The Tao Te Ching says, "Be present, observe the process. Stay centered and prevail."
Tao, Chapter 33
But sometimes the fast pace of contemporary life can undermine even the best intentions.
Years ago, two psychologists held a classic experiment at Princeton Theological Seminary, asking ministerial students to prepare a short talk on a religious subject, then walk over to another building to present it. Some of the students were told to hurry because they were running late.
On the way, the students ran into a man slumped over in the alley, coughing and groaning, in apparent distress. While many of the other students stopped to talk to the man and offer help, 90 percent of the "late" students simply rushed right by without stopping, too concerned with giving their talks on time. Ironically, many of these students gave a talk about the Good Samaritan.
What explains this apparent insensitivity? Rushing. Under stress—and rushing is a form of stress—we narrow our focus into "fight or flight," numbing ourselves to other people and the complexities of the world around us. Stressed-out people can become insensitive and act with poor judgment because they are not fully "present" to themselves and others.
Have you become caught up in rushing through your days? Too little time, too much to do. If so here is your leadership challenge: How can you be more present, more mindful, more aware of the people in your life today?
Research has shown that simply pausing to take a mindful breath can cut the stress reaction, bring us back to the present moment.
Take a few moments now to:
- Close your eyes.
- Take a deep, mindful breath and slowly release it.
- Feel your shoulders relax, your feet on the ground, your body gradually relax.
- As you breathe slowly and deeply, feeling more present, more mindful, more whole
And the next time you catch yourself rushing, stop to take a deep, mindful breath to bring yourself back to the present moment.
 Darley, J. M. & Batson, C.D. (1973). From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 100-108.