Autumn is a beautiful time for a getaway to rest and relax. The crisp air, the changing leaves, and the desire to take advantage of every last gorgeous day compels us to dive into the Great Outdoors.
Long ago in a faraway land, a paper map accompanied our adventures; nowadays, our smartphone has since replaced Rand McNally as our omnipresent companion. In the quest to capture special events, places and memories while connecting (or even peacocking) with our social media community, we have potentially exposed ourselves to a major downside: we are missing the moment.
A few weeks ago, my best friend and I visited one of the prettiest places in my hometown of Minneapolis: Minnehaha Falls. Due to the heavy rains, the falls were incredibly powerful and absolutely stunning to behold. We decided to be courageous and walk the steep steps down to the bottom of the falls in order to enjoy its full beauty. After walking down what seemed like hundreds of stairs, we were met with the most eye-catching, visually-stunning, and sublimely peaceful expression of nature.
And cell phones were everywhere.
Every single person, and I mean EVERY SINGLE PERSON was on their phones. Instead of basking in the incredible scenery, each person who took the time and physical energy to walk down the stairs in the first place hurried to the “point” – the most scenic spot on the landing – to snap a quick selfie of themselves in front of the falls without so much as a passing, non-glowing glance to the falls themselves.
They missed it. Every last man, woman and child missed it. They missed actually living in the moment; instead, their focus was solely on recording the moment. My guess is that these are some of the same people who complain about how stressed they are, how little time they have, and how overwhelmed life can be.
It was truly sad to witness.
How often do we actually use our phones? The short answer is a LOT more than we think we do. A recent study shows that subjects checked their phones on average 85 times a day, which is about double than what they had estimated. This nearly constant connection to our devices has caused a decrease in attention, creativity and memory, and an increase in stress levels and our inability to get a good night’s sleep. This affects our entire day, both at work and at home. When we are on our phones, our minds are somewhere other than the place where our bodies and spirits are. This lack of presence weakens our ability to strongly lead, sell, create and connect with others around us.
While I am not advocating abandoning your smartphone (I’m not THAT insane; I’d D-I-E DIE without my iPhone), I do recommend a few simple strategies you can employ during your next Fall getaway and beyond to reclaim your real-life moments and loosen the tether o your device:
Commit to a specific phone-free period of time. Whether it’s leaving your phone in your car for the quick pit stop to check out the foliage or leaving it in the hotel during your all day excursion, identify some parameters as to when you will and will not have your phone. Knowing an end-time will give you the energy to push through your digital fast.
Play the Presence Game. When you are without your device, imagine that you are taking mental pictures of everything that strikes you. Notice your surroundings using all of your senses. Pretend that you are earning points for every nuance, every sensation, and every detail you observe.
Take notice of the emotions that surface. Pay attention to the good, the bad and the ugly. Embrace the genuine feelings of joy and gratitude that pour over you when you are truly present in the moment. Recognize if you start feeling the pangs of desire for your phone. Appreciate that you are not alone in being deeply tied to your digital devices, and reaffirm that the time away from your screen is making you more focused, aware, and balanced.
Acknowledge your victory. Whether you went five minutes, five hours or five days without your phone, give yourself credit for taking specific action to create more mindful experiences. It's not as easy as it seems, and you deserve to be commended for taking back your life.
Find another moment to be in. Make a promise to yourself that within the next seven days you will turn off your phone again so you can tune into the present moment. Whether it’s waiting around at the airport, eating in the break room at work, sitting on a conference call, or simply enjoying social time with your loved ones, identify a specific situation whereby you can opt to strengthen your anti-surfing/anti-selfie muscle and just go commando in the real world. It's fabulous!
There is a big beautiful world out there that goes well beyond our tiny screens. The more we can truly be present in our surroundings, the more we can pay attention to our own needs and the needs of others. We can let go of our stress, improve our cognitive abilities, and genuinely feel a sense of contentment and purpose. By doing so, we can actually live all of those juicy moments instead of merely capturing them.
Theresa Rose is a business motivational speaker, award-winning author and high-value consultant who helps organizations and their teams create meaningful connections and creative cultures. For more information, visit TheresaRose.com.