Life’s Most Important Resource
It’s not money. It’s not even time. It’s presence.
Why is it not money?
You probably already know the answer to this, but let’s just make sure we’re on the same page. Studies show that after your necessities are met, more money results in very little increases in happiness. In fact, if more money comes from having less work-life balance, then that will actually decrease happiness.
Money is just a tool to meet our basic needs and avoid pain.
Why is it not time?
Common wisdom dictates that time is the most precious thing in our lives.
The problem is that you can have or give “time” without having or giving happiness. For example, someone might have two weeks of “free time” to go on vacation, and during that two weeks, he fits as much into his itinerary as he can to make the most out of his time. As a result, he feels anxious about staying on schedule and doesn’t get to fully enjoy his two weeks off.
Another example is spending time with friends, family, or loved ones when they are constantly distracted. Maybe they keep talking about the past, the future, or even worse, just staring at their phone screen. Sure, you’re spending time together, but that time sure isn’t precious.
Why it’s presence.
Presence is giving full attention to something, whether that’s scenery, work, activity, or people.
Presence is like a muscle. The more you cultivate it, the more strength and endurance your presence will have. And the stronger your presence, the more you enjoy what you are doing and the better you are at doing activities and interacting with others. In other words, presence improves mastery and relationships, two things that drive fulfillment.
The two examples above have time, but the people are unhappy because they lack presence.
A tight vacation schedule doesn’t ruin the vacation. It’s the anxious mindset that does. If the person has strong presence in each moment, he will still have a great vacation despite the busy schedule.
There’s no point in giving time to others if you do not give them your presence. Giving someone your time but not attention is non-verbally communicating that they are not important enough to be worth your attention. That will hurt your relationship. On the other hand, giving your full presence to someone, sensing their unspoken wants via body language, and really trying to make them happy is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. And it builds your presence muscle, which is an even greater gift to yourself.
The quality of your life is determined by the strength of your presence muscle. This makes sense given that presence increases mastery and improves relationships, both of which contribute to a sense of fulfillment.