It’s been a challenging month in the world of professional speaking. Society’s reaction to the potential threat of the Coronavirus has caused a domino effect, not only in the meetings industry but to every adjacent business that handles travel and large group gatherings. I am not in position to give commentary on the statistics, the outlook, or accurate threat level, so instead I’d like to share a personal opinion about “being in the moment” as a technique to cope when things feel out of control.
I’ve spent a great deal of my life living outside the moment. Half of the time dreaming and creating for the future, and the other half of the time reflecting and reacting to choices made long ago. Both of these options can lead to stress. A few years back, a moment happened that pushed me to change my mindset to live in the present tense on a more frequent basis.
Our daughter, Ellie, was a 5-year-old who believed in Santa and the magic of Christmas. Our family tradition was to visit a local tree farm with my in-laws. We let the kids pick the tree still standing tall in the ground, and then visited Santa while eating fresh cider donuts in front of a log fire in a big old barn. Our older child, Evan, had outgrown the lap–sitting part, but still enjoyed the hot cocoa and wagon ride to chop down the tree. It was 2006, and for a variety of reasons, I wasn’t feeling the joy of the season. In fact, I even floated the idea to Team Guest that I stay at home, just this once. However, my husband, Tom, said all the right things to get me out of work mode, and I agreed to jump in the mini-van as it backed out of the driveway.
I remember this moment so well all these years later. There was a gigantic line to see Santa. Evan was getting restless and I was tired, so I left Ellie with Tom and her grandparents while I kept Evan busy in the gift shop on the other side of the barn. The line moved faster than I thought it would, and Ellie’s moment with Santa came while my back was turned. She got to ask for her special Santa gift, Tom grabbed a photo, and a few minutes later we were loading up to go home. I felt relief. At least that chaotic scene was over for another year. By the next December, our daughter no longer had interest in going and our family agreed we would change things up and start a fresh tradition elsewhere.
Many years later, I was searching through our photo albums for a particular picture and I ran across the snapshot from the scene shared above. I wish I had the words to describe the avalanche of emotion that came over me. That moment was the last time Ellie would ever sit on Santa’s lap, I just didn’t know it at the time. And I missed it because I was wandering around another part of the barn wishing I were somewhere else for reasons I can no longer remember. Even as I write this, I’m overcome with the sadness of missing the moment because I wasn’t 100% present in the now.
Shortly after the day I spent with the tear–stained album on my lap, I made a promise to myself that I would try harder not to miss the NOW moments. In my first book, Wrapped in Stillness: A Personal Retreat Guide, I wrote about the day I spent with Oprah and how being forced to stay in the moment made it one of the best days ever. (See link below for the free chapter.) I have no doubt I could write a story on this topic daily. The mindset of being totally present in the moment is life–changing. Try it.
Living in the now is the message I bring to you if your life is being impacted by great change or uncertainty. What are the productive things you can do while we wait for the solution or the inevitable “other side” to arrive? For me, it is time off the road to improve my systems, write more material, and share my digital programming with those who need customer service training but cannot gather in groups to receive it. For others it may be time to look at fresh ways to present speech material or unique ways to sell your services. I’ve talked to people who realize they should have been more diligent about creating an emergency cash fund or diversifying their income streams. But that is rearview-mirror thinking.
I encourage you to look for small things that give you joy in daily life inside your home and with those you love. Allow yourself to take a break from the hectic daily grind and breathe. Find things that make you laugh, whether it be a video on YouTube, a Netflix binge, or a cup of hot coffee with a great book.
I am well aware that none of these actions make income appear like magic, nor am I trying to make light of what feels like a very serious situation. But this I know for sure, finding joy in small ways with the day you are living NOW can only help decrease the stress of the wait.
Share your thoughts below. We are all in this together.