, you made him/her talk about why he/she felt happy, or sad, or confused. These emotions are difficult to express today, and you are remembered when you make other people talk about themselves. These are the things that that person went home and talked about to his/her peers. You and that person had a connection. You didn’t need the Internet, you didn’t need to be distracted by the phone and the apps. Just both of you, no bullshit. Remember this. This is important. These are the types of things you leave to other people.
If you have the power to leave this impression in others you don’t know, then imagine what you can leave behind for the people most close to you. You can start actually listening to them. You can start feeling more present with them. Start opening up with them and share your thoughts and emotions. Even if just for 15 minutes. I believe that 15 minutes of a genuine conversation can uncover weeks and months of emotions and repressed feelings.
Try it. I really mean it. Today. The next time you talk to someone close to you, try to be fully present in the moment with them.
Now, I myself am a victim of this problem. I have trouble being focused and fully present in the moment. But this has got me thinking, a lot. I’m going to make an effort now. I think it’s possible.
I think it’s possible to be better. We just need to make an effort to make our presence be felt to others. But it’s hard. We’re constantly thinking “What do I need to do next? What will I talk about in the meeting tomorrow? What will I tweet later? I wonder what my friends are up to on facebook…”. Let’s stop for a moment. Let’s realize that we are social beings. We want and need to share our emotions and feelings with others. Let’s all make an effort and talk, just actually talk with the person next to us. The tweet can wait. The email can wait. The notification can wait. Look at the person next to you, and try to fully understand them. Try to capture his/her energy, and make it a part of yours. This is what connection is. Let’s, for just 10 minutes, prefer actual real connections with others, instead of a new, virtual connection with a new follower on twitter.
Let’s stop, and think about other people around us.