Friday, July 2, 2010

In the Moment--Multi-tasking is not the Way to Enjoy Life to its Fullest

I wrote last week about the mediocre racquetball that I have been playing lately in the article Racquetball Blues--Going Through Life With Cement Overshoes. I reference that item because something came through my email yesterday which directly related to my recent experience.

Before I read that item yesterday, I had already treated myself to three of the best games of racquetball that I have put together in a long time. Were they perfect, by no means--in two of the games I surrendered leads of 11 and 8 points--but, after the article came across my email, I began to make sense of what happened yesterday and what has been going on in so many areas of my life.

The article is Living Consciously and it was published in a blog sponsored by Flying magazine. Please note when you read the article on the blog that the letter cited was written by a close associate and it was he who sent me the link to the blog.

The article is a quick read--probably quicker than this blog entry will be, and I recommend reading the entire article to fully appreciate the context. But I have extracted here a few paragraphs that describe the "aha moment" I stumbled across yesterday thanks to Peter.

The skill or behavior Peter was describing, which Dr. Musgrave exhibited so well, is sometimes known as "living consciously." It's something I've written about before in the pages of Flying, and something I think the act of flying a small airplane encourages more than many other activities in our daily life. It describes the attempt to be fully present in every activity we undertake, from washing our hand, to pre-flighting an airplane, to walking down the street.

To be fully present in any given moment requires full attention to the task in hand, and an effort to not just look, but see, feel, and be aware of all the sights, sensations, and events within reach of our senses. Which is to say, it's the antithesis of multi-tasking … which also means it's a skill that is becoming rarer and rarer in the world.

But as the summer flying season, with all its beauty, warmth, landscape scents and gentle breezes begins … it's worth taking a moment to consider Dr. Musgrave's approach to a simple vanilla ice cream cone. On your next flight, make an effort to be that conscious as you pre-flight. Of the feel of the metal latches as you open them, and the distinctive scent of the avgas. The unrolling of the canopy cover. The breeze and shade beneath the wings. The warmth of the summer sun, the energy in that moment of lift-off … the treasure of being alive, and in the air, with all the freedom, sights, and sensation it affords.

I realized that my mind has been so full of things, that I haven't been able to focus on the task at hand--whether a project at work, a racquetball game, or engaging in conversation at home. There is too much "swirl" going on to allow me to fully focus on the "now" while not being concerned about the "later."

Yesterday morning, I realized as I read the blog, when I was playing racquetball well the only thing I was focusing on was racquetball. I was in the zone. I wasn't thinking about the dozens of meetings and tasks waiting for me at work and then around the house later in the day. When I started to lose focus--I began to lose the games. I remember thinking about things like the tension of the strings on my racket, the weather, the weekend, the holiday. As I was able to clear these things from my mind and refocus on the game--the tide turned.

I'm going to try to apply this concept a bit more to my everyday life and see if not only my performance, but my enthusiasm improve. Truly, I do not need to multi-task all the time. I do a lot of multi-tasking at work because it goes with my job--I'm kind of into everything and need to stir stuff up when it begins to languish. But in my personal life, at least, I should be able to take time to focus.

I know I focus and notice life sometimes--and I have recorded some of those fleeting moments here in my blog--The Sunlight in my Eyes from March comes to mind.

But they are rare.

And so, as an effort to improve my quality of life by resisting the temptation to multi-task, I have determined that I will no longer try to change my clothes while talking on the phone! Also--when I am on the beach in two weeks--I will be on the beach and not somewhere else in my mind.

And I know I will soon think of other things to help speed me along this path to taking back control and enjoyment from life.

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