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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou 

I have a request.

I request that you read this post at a time and in a space where you can be fully present with it. If there’s music or a TV in the background, turn it off. If you are reading this over breakfast, set it aside for later. For five minutes, give yourself the gift of presence with this post.

Experiencing Presence

Do you remember a time when you were deeply, fully present? This could be in a conversation with someone else, out in nature, attending a sporting event, or sitting in meditation.

Take a few moments to connect back to that time. Visualize the experience. Feel that presence in your body—your head, shoulders, chest, heart, and gut. I invite you to sit with that feeling and observe it.

When I follow that practice, on a good day, my mind clears. I see a rippling pond settling to a smooth, calm surface. My muscles are relaxed, and my heart rate and breathing slow. This space of presence allows me to devote my full attention to the person or phenomenon before me – mentally, physically, energetically, and spiritually.

Pause. Consider your past experience of presence and bring that experience into the present moment.

Presence in Coaching

Before my coaching career, presence was a subconscious skill for me. As a leader and mentor in my prior career, I recognize that my presence served me well, but I did not lean into the ability. It just happened naturally.

As a coach, presence is an essential skill. I pulled it out of my subconscious and directly into my field of awareness and began to observe my degree of presence and its impact on my clients.

In coaching, I find obtaining deep presence relatively easy. Coaching has personal relevance for me—I am doing what I love, connecting deeply with other humans, and supporting their journey of transformation and growth. My mind clears naturally. My clients often comment on my listening, calm nature, and ability to create a space where they are felt and heard.

Presence Beyond Coaching

The more I hold presence in my direct awareness, the more I recognize the universality of its benefits. When I coach, I have rituals to deepen that presence – shutting down distracting applications, putting my phone in focus mode, and taking a few minutes to center and connect with my presence before the session. I wondered what would happen if I brought that same commitment to presence to other interactions.

I began experimenting, using the same pre-coaching ritual ahead of other meaningful interactions, such as with my family and friends. The experiments were profound for me.

First, I learned that the hours of coaching practice had enabled me to strengthen my presence muscles, which made it easier to adopt that same mindset in other settings. Coaching helped me unwind some of the neural pathways I had built that optimized me for multi-tasking and belittled being fully present.

Second, I found that bringing that degree of presence to other interactions transformed the experience. I had greater empathy, felt a deeper connection, and was more calm and patient. Most importantly, the experience was richer and more full of life. Showing up with more presence created a happier, more fulfilling experience.

Gradually, I have begun to bring this presence to other aspects of life. Most of my runs have some form of distraction, from music to podcasts to phone conversations. But every now and again, I put away my earbuds and attempt to deepen my presence with the world around me. I will switch my perspective to viewing the world as moving through me rather than me moving through the world. Perhaps my favorite form of presence is the daily lovefests with my cat, Kohaku.

Presence as Meditation

As my fascination with presence has grown, I’ve begun to reflect on the meditative aspects of being present. I have meditated for years and still struggle daily with the “monkey mind” of thoughts that intrude upon my practice.

When I coach, my experience is quite different. In coaching, the “monkey mind” goes quiet with no effort. The distractions melt away, and I become fully present with my client. I realize now that I’m likely making more progress through my presence in coaching than in my morning meditations. This is an exciting insight for me – coaching appears to contribute more to my spiritual growth than any other activity I engage in, including meditation.

Building Presence

“Making someone feel seen, heard and understood is the loudest way to love them.” – Wild Faith

We spend our lives in relationships with others. When we show up with presence, we demonstrate our love and respect for them.

Some people feel like they can’t afford the time to be present. They multi-task in a conversation. Or they swoop in, say what they need to say, and swoop out without waiting for a response or reaction. The truth is that investing the time and energy to be present pays massive dividends down the road—time saved in clear communications and expectations. Rework and waste are avoided by picking up on a concern behind someone’s eyes and drawing that concern out rather than leaving it unaddressed. And perhaps most importantly, by not showing up with presence, people are missing out on the richness of life.

How often do you invest the time and energy to get fully present in your interactions with others?

Who are the most important people in your life? Are you fully present when you are with them?

If you are a leader, does your team see you as someone who takes the time for them to be felt and heard? Do you bring enough presence to those interactions?

I encourage you to begin a deliberate presence practice. Doing so can enhance your relationships, quality of life, and happiness.

Connect back with that feeling of presence we explored at the beginning of this post. Visualize it. Embody it. Practice this daily so you will have ready access to the state when it’s time to deepen your presence. An ontological coach is an excellent resource for support with this practice.

Identify one person or experience where you want to be more present. Before the experience, connect with your most present self. Identify the tactical things you need to do to support your presence, like putting your phone in focus mode or putting it away. Perhaps turn deliberately towards the individual and make eye contact instead of remaining glued to a screen.

Observe and reflect on the experience. What was the quality of the experience? Did the other person feel heard and understood? Did you feel like you were fully present? What could you do differently next time to be more engaged?

Putting It Into Practice

I would love for you to put the following steps into action:

  • Practice visualizing and embodying a state of profound presence.
  • Build a ritual you can follow to help you clear away distractions and be fully present.
  • Identify one relationship to practice deepening your presence.
  • Practice daily.
  • Reflect on your experiences, including when you are present and when you observe someone else present with you.

I am an executive coach and life coach with software executive roots in higher education and EdTech. I coach because I love to help others accelerate their growth as leaders and humans. I frequently write about #management, #leadership, #coaching, #neuroscience, and #arete.

If you would like to learn more, schedule time with me.

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