Why Staying in the Moment is a Challenge for Everyone

How many times have you been there, but not really been there?

You know, when your body is one place, but your brain is somewhere all together different.

Like when you’re in a staff meeting, and you’re mentally prepping for the next week.

Or you’re playing with your child, and thinking about how you should reorganize their toys.

Or even worse, when you’re at one of the most meaningful events of your life, like a wedding, Bat Mitzvah or graduation, and you’re too preoccupied with the party favors or parking arrangements to fully experience the emotional impact of the event itself.

Weddings are the worst.  How many couples find themselves standing at the alter thinking about the logistics of the reception rather than the spiritual and emotional implications of their vows?

Can you imagine if a professional wedding planner told a prospective client,  “Forget the fancy trappings; my goal is to create a rich, emotional experience for you and your family.”

We humans are a funny bunch.  In our quest to become happier on the inside, we often spend so much time and energy on our exterior surroundings that we wind up disengaged from the very experiences that make us happy.

We want to create positive emotions.  Yet much of our mental energy is focused on logistical details.

Our mind is so uncomfortable being 100% in the here and now that it throws up all kinds of distractions to keep us from being fully present.

It’s not just a personal challenge; it happens in professional settings as well.

An organization wants to get the team motivated, so they plan a big rah-rah meeting.  But during the event, the managers spend half the time with their heads down in their Crackberries handling “urgent business.”  They miss the opportunity to engage the very people upon whom their business depend.

How many of us haven’t experienced the exact same thing?

You give a party or host a dinner so that you can be closer with your friends and family.  Yet you’re so distracted by the cooking or the cutlery that you barely remember your conversations.

Don’t get me wrong.   Details are important.  Events go better when everyone has a place to sit and enough to eat and drink.  Families run better when people use a calendar and grocery lists.  And while I truly believe that weddings are spiritual experiences, I must confess that I enjoy them more when there’s an open bar.

The problem is when we allow the logistics of an event to overshadow the meaning.

Our brains naturally gravitate towards details because the human mind was built to solve problems.   But we also crave emotional connection.  If you think back to the most memorable events of your life, they were probably filled with emotion.

Emotion creates meaning, and it makes memories more powerful.  The reason we remember logistical details — like how the room looked or what we wore — isn’t because the color of the walls or the piping on our suit was so riveting.  It’s because of the emotion we felt at the time we were in that situation.

It’s ironic: being distracted with details keeps you from being present.  But getting emotionally present enables you to remember and appreciate the details more clearly.

If you want to make an event more meaningful, worry less about the logistics and make the decision to show up with your body AND your brain.  You’ll have a better time when you bring them both along.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, columnist, keynote speaker and business consultant. The founder and principal of McLeod & More, Inc, she specializes in sales and leadership training. Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth, has been cited as the blueprint for “how smart people can get better at everything.” Visit for a short video intro.   Copyright 2010 Lisa Earle McLeod.  All rights reserved.