Are we so busy staying connected that we have disconnected? Are we so busy to dash off an email we forget that a quick phone call can not only do the trick, but be more time-effective (as well as build the relationship)?
Perhaps you prefer email to ‘sneaker net’ just popping by a colleague’s desk to ask a quick question. Or worst of all what about the ‘copy everybody’ in the company into my correspondence – so that they are all connected. When, in fact, people’s eyes glaze over at the mere thought of emptying their inbox.
Smartphones are well and truly part of our work life. As I sat in a board meeting recently, I counted the number of smartphones sitting on the table face up, so a quick glance could keep the owner informed. However, that quick glance can also disconnect a person from all those around the table.
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“Be present” my inward self is screaming. This is at epidemic proportions not just at work, but at home. My concern is that such tools have become a reflex rather than consciously considered.
I have been on a family holiday this week in the most idyllic location just south of Port Douglas in far North Queensland. The house is right on a beach and we have seen dolphins playing in the water right in front of the house. The sun sparkles and dances on the water; the palm trees are laden with coconuts. I have read two books in the hammock overlooking the beach.
There is limited mobile connection, but we do have Wi-Fi. Our teenagers are now in the final months of their high school studies, and we deliberately chose a holiday that would allow them to disconnect and do homework in a quiet, ‘luxurious’ place.
I have watched our teenagers this week never allow their smartphone to be more than a few metres from their hand. My daughter attempting to focus on her physics and chemistry is constantly interrupted with a snapchat from friends – often many ‘conversations’ going on at the same time.
I urge her to set aside her phone so that she can concentrate; she looks at me as if I have asked her to cut off her arm.
She admitted that she doesn’t know how to turn off her phone – and that she ‘would miss out’ if she turned it off.
One of the teenagers wants to go to a concert with his mates the night of a family wedding. He thinks he can do both, even though there is two hours’ travel time between them.
“But I have spent a week with you,” he implored. “I have not seen my friends in a WHOLE week!” Yet he was constantly present with them via the phone.
Endlessly we are presented with images of what other people are doing in all forms of social media and bombarded every moment with what other people are eating, drinking, experiencing – not just people we know, but ‘celebrity’ gossip too. Everyone seems to be having so much more fun; yet the art to happiness is being connected and present.
Recently I read an article about some new research from Deakin University. (I like the fact that as you get older you are likely to be happier) called the ‘Golden Triangle of Happiness’. Simply put, it found that you are likely to be happy if you have these three things:
1. Someone who loves us
2. A household income that provides the necessities
3. Connected to the community
Life is not perfect, it is not a constant party – without sad or bad times it is hard to appreciate good times.
Our society is changing quickly. The world is shrinking; the amount of information is endless. Yet I am left wondering if I’m the dinosaur from a past era not keeping up with the times? Am I the old-fashioned one urging people to ‘smell the roses’, ‘enjoy the journey’ ‘discover and see what is around you’?
What I do know is that depression is on the rise in Western society.
These are the thoughts I am sharing with my teenagers:
1. When making a choice about where you spend your time, ask ‘who will remember in a year from now?’ Your family is with you for a lifetime – friends come and go over the years.
2. Is the grass always greener? Is it possible to simply be where you are – be present, curious and enjoy it for what it is?
3. To give is to get – and the greatest gift you can give is your time, listening and presence. When you do this you will feel a sense of comfort and satisfaction.
4. More, more, more does not give you happiness. Comparing yourself to your friends and peers often leads to a great sense of insecurity and dissatisfaction.
Instead of living life based on a fear of missing out, perhaps live with respect, responsibility and resilience, and see if you move your own Personal Happiness Index – or perhaps at work where you could move your Personal Engagement Index too.
Let me know how you go. Are you going to put that smartphone away in the presence of others?
Naomi Simson has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.