I Love My Smartphone As Much As The Next Person.
But last week was a powerful reminder that our technology addiction can be a barrier to making deeper, more soulful connections in our lives.
I was invited to speak at a corporate retreat for a group of some of the most talented and successful broadcasters in America. For a week, they were taken out of the hustle and bustle of New York City and dropped into the beauty and solitude of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
As I arrived for the opening dinner on Tuesday night, you could see that many in attendance were struggling to slow down. While we enjoyed an amazing, 7-course dinner, cell phones were out at the table instagramming and Snapchatting every dish. Some of the men were on their phones setting fantasy football lineups for the week.
Sure, there were some surface level conversations happening around the table, but for the most part, the attendees were wrapped up in their own world.
The next day, the group went on a bus ride 20 miles out of town. As we drove into much higher elevations, we lost cell service. This meant everyone had to abandon their smartphones for three hours to go on a 3-mile hiking and yoga experience.
You could feel the uneasiness set in before the bus even parked. Many of the attendees did not want to spend an afternoon in nature and certainly hated that they weren't able to document each step of the hike on social media.
But as we made our way up the sometimes treacherous terrain without any digital distractions, a funny thing began to happen.
Being forced to stay present in their surroundings rather than in their phone, people began to look out for one another. They noticed when someone else was struggling to make it to the top. Some members at the front of the hike stopped and waited to help people who were lagging when the footing became dangerous. They supported each other.
They were connecting.
At the top of the mountain, the yoga instructor took them through an hour flow, but had them pair off to do partner work, which only increased their presence with each other. As they took the final resting pose on their mats, they were able to tune into the sounds of the wind and birds flying overhead.
They looked like different people after it was over.
The dinner that night was a completely different experience than the night before. Even with the distraction of a presidential debate and a baseball playoff game, people related in a different way. The dinner finished with the group going around the room and speaking about something they were grateful for on the trip. Attendees began to open up and share their lives. They spoke of their struggles and fears away from work. It was as if this group, some who have worked together for nearly 20 years, were seeing each other for the first time.
We live in the connected age. Smartphones are a daily part of life and as wi-fi technology comes to cars, it will only get worse. And to some degree, the technology we have access to is a blessing. It makes our lives easier. But the danger in being connected to email, text, and social media 24/7 is that we can lose connection to the most important people in our lives. Worse yet, we can lose connection to our own soul.
How many times have you said you would go to the gym, or write that book, or learn a new hobby, only to open your phone and waste an hour on Facebook?
How often have your kids needed your attention, but you were busy on your tablet answering work emails?
Can you take one hour each night this week and put the distractions away? Can you spend time with family member or friend? What if you actually picked up the phone to call instead of text someone? What if you just made time for you?
Connection is easy. Presence and love takes a commitment. Give yourself the gift of going deeper this week.