I have this practice of taking one picture a day and sharing it via Instagram. Like many practices, the practice itself has no special meaning other than doing the same thing over an over again. But as many practices, there are “collateral” benefits -so to speak- that emerge out of simple repetition. This unexpected outcomes, typical of practicing, turn out to be in fact, decisive.
So, my practice consists on remembering through the day to look for “images” that I can capture. Now, this might seem simple -and indeed it is- but there’s a rather complicated thing to it: my life is very, very monotonous. It’s not that I am exposed to an amazing diversity, both geographical and cultural, as most of my time is spent working with clients, hoping in and out of airplanes, in meeting rooms or hotel rooms. And then back home to my family, my house, my community. And although I am very fortunate to some times travel for work to very exotic destinations, it is work! Nine to six working, exercise, dinner…and life goes on. Some times it’s late at night and then I remember I haven’t taken my picture yet.
I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and at the beginning it was quite awkward, as I would take whatever I’d find while “hunting” for my image during the brief moments I remembered and I was “free” from work or other distractions. Very often I ended up uploading images that my very extensive fan base of a couple of friends and my daughters would ignore and not “like”. That was fase one: “O my god it’s late and I haven’t taken my picture…ah..maybe that spot on the hotel window curtain makes a great image”. Morning after, zero likes and a feeling that I’m not image “hunting” correctly. But I kept on trying, and phase two kicked in: images began to appear, to emerge. To reveal themselves.
I remember a special one. I was standing by my hotel window in Bogotá, Colombia. It was a rainy day and I had been writing the whole morning. When I glanced outside I saw a big white arrow painted on the street that grabbed my attention. It was raining and the street was empty. Then a man came walking in the sidewalk in oposite direction and the image revealed in my mind. I grabbed my iPhone and captured the moment. It was a pretty simple image, but different. For me it was more like it had emerged right in front of my eyes. I wasn’t “hunting” for images, I was just paying attention.
As in every practice, the goal (in this case to take one picture a day -or #onepicaday-) is just a means to achieve other things: experiences or skills that while being critical to improve results, impact many other dimensions or areas of development. In other words, my observation has become more effective or as I like to think, I have become more able to be present at certain moments, and with that my photos are improving. Please mind that I am certainly not looking for likes or consider myself by any means an accomplished photographer. I am completely aware of my lack of talent and my eternal search of l’instant décicif. I am truly not concerned with anything other that taking one picture a day. However this practice has given me the chance to be a more present observer of the flow of things.
However, one thing that I’ve come to realize in my observations is a sad fact. We are all connected to our screens. And here comes the beautiful learning for me: as I am! Specially if I am taking pictures and pictures with my “screen-phone”. I call it #SAD (Screen Attention Disorder) and it is really sad. #SAD is screens all over the place hijacking our attention, limiting our presence. Its SAD to see we are loosing impact and effectiveness to the illusion of connectivity.
#SAD is a paradox. Because truth is we have never been more connected in evolution as today, while being so disconnected from the present moment. Without a doubt, I can point out that while working in high performance corporate cultures, the single most deterrent impacting productivity is hyper-connectivity. But we don’t see it. Because we truly believe we are being present in a meeting while whatsaping someone maybe in the other side of the world. We are not. And we are no more effective at the task level. We have experienced it over an over with C-Level Execs. When they disconnect from the outside and connect to what’s going on, they are able to solve challenges in ways they wouldn’t have suspected they could. Over and over we see it in our client work.
The same thing happens at the personal level. We are loosing effectiveness with our spouses, partners and friends in sharing our life journeys and, most importantly benefit from full presence. With all the good things and the not so good. In fact, it has become easier and easier to go back “home” -literally by hitting the screen button- than remaining open and embracing whatever arises. We are screen-distracted and it’s sad. I know I am! I’ve noticed that my eyes and attention immediately respond to any screen appearing in my landscape. It could be driving and encountering one big “screen-billboard-“ or my car’s screen. It’s in TV’s everywhere. Restaurants full of screens, airports with hundreds of personal iPads for people to sit and connect while they eat. And everywhere I go, I catch myself glancing at the screen often. It’s no longer an attention deficit, but screen attention highjack. We need to stop. We need to be able to put screens aside, tu turn off the meeting room projector and sit in a circle, to have the conversations that matters and let things emerge, embracing whatever arises. More and more were are working with our clients, as I am doing with myself. Sit. Listen. Share. No distractions. Be present. Fully present. And better things happen. Probably painful, many times rejoicing, but certainly more effective and sustainable. Try 30 minutes full attention at your next meeting or while dinning with friends. Pay attention and embrace what ever arises. The world, the people we care about and ourselves need us more present.