The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness
— Jon Kabat-Zinn


We’re all familiar with it. It’s been done to us and we’ve done it to others. We’re sitting at a coffee shop, or restaurant, or living room, or bedroom, engaged in conversation. Feelings are being expressed, thoughts are being shared and words are being exchanged. All of a sudden, it happens. The slow drop of the head and shift of the eyes. When it’s done to us, we’re all too aware; when we do it to others, we’re usually unaware. 

It’s the incessant, nagging, never-relenting, ever present, always distracting notification. Living under the umbrella of notifications has become the new normal for us humans. Be it social media, text message, or the constant barrage of updates about the news around us, we’ve become addicted to the notification.

It’s what I call, “The high of the notify.” Can we all fess up and admit to this? We feel a certain rush when the buzz of a new email or new like or new friend request or new text message streams through our phones. I get it. It’s compelling and makes us feel a certain sense of satisfaction. So much so, that we are willing to disconnect from the person in front of us in order to connect to the notification that allures us…over and over and over again.

For all the wonder that smart devices have produced for us, they’ve also conditioned us to be on alert for the next notification. Our attentiveness to notifications isn’t the real issue. The real issue is what notifications have done to our presentness. Slowly but surely, they’ve conditioned us to be here, while also being everywhere. What’s really at stake is our presence with people, their hearts, minds and stories. 

And so we’ve substituted the depth of presence with the shallowness of surface. Because we are waiting for the next ‘high of the notify,’ our conversations tend to have a certain kind of hollow, Q&A feel to them. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is our full attention. It is when we are attentive to others that we become aware of who they really are. Here is where we listen to hearts, hear minds and resonate with souls. Our hearts and minds and souls were made to be shared. This is why we can’t wait to share good news, and why we need to express bad news.

The reason for this is because we are all made for stories. Stories are what help us make meaning of life as they help us live meaningful lives. When we are able to sit across someone, fully attentive to their hearts—completely aware of their minds, we discover what it means to, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Their story has a way of connecting us to our story.

And here is why this is so: stories require our full attention. The best stories are those that make us feel as though nothing else matters in that moment, but that moment. A great story grabs us in the beginning, captivates us in the middle and connects us in the end. This is the power of story. 

The beauty of this is that we all posses this great story power within us. We have the power to change the trajectory of lives by the stories we tell—by our stories, we tell. When we are distracted, multi-tasking in conversation and rushing through our talks, we don’t give storytelling the opportunity to develop. We miss moments, and miss out on stories.

To be fair, it’s not just notifications that keep us from the beauty of shared stories. It’s our lack of presence, our need for speed and our deficit of awareness. Our lack of presence causes us to miss moments. Our missing of moments causes us to be unaware. We live unaware of the stories in others that need to be shared. What’s worse, we lose the awareness of the stories in us that need to be told.

So what’s the solution?


1. Put the phone down: I have a friend that has a basket at the entrance to her home with a sign that reads, “For an enjoyable experience, drop your devices here.” What a simple directive! What would it look like if our times with others were experienced, notification free? Imagine what this would do to conversations and story telling. It begins with knowing that enjoyable experiences don’t have to include ‘the high of the notify.’

2. Slow down: Our minds have a way of skimming through he past and rushing to the future. However, when we intentionally slow down in ourselves, we’ll live slowly with others. The beauty of slowing down with others is that 5 minutes spent together will feel like a one hour story manifesto. This will allow us to leave feeling refreshed and give our time spent a sense or meaning and purpose.

3. Pay attention: In previous blog posts, I’ve written on the amazing benefits of paying attention. To pay attention is to be mindful of nothing but, the current moment. We can pay attention to our breathing, pay attention to our thoughts, pay attention to our feelings and pay attention to our talks. Paying attention to the person in front of us awakens our awareness to the aspects of their every day lives that makes them, them. Whatever you do in life, make sure to pay attention.

4. Enjoy the story: What if we approached time spent with others as a story waiting to unfold? Truth is, every conversation has the power to become a storytelling manifesto. This is the power of presence…it creates space for stories to be told and makes way for hearts to be shared. This is the power of presence. This is the power of moments. This is the power of story.


Alright my friends, feel free to leave a comment and follow my journeys. I’d welcome travels with you!

May you live today a story you’d like to tell tomorrow.


Joel Gonzalez2 Comments