Just as I get my arms around something in life or work—boom, it changes.

I actually love change, but at times I find myself achy and squeaky from all the change.  When that happens, I want to retreat. I want to pull back, go numb, unplug, check out, and hide. Being present to change can be outright painful.

Robert is a 45-year-old banking executive. For the past few years, he’s been losing his hearing.  At first only he could tell. Robert’s reaction was: “Oh good, no one is noticing. If I ignore this, everything will be OK.”  Robert was afraid of what a hearing test would say about him. After all, at the time he was only 45 years old. He dismissed hearing aids as something that retirees wear, not middle-aged executives.

But everyone else could tell something was up. Most just assumed Robert was becoming less interested in having conversations and maintaining relationships with them.

For four years, Robert couldn’t hear much of what his friends and family said to him. He gradually moved away from relationships and activities that required attentiveness. He let his mind take him to other places and was often absent.

Then one day, his wife finally convinced him to get his hearing tested. Amazingly enough, his doctor told him that he’d lost 65 percent of his hearing. Robert had no idea how much he was missing.

Can you relate? Are you losing your hearing or awareness of what is happening around you, and to you?

Unhappiness and Your Wandering Mind

I’m amazed at human behavior sometimes. We have amazing minds that can create incredible intentionality around planning, choices, and actions but we also have the uncanny ability to let our minds wander, check out, and avoid uncertain or difficult situations. This Ted Talk shows data that supports how being present is directly tied to our happiness, which doesn’t actually surprise me.

At times, our minds wander to happy moments. Other times, our minds wander to trivial and useless data, like a “pick up the milk” kind of thing. And at times they wander to sad places, reminders of what we’re going through.

One time, I asked a colleague what he was thinking about (because he clearly wasn’t paying attention to our conversation). His response? “I’m wondering if Whole Foods will be out of 2% milk when I go there tonight.”

Wow, talk about honesty. I asked him why he was thinking about that, rather than being present in our conversation. I’ll never forget his words: “What you’re saying right now really hits home, but I just don’t want to think about it right now.” It was a beautiful admission.

What do you think about when your mind wanders? Your to-do list? Lack of time? Conflicts that are bothering you? Worries you have?

Choose to Be Present

When your mind wanders, ask yourself why your mind is wandering. Asking the question allows you to have a choice. And choice is what this is all about. We don’t have to be intentional about not being present, but we do have to be intentional about being present. Our default is to escape, even when our hearing is 100%.

Here are three things you can do today to disrupt the cycle:

  1. Catch yourself when your mind wanders. Recognize what’s happening, and put it down on paper.
  2. Ask yourself this: “As my mind wanders, what am I missing out on?” Take note.
  3. Find a way to re-engage.

So, why be present in the moment?

Being present allows us to live out and extend our desires, commitment, and promises. And that’s a place of deep happiness.

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