Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time is a Gift: Reflections on My 29th Day of the Giving Challenge

I am an extremely busy person who makes a lot of lists. Work lists. Personal lists. Urgent, Not Urgent, Important, Not Important Lists. And I have a lot of ideas, which get added to the lists, and make them longer.

Time is never on my side.

Those of you who are not time addicts like myself might not understand how difficult it is to look at your ginormous lists and say yes to taking a couple hours to help a friend move, or visit your family for 5 days with limited Wi-Fi (gasp!), or give your full attention during a phone call without simultaneously making dinner and unloading the drier, or spend the day with your husband going with the flow (hello, where's the agenda?).

During my second round of the 29 Day Giving Challenge, which ends today, my main takeaway is that I need to be more conscious about how I give my time. Over the 29 days I gave away all kinds of stuff: donations, free advice, things, but it was when I gave the gift of being fully present with people, and spending time with them, those were the richest gifts of all.

The older I get, the faster time goes. According to my grandma, it is going to go even faster (yikes!). A lot of the Big Vision Consulting work I do happens on, or is related to the Web. It moves very fast. News spreads quickly. Videos go "viral." The hottest technology changes daily. I love things that move quickly, because they save you time, but I think I need to start taking the advice I often give my over-worked clients,
"Just because you work on the Web doesn't mean you have to move as quickly as it does."
Technology allows us to be connected to a lot of people quickly, all the time, whether by a phone call, an email, an instant message, or a text, which is good. It mirrors the fact that we are all connected, as a human community, and that all of our actions affect each other. But, in our excitement to be connected to so many people, in so many ways, and in so many places, we may make less time for deep connections, which are facilitated by spending time together in person.

In my recent interview with Marianne Manilov of The Engage Network she said,
"I want to know people at a deep level. I don't want to know them in passing. I want to know less people, and I want to know them more."
That quote has resonated with me throughout my 29 days of giving. I know that somehow I have to change how I give my time to make more space for deeper connections. Ultimately, those kinds of connections can help change the world. As Manilov said in the same interview,
"It's not how many friends you have on Facebook, it's the depth of connection of our community ties that will keep us together and allow us to have political power together."
Today, on American Thanksgiving, I'm going to try to to give thanks by being fully present with the people I am with. I'll be a little quieter than I usually would be. I'll really listen to them. I'll tell them a little bit more about myself than I usually would. I'll really share with them. I'll enjoy the time I have with them in this moment, because its all we really have.

As the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said,
"Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life."
If you want to learn more about the 29 Day Giving Challenge, go to Happy Thanksgiving!

Flickr photo credit: Pocket Watch uploaded by Andreas Falk.

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