Why It Sucks To Be In Multiple Places At Once

Daddy & Abby

What does it take to be present, like Abby is in this picture? I doubt her mind was anywhere but on my lap, in that swing.

Do you ever have days you just don’t feel completely present — like there’s something between you and the outside world? Or where you’re physically present, but mentally somewhere else?

Maybe you’re:

  • With family, but wanting to check that newly arrived text message
  • In a meeting, but worrying about the emails you’re falling behind on
  • On vacation, but dreading the last day when you’ll mourn that it’s over

I’m sure you’ve got your own examples (I’d love to hear about them in the comments).

So here’s the question: Why is it so hard to be fully alive in the present? Why is it that we’re often (mentally) somewhere else?

For me, one root-cause seems to be my addiction to

feeding on rapid bits of information. With technology that makes reaching others (and information) just a few swipes away, I’ve developed a pattern of information dependence and mental multitasking that leaves me fragmented and in multiple places at once.

Like any addiction, I feel this pattern has re-wired the way my brain works. When I’m in this zone, I literally feel my brain yearning for another dopamine hit: one more tweet; one more news story. One more email.

I feel this pattern robs me of the present, and in doing so, steals the experience of life as it unfolds. My present is filled with thoughts of other times, places, or things — but rarely, of the right now.

When I feel disconnected, it’s as if I’m living life through an old radio, the kind you turned a dial to get a station (maybe I’m dating myself). If you weren’t completely on the signal, you could certainly hear a bit, but it wasn’t completely clear — and often filled with crosstalk from other stations.

Yet, at other times, I feel completely dialed in. I feel present, calm, and able to process and experience my surroundings. No crosstalk.

I don’t think it is possible to perpetually live in this zone, but I think it is worth cultivating a practice of intentionally seeking it. That’s what I’m looking for.  Are you?

So what about you? Do you feel “being in other places” is a problem? If so, what do you do to re-ground yourself? How do you practice being present and aware?

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About David Rosendahl
Husband, father, co-founder of MindFireInc, two-time Inc500 software company. I love building things.

9 Responses to Why It Sucks To Be In Multiple Places At Once

  1. Ramin says:

    It’s funny Dave, I came across this video earlier today and was thinking about the same thing. I think you’ll like it: http://youtu.be/cEGOXaWhk-4

    By the way, I read your post while sending you the emails for Dscoop8 daily communications. Ironic, huh?

    • Hey Ramin, that video almost made me cry — especially with the wife/girlfriend, then the little girl! As proud fathers of the two most beautiful little girls on the planet, I’m sure you felt the same 🙂

      Yes, it is ironic that you read the post & prep’d for DSCOOP — but hopefully, not to the exclusion of your daughter or wife 🙂

      -dr-

      • Ramin says:

        It’s not always easy, but I have learned that setting the priorities right is the key to happiness in life.

        I’m writing this from Nashville–about 2000 miles away from home–but I have this beautiful drawing from my 5-year-old daughter with me at my room which makes my heart full of joy when I look at it: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/2126295/Parminsdrawing.JPG

        She gave it to me the last night and told me to take a look whenever I was missing her.

        Sometimes all you need to keep staying (and living) in “now” is a picture 🙂

  2. bussokuseki says:

    The short answer to your question is that it happens all the time. And I notice it and breathe. The longer answers are, well, longer…but I write about them all the time…its the best way to process it all… Be well~

    • Hi there,

      Yes, I agree that it happens all the time. The video that Ramin posted above is a great illustration of how we sometimes need to disconnect in order to connect. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Renee Turner says:

    Yikes! Might be too close to home to post publicly, but assuredly something to write about.

    • Hi Renee,

      Agreed, this is a touchy topic, but as I think you would agree, I’m sure many of us struggle with it. Curious to hear if you have any techniques for staying in the present?

  4. David Gurrola says:

    I think it is more common than being an addiction… I think it is largely because our minds get bored! I notice it a lot when I read:) or or other tasks that my mind just gets bored of processing so little information. Or at least so little for me since I am not a very fast reader. I think that is also why Rochelle gets so frustrated that I can’t “shut my mind off”. It just gets bored! 🙂

    • Hey Dave,

      That’s an interesting perspective! I do think there is an element of being bored — so if we’re with our wives or daughters, and still feel the need to get a HIT because we’re bored, isn’t that telling us something?

      I’m also curious as to why you feel you read so slowly 🙂 Being another home-schooled kid (sorry I outed you publicly), I would think that your reading speed would be good. Maybe you just need a faster way to get the info into your brain? 🙂

      -dr-

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