Recently, I was introduced to the Good Life Project, which is an online initiative that strives to get people to improve their own lives. I was particularly struck by the project’s “Living Creed”, which is essentially a list of very sensible ideas with which to examine your own life and push you to improve it.
One piece of the creed that really stood out to me is represented in the title of this article. Presence, not presents.
The idea behind it is simple. You’re going to provide a lot more value in the lives of the people you care about by simply being there rather than providing financial affluence. If you start really applying that idea throughout your life, you can start to see how much impact it can have.
For me, at least, I look first at my children and at my wife. I try really hard to keep my writing work separated from the time we can spend together. I write when they’re all at school and/or work and I also write when they’re all asleep. I try very hard to keep my work out of the picture when I have time to spend with them – in the mornings, in the evenings, when they have events that matter to them, on the weekends.
I could easily fill that time with more activities to earn more money, but what do I really need that money for?
I could buy more things, of course. I could earn enough to afford some amazing vacations. I could earn enough to buy my children every educational opportunity in the world. I could earn enough to give them gifts that they would deeply enjoy and would make them the envy of the neighborhood.
In exchange for that, though, I would have far less time to spend with them. When I did have time to spend with them, I would be distracted from them, paying attention to my phone or trying to de-stress.
As long as I’m providing for their basic needs – food, shelter, and so on – I can make the choice to give those core people in my life lots of my presence.
The more quality, focused time I can spend with the people that matter in my life, the stronger those relationships are going to be.
When I think about the relationships in my own life – my relationship with my parents, with my wife, with my children, with my close friends, and with acquaintances, too – I don’t think about their affluence.
I think instead of the moments when they gave of themselves. I think of the moments when we were able to deeply connect with each other as people.
Those moments weren’t borne out of a big paycheck. Those moments were borne out of people recognizing that the most powerful gifts they have to give to the people around them are time and attention.
This comes full circle, too. If you spend a little less of your life’s energy trying to earn a few extra dollars so you can have an extra goodie, you have more energy left over to devote to the people you care about. You still have all of your needs met – you just “lose” some forgettable items or experiences.
Presence, not presents. It’s a pretty good creed to live your life by.