Be Present

As I sit here writing in the living room of a new friend’s beach home in Santa Barbara, I am pretty grateful that I stepped outside my comfort zone, moving out West with only a few acquaintances in a 100 mile radius. Thanks to the help of one of these friends, I have been introduced a new squad of amazing people that I have the fortunate pleasure of spending the weekend with. Less than 24 hours ago, I knew none of these people, but I am extremely glad I ventured out of my apartment in San Jose to have an opportunity to get know them over the course of this weekend.

See, our generation is one of constant stimuli that makes deep social interaction increasing difficult. Facebook, Snapchat, Gmail, or Twitter are all tools we use be perpetually connected. Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid user of all of these platforms and I think they all can add a ton of value, when used properly. The issue however, is that, too often, Gen Y’s lean on social media as a crutch for actual, meaningful social interaction.

For example, think of a recent time you were waiting in line at the grocery store, passing time on the platform for your next subway ride, or there was a lull in conversation at a bar. Did you strike up a conversation with the stranger next to you? Did you take a moment to ask how they were doing or hear about their story?

Sadly, the chances are that you did not. A more probable course of action was to reach for your iPhone 6 and read text messages, browse Reddit, or read an article on Buzz Feed. Rather than step outside of our comfort zones, we consistently opt to stay safely within it.

Comfort zones come in many forms from social interaction, to physical activity, to cultural experience; there are things that we are familiar with and enjoy. But as the quote goes: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Breaking through your comfort zone is a challenging, multi-step process, one that I plan to elaborate on in further posts. But, one the first steps, one of the best habits that you can form, is to be present.

Being present means enjoying the current moment for what it is. It means being comfortable with silence at points, of having the vulnerability to not hide behind your phone in public. It also means putting your phone away when you’re on a date, or spending time with a loved one or old friend. Being present means living in the moment, being independent of both the past and future.

I am not going to lie, this can be extremely difficult. There are times when you will want just put your headphones on and close yourself off from the world or when you absolutely need to check your email or messages. This is perfectly natural. Take the time to address the situation, reflect, and recharge. But remember, continually pushing yourself is the fastest way to grow as a person, so get back on the horse as soon as you can.

This weekend, I challenge you to mute your notifications. To keep your phone in your pocket when you are at the bar or grilling out with your friends. Better yet, leave it out of sight, in a safe place. Feel free to check it as you see fit, to ensure logistics or that there are no emergencies. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. Whatever it is, just try being present, be satisfied by the company of those around you. I guarantee you will not wish you saw the picture posted by that person who sat next to you in U.S. History.

Published 7/3/2015 at 12:01 PM PST

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