A few months ago a friend was telling me about a college professor who made a lasting impression on her. It wasn’t that he was brilliant, or that he was an engaging lecturer, although he may have been both. What impressed my friend and has stayed with her to this day was this… how he made his students feel by being fully present.
She explained that he treated every student as if they were the most important person in the world. In every conversation she could recall, he gave his undivided and interested attention. What he gave her, and many others, was the gift of being fully present.
As someone who tends to be deep in my own thoughts, this is a challenge for me. Giving someone my full attention is something that I have to diligently work at. It doesn’t come naturally to me to stop everything the moment someone comes into my office. Yet, being fully present is definitely a skill I want to develop.
As I have been considering what intentions to set for 2016, I keep coming back to my friend’s professor. I wonder if it’s because it’s the natural next step in my journey. Although I didn’t plan to spend last year coming to a greater understanding of my own value, and becoming passionate about communicating value to those around me, that was certainly the resounding theme of 2015. If I am serious about continuing on this path, what better intention could I set than cultivate my presence?
Although our culture tends to attribute value only to those who are deemed successful, intelligent, attractive, productive or useful, I disagree. Our value should never depend on our appearance or performance. Instead, it should be derived from the fact that we are all made in the image of our creator.
In the 19th century novel, Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wrote, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I would take that a step further. I would say that is only when we learn to see the imprint of the divine in each person that we are truly able to love others.
So, next time a colleague stops by my office, I intend to cease my typing and look up. Instead of multi-tasking, I will greet them with a smile and give them my full attention. Instead of being driven to accomplish, I want to master the art of building others up by being fully present. For herein lies one of the greatest secrets of life: when you build others up, you build yourself up!
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou