Roll Call for Learning: Be Present

Christine Johnson, President, Cued Forward on

I hold two professional certifications that require me to earn credits by attending or participating in events to keep my certifications current. For years, I attended events with a primary thought of “I am earning my credits,” a secondary thought of “I might learn something I need or want to learn,” and a third thought of “Well, maybe I will meet someone new, interesting, or relevant to my world.” I made myself a spot on an attendance roster and not a fully active participant. Yes, I did learn new things and even met interesting people. But still, my number one reason for being there was to earn credits.

I move forward to a few years ago when I attended a late-day seminar on a topic that I thought was worth it to miss dinner to be there. Within 5 minutes of being there, I realized that whether intentional or unintentional, the presentation was mostly a sales pitch for the speaker’s book and not an informational session. I was angry. I was wasting my time, missing dinner, and learning nothing. I did sit through the entire seminar, but completed the speaker’s survey with a high level of negative enthusiasm.

While I did not learn anything (but did earn my credits), I realized my time was too important to miss out on an opportunity for a great experience. I knew then that wanted more out of these opportunities. I knew that I was going to have to work harder at choosing events more carefully, vetting speakers and subject matter and do the best that I could to not attend an event for only to receive credit.   I chose to make it about the experience I was gaining as a whole as opposed to only the content.

Living for the experience, living in the moment, and making the best out of a situation are not new concepts. These have been discussed, studied, analyzed, metricized, simplified, maximized, and theorized, but the underlying concept is not complicated and comes down to you taking control of how you invest your time and what you want out of that time.

I attended a volunteer leader conference where the facilitator challenged our group of volunteer leaders for a professional organization to make our meetings for members more of an experience than simply them coming to watch a speaker. He said he bought a welcome mat that he put at the door where everyone entered. He also stood at the entrance welcoming each member individually. And he looked forward to doing this. A few minutes of his time invested in someone else’s experience. His easy-to-implement idea took living for the experience to a new level for me. My experience could be impacted by how I impacted someone else’s experience.

The hardest part of all of this is changing our mindsets to one of active participation instead of passive engagement. I challenge you to look at one of your daily events and make the most of the experience and look at what you gained. Or next time you can make a difference in someone else’s experience, do it. As I have learned, even having part my focus on driving the present experience is more valuable and insightful that simply going along for the ride.

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