It hits you like a slap in the face...
‘Dad, you know when you get to level 9, there’s this really difficult trick? You need to get past Bowser but if you don’t time the jumps right, he gets you every time. I JUST DID IT’
She’s fizzing with excitement and you’re nodding. ‘Fantastic, well done.’ but you haven’t got a clue what she just said. Not because you don’t understand the finer points of Mario, but because you weren’t really listening.
‘Do you reckon you could do it? Can I show you? Dad?... Dad?’
It’s like when your child’s voice comes on your mind drifts into what happened at work today or something else on your to do list. Not that it’s always that different with your wife either.
It seems like you can’t get your head in home mode without a supreme effort, and even if you get there, sustaining it feels like a mammoth task.
That slap in the face?
You're lying in bed later, and you have one of those moments when you see life unfolding in front of you. 5, 10 years.
How long is your daughter going to have those kinds of chats with you, before her attention is completely elsewhere too?
It’s like sand running through your hands.
A feeling of cold dread and longing come in.
The dread that you’re missing the best years, because you can’t get your head out of work. The longing to feel closer in your family. Not a satellite orbiting around, but right at the heart.
You spiral off into thoughts of self-recrimination and guilt.
How can it be so hard?
Then you feel frustrated because you’re working so hard, to create your business, to provide your family with all they need.
The thing is, working too hard is not the problem (though it might be a symptom.)
I recently wrote about getting really clear on your vision and values for your life. That’s a massive advantage if you can filter all you do through that lens.
But if you’re like me, getting present consistently, can be really challenging. It’s not something you can will yourself into.
There’s actually a really simple way. It has two steps…
First, slow down. You’re probably rushing through life, from one task to another, from thinking about one problem to another.
If you can notice how fast you’re running, that’s a massive step.
Second, start listening. Not just you’re listening of well-timed nods and ahas. Not the kind of listening, where you’re looking for the end of the conversation or thinking ahead to what you’re going to say.
Listening, with your full attention. As if (and it really might be) the most interesting and only thing you have to do right now.
Listen like a rock or stone. Absolute attention.
You might notice something magical happen.
When you listen this way, you automatically fall into connection with the other person. They feel heard; their good feeling grows. They want more of it. It’s a self-fulfilling.
You go from tuned-out and then scrabbling to make up for it, to being really there. Easily. Not with effort. But for the joy of it.
Those stomach-lurching moments of 'will they still want to know me' fade away, because you know you have the magic ingredient that gets you present, every time.
One of the first things I do with my clients is help them have the experience of being listened to this way and to cultivate the skill themselves.
It may seem simple (not always easy) but it also unlocks a treasure trove. When you listen this way, you stop worrying about what ifs and to do’s.
If you’re a business owning dad and you feel caught in a cycle of not being able to switch off from work and missing out on being present with your family...
...I’ve put together a short video on listening more deeply for better presence and connection. It'll help you go from tuned-out dad to beautifully tuned-in...