The holiday season is wrapped in a flurry of activity. It’s a time for friends and family, creating memories, and celebrating together. It’s a time for “stopping down” and connecting with the people you care about most. However, it’s a season where time seems scarce and distractions are plentiful.
It points to one of life’s biggest paradoxes: Your future depends on your ability to pay attention to the present. Studies show that living in the present makes you happier and more successful, but what are some practical steps we can take to live in the moment—especially during such a busy season?
I’m passionate about not only living in the present but also capturing it. It’s the photographer in me, and I find the decisive moment is a powerful metaphor for life. This term describes the split second photographers have to capture a subject in a perfect moment, whether it’s a child’s face upon opening a gift or a couple sharing a kiss. It’s intense. It’s beautiful.
In life, we all have the opportunity to catch decisive moments each day. Our soul snaps an internal picture forever engraving in our memory what it was that suddenly caught our attention, grabbed our hearts, and made us think. But how often do the moments pass us by unnoticed? Finding them is hard work and it means avoiding distractions. It’s a process that sizes up the situation, subject, and story by anticipating and watching how the action unfolds. So when the moment happens, when everything suddenly comes into focus, we can give the moment the attention it deserves. Click!
But when distractions come in—many times in the form of smartphones and social media—we find ourselves disconnected and out of focus, keeping us from the beautiful moments and faces right in front of us. It’s difficult to stay focused on a moment when everything else in our world is fighting for our attention. Putting down your phone, freeing yourself from the social media frenzy, and trying to discover how life is unfolding in the present can feel impossible, but there are simple ways to be more attentive and live in the moment.
Sitting down to rest, taking a walk, or even eating a meal are all in-the-moment practices. They’re activities you can do no matter where you are, at any time, by just focusing on the present. The bench you’re sitting on, the path you’re walking on, the food you’re eating—see them as your subjects. By doing this regularly, you’ll discover that presence of mind comes more naturally with time.
As a photographer, I believe a life worth living is a life worth recording. Social media has its place and value in our world. It allows us to be connected to so many people at a moment’s notice and to record the highlights of our lives, but it needs to be managed so that media is not our sole subject and, rather, the person, place, or thing we’re talking about is. It is more important to be present with the people right in front of us and to have deep and meaningful relationships—to get to know our subjects—than it is to get a picture posted somewhere instantly and settling for that one-touch interaction.
In many ways, we thrive on distractions, but so often they keep our focus away from what’s truly important. We move from activity to activity, resting momentarily before becoming bored, only to move on to the next source of pleasure. Today, let us recapture some lost time we have spent on trivial things and allow ourselves to stop for a moment. During this coming holiday season, take a deep breath and avoid distractions so you can focus on what is truly important: the present.
Matt Knisely is the lead creative director in Gateway’s Media & Communications Department, and his book, Framing Faith, can be purchased in the Gateway Bookstore, on Amazon.com, and at Barnes & Noble.