Be Present – STOP to Appreciate the Moment

One of the most challenging and important things we can do to be true to our Intentions and Values at work is to take moments during the day to slow down from our frantic pace and Be Present. This exercise is excerpted from my recent book, What Matters at Work, and it incorporates the teachings of Russ Harris, a psychologist who is an excellent resource and whose strategies can be readily adapted by all of us.
That’s why I am presenting this exercise, shared a few weeks ago, one more time. It only requires a few minutes — try it out! – Harry
Exercise: STOP to Appreciate the Moment         

WHO: Solo/Group (optional)  

WHY: To pause, meditate, and reflect upon the world around you, so you are refreshed and re-energized to be an engaged learner.

HOW:

Step 1: Take a moment to pause and mindfully appreciate the moment. This prepares us to fully engage in learning using the Kolb cycle. The STOP Practice (adapted here from Russ Harris’s work)27 is an excellent way to do so:

S- Slow down your breathing; or slowly ground yourself, stretch, or press your fingers together.

T – Take note of the world around you with curiosity and appreciation, aware of all you sense (feel, hear, see, smell, taste).

O – Open yourself to make room for thoughts and feelings, allowing them to flow through you fully without judgment.

P – Pursue Values and let them guide you to your next actions. 

Then, engage in the following activity: 

Step 2: Settle yourself in a comfortable position. Focus on a single location, object, or thought and look upon it with appreciation and curiosity. 

Step 3: Journal whatever comes to mind, as spontaneously as possible, for one minute. 

Step 4: After completing this brief journaling, take another minute or two to reflect upon the things you noticed: 

  • What did you notice? 
  • How did it make you feel? 
  • Why did you notice these things or have these feelings?
  • What does it mean if you were to act on any of these insights?

For example: I am sitting in a room surrounded by photographs from an art exhibit. I focus on one photo, a picture of an open window, with flowers on the sill. I appreciate the beauty of the flowers and think back to when I first visited London as a young man and was struck by so many potted flowers in windows. They are beautiful, and they also absorb CO2, benefiting the environment. Finding beauty in the midst of dirt and urban congestion is one wonderful way people in large cities sustain their humanity and connections to the natural world. 

Step 5: Take your thinking one step further: Pick any of the suggested actions that emerged from your prior reflection. Create a way of testing or prototyping this new approach. 

What if our organization provided cut flowers throughout the building, as well as hanging baskets in public spaces? We could place small vases near copy machines, on cafeteria tables, etc. We could support the presence of art on stark walls (I’ve seen this work well), or create a simple “thank you” fund so staff can award one another flowers for a job well done (I’ve seen this work, too!). We can advocate for garden spaces on our grounds that can be tended cooperatively by staff, perhaps in partnership with a school or community group. Etc…

Step 6: Finally: Apply your thinking to a real situation or opportunity you are facing. Along with other relevant parties, reflect on the results. In turn, this may lead to other questions worth exploring. 

The point of this exercise is to experience the moment and to Be Present for the experience. Use the Kolb Learning Cycle, being actively engaged as a learner: Notice the phases as they played out here: We don’t just talk about things, we experience them, then build from that experience so discussions are meaningfully placed in the context of such learning. Whether we take this approach in a classroom, staff meeting, task force, or study group, such an engaged approach to teaching and learning is far more likely to “stick” and be memorable.

                Along Loch Lamond on the West Highland Way, Scotland 

Published by Harry Webne-Behrman

Harry Webne-Behrman is a consultant, facilitator, mediator, educator living in Ottawa, Ontario. Bringing vast experience to organizational challenges, specializing in complex conflicts, Harry offers coaching and consulting to people seeking to provide leadership to their organizations and communities on a wide range of issues.

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