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10 Things You Can Do to Be More Present in Your Connections

We’ve all been there. That moment you realize your head has been so deep in the sand of everyday busyness culture that you haven’t called your mom in a month. Oh, the guilt! I know it too well.  Then you realize how this so-called busyness has extended to a lack of presence in your connections in every facet of your life except, of course, your job.  

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For some, this realization of disconnect is a constant underlying layer of guilt they are very aware of but avoiding confronting in themselves. For others, it’s a place of non-awareness that usually gets disrupted when a friend, family member, or partner, finally having reached their limit of quiet neglect, decides to call you out on it.

There are varied responses to this call out:

  • Accountability and apology.
  • Defensiveness and excuses.
  • Denial and ghosting.

At a time where social distancing is affecting how we connect to each other in actual physical presence, it is especially important right now to keep on top of being present in your connections, even if at a distance. So, take a second to go inward and ask yourself if called out, which of the above categories you would fall into if you were called out for your lack of presence in a connection.

Does Being Busy Actually Equal Success?

There has been a lot of discussion around the glorification of being busy as of late and it seems that this glorification is rooted in the belief that if you seem busy or even if you actually are busy, that it is somehow connected to how successful you are. Well, sorry to break your bubble pal but that’s a bunch of poop.

Let’s talk about what being busy all the time can mean from different societal positions.

  • You have a demanding job that takes up a lot of your time..
  • You have one or two jobs and dependents that financially rely on you.
  • You don’t have a demanding job but are not gifted at managing your time.
  • You’re an introvert and hate people.
  • You use being busy as a means to isolate due to mental health issues.
  • You are addicted to chronic busyness and use it as a means to cope and deflect trauma and as a means to avoid intimacy and connection.

Here are some super basic facts. Whether you’re using chronic busyness as means to isolate and deflect or you are actually busy all the time, the reality is in either circumstance, that it’s not physically, emotionally, or mentally healthy and will lead to both mental and physical health issues and will create conflict in your life.

Have you ever been asked how you’re doing and your answer is, “Busy!” and the response is, “Busy is good!”

Well, that’s a falsehood. This great lie has been perpetrated by a capitalist system for hundreds of years as a means to normalize overworking being equated with personal value. Do you sometimes feel useless when you’re not doing something? Bingo! Take that moment to ask yourself why you feel useless unless you’re always on the go.

Like anything in life, it’s finding a balance that allows for both basic financial survival and presence in your connections. Including and most importantly, connecting to yourself.

Self-Determined Behavior vs Other-Determined Behavior

In my Life Coach training, I learned early on about a concept called Balanced Self-Determined Behavior (BSD). This concept works like a pendulum with three points.

On one extreme you have Self-Determined Behavior (SD), which implies your behaviors and movements in life in connection to others and yourself are primarily focused solely on your own personal needs. On the other extreme, you have Other-Determined Behavior (OD), which implies that your behaviors and movements in life in connection to others and yourself are primarily focused solely on the needs of others. Both of these extremes are unhealthy for you and those around you.

Then you come to the center, and here is where you find BSD behavior. This should be the focus of your behaviors overall and the position you are always striving for. It is where you work with both sides of the pendulum (SD and OD) and attempt to find a balance between the two so you continually swing that pendulum as close to the middle (BSD) as you can. Being centered is the goal and finding what’s best for you and your emotional, mental, and physical health.

This is where people usually get confused and say “But coach, if it’s what’s best for me, isn’t that then self-determined behavior?” This is where I say no, it’s not, and here is why:

We seem to have this idea that if we focus on our personal needs that this is selfish. Unlearn this. Throw it away.  And while you’re throwing that away, pick this up: What you actually need to consciously ingrain is that taking care of yourself and your needs, also means taking care of and being present for those you love and love you. If you don’t take care of both, there will be conflict.

Make Your Connections Count

To all the other folks out there excusing, avoiding, ignoring, connection, here is a list of 10 things you can do to be more present in your connections:

  1. Have boundaries: with yourself, with your job, with technology. Put down your phone, tablet, laptop. Manage when busy is necessary and when busy is deflecting connection. Act on that from a balance self-determined foundation.
  2. Prioritize and/or manage expectations: If your job is your priority and the most important thing in your life, tell the people you love that they come second. (Ouch.) This way, they can manage their expectations of your time. If you don’t like the way that sounds, change your priorities. If you don’t want to change your priorities, manage your own expectations of how people will start connecting to you and this means you must assess the risk of loss and don’t victimize yourself as being misunderstood for your priorities. Accountability for your personal choices is a must. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
  3. Make plans. Keep them: Show up. Don’t cancel. Don’t try to change the time and date. Don’t waste people’s time. They may have prioritized seeing you and put someone else second for you. If it’s not an emergency, make a commitment to keep that plan. And work-related emergencies don’t count unless you’re actually saving lives.
  4. Make time: If being present takes planning due to your hectic schedule, look ahead in your calendar and create blocks of time where you will make time to connect with others. Don’t leave things for last-minute spontaneity if you have a life that means being spontaneous is where you have a limit.
  5. Self-Care: To be present for others means being present for yourself. Create rituals for yourself that help you be centered in your own needs. Take long baths, go for that walk alone listening to a true crime podcast, drink lots of water, find some kind of physical activity that feels fun rather than forced. The last thing you need is to feel like you’re failing yourself when trying to be present for others.
  6. Say no to bad habits: You’d be surprised at how many busy people have lone wolf habits that take up a load of time that they could be using to be more present for themselves. Bad habits like smoking, drinking, and over-eating can lead to fatigue and take away those moments where you could have that extra energy to give to yourself and others.
  7. Use your time wisely: Not everyone in your life needs to be a priority. Don’t try to please everyone. The reality is that we have people in our life that we are closer to than others. If you are in a super heavy work stretch or dealing with some sh*t sandwich in life, prioritize who you want to see according to closeness. If you don’t feel close to anyone, then make a list of people who you wish you could be spending more time with.
  8. When you’re with someone, don’t rush: There’s nothing that says you’re not present like looking at your watch or starting a conversation saying you need to be somewhere in an hour. When you rush, it’s like your mind and body have already left before you’ve sat down. Give yourself room to breathe and make sure that the person across from you feels you are giving your time to the connection.
  9. Do something special: When you do finally connect, if it’s been a while, do something that is special and that reminds the other person you’ve been thinking of them. If your friend likes beer, grab them a sample pack from a local brewery. Or if you haven’t seen mom in a while, bring her some flowers or make her a card. Simple gestures help you feel rooted in your connection.
  10. Be present: Bring yourself to your connections. Don’t only go to listen, go to also share. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Here’s a little piece of knowledge for you. If you bring a lot of yourself to limited time connections, that connection will be more solid and have a longer shelf life.

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