In conversations with clients and colleagues, the 800 pound gorilla is often the challenge of being “present.” Vital as it is to leadership and a rich full life, it is the thing that eludes many if not most of us a lot of the time. Much of what we do and how we live takes us out of the present and ricochets us into some unknown future or drags us back into the mire of the past. Other times, we simply “space out,” disconnect from where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing.

The great spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said mindfulness is to be present in the present moment.

Discover how much, and in what ways you detach from the present moment.

Answer “True” or “False”

1. I have a tendency to live in the future, projecting into tomorrow, or next week or even years from now.
2. I spend much of my time thinking about the past, replaying conversations or reliving incidents or events, or I play “what if” in my mind.
3. Sometimes when I’m in conversation with someone, I can’t remember what was just said.
4. In talking with someone, I think of how I’m going to respond rather than listening to what the other person is saying.
5. I tend to worry.
6. I allow the telephone or pager to interrupt whatever I’m doing.
7. I often/frequently dread something worse will happen.
8. I find myself always busy, with never an empty or spare moment.
9. My conversations with others tend to be about superficial subjects.
10. In some situations, I find myself getting sleepy or yawning when I’m not really tired.
11. I find it difficult to maintain eye contact when I’m talking with someone.
12. Sometimes I can’t remember what I just read or I don’t know what just took place in the movie or video I’m watching.
13. I take my cell phone everywhere and it’s always on.
14. My conversations with others tend to be about superficial subjects.
15. Rather than staying with my emotions and naming them (“I am feeling…”), I attempt to alter the feelings.

If you answered “True” to more than 8 of the above, developing inner presence is vital to your effectiveness and joy as a leader and influencer.

Many of us may feel a push-pull when it comes to connection. We want to be closer to others, but the vulnerability that it demands is too frightening. Or we may feel restless or distracted or just plain uncomfortable when we attempt to stay in the present.

Tip: Set an egg timer for 60 seconds. Come to the edge of your chair and align your spine vertically. Relax your arms by your side. Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply from your belly bringing the breath up to the top of your lungs. Then release the breath from the lungs back out through the belly. Repeat several times.

Once you get the hang of it, breath becomes your friend. Use it in a meeting, in rush hour, or with difficult colleague.

You must be “present” to win in life so make 2013 the year in which you commit and act. The brief exercise will work for you.

Author's Bio: 

Susan S. Freeman, MBA, ACC, NCC
Executive Success Strategist
Author and Speaker
Founder, Step Up Leader

Susan Freeman is author of the new book, “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others,” and the Founder of Step Up Leader. She is an experienced and respected Executive Success Strategist whose passion is helping entrepreneurial leaders go from “stuck” to “unstuck.” She has created a unique system that helps people access their emotional intelligence so they can lead powerfully and authentically. Susan has helped clients in diverse industries and roles obtain passion, clarity, and exceptional results.
She received her B.A. in Psychology from Wellesley College and her M.B.A. in Marketing from Columbia University in New York. She brings to her clients more than 25 years of strategic marketing, non-profit, and retained executive search experience in London and New York. She received her coach training and certification from The Newfield Network. Susan is an accredited coach with the International Coach Federation, as well as an MSP-certified business facilitator.
Susan is a native of Kansas City and resides in Tampa, FL. She is an active member of The Athena Society and a Leadership Tampa Alumna. Committed to education, Susan has served on several educational boards at the secondary and university level. Her global passion is developing young women entrepreneurial leaders in Rwanda, where she is currently involved with The Akilah Institute, a school that empowers young women with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to become leaders.

Susan is happily married and has three grown sons. Rarely a day goes by when she doesn’t eat a piece of dark chocolate