I’ve got it all planned out, or at least I think I do.
Ask me about will happen in the next year. I have six different answers with two separate possibilities, a flow chart, coupled with a graph and a timeline. Ask me what’s currently going on in my life. I trip over my own tongue like a wet noodle; slowly stumbling on every thought with refusal because I tend to change the topic to something I am much more comfortable with.
It’s called switch tracking.
Used in negotiation, it’s one of the first lessons you learn at Harvard Law. People don’t usually pick up on it unless you do it a lot. The idea is ostensibly one of strategy and and poise and yet we do it almost everyday without thinking.
You might catch it from someone like a friend or a significant other when they are asked about a subject they feel self conscious about or when feedback is given.
A topic is brought up, but solely for the purpose of a segue to a subject of greater importance. The juicy meat of it all is what really matters.
Nycol catches me doing this whenever she gives me feedback. I quickly change the topic and shrug off the comment as if it almost never happened. She mentions that she wants me to pay more attention. Although she loves attention, she doesn’t necessarily mean for me to focus every waking moment up her ass, “You focus on random things and tie everything to something else,” she says. It’s true, I do, but I never really catch it myself and I am always too wrapped up in my own thoughts to understand what exactly she’s saying.
What she is saying is that she wants me to be present in the moment, rather than just looking back on the moments as stories. In the moment, I let everything lead me to something else; life is filled with double entendres and everything is open for interpretation.
Instead, I need to learn to savor these experiences and let them affect me. I need to learn how to take in every sense and appreciate it.
From the sounds of the clinks and clanks of the freshly steamed dishes and the softly muttered conversations around us, to the taste of the better than average (yet still bland) sesame chicken being scarfed down by my gorgeously starving girlfriend in front of me.
She just got a haircut so her hair hangs just below her shoulders. She has a full cup of tea. She didn’t ask for it, they brought her one anyway. She has her plate sectioned off with just a little bit of pork fried rice, some vegetable chow fun and just a couple pieces of sesame chicken. She has a fork in her hand and thinks I’m a cute idiot for insisting to eat with chopsticks. I am taking pictures in the mirror of Nycol, in her leather jacket in focus, with the old man cleaning the hot sauces as the background.
Last night Nycol and I hung out with our friend Nick in the East village, contemplating the amazingness that is ‘Life.’ Nycol was amazed by the idea of evolution; some reptiles can use both of their eyes independently. We somehow fall on the topic of the future and Nick makes an observation:
I am always looking to the future and seldom towards the present.
I was slightly confused for a split second but the more he went into it and explained, I knew exactly what he meant. It made sense, I am always so wrapped up in what will happen that I miss out on what’s really going on around me. I tend to focus on random things and let everything lead to something else. This advice was next to gold and yet, this wasn’t the first time that I had heard it.
Nycol has told me countless times before that I need to pay attention, but why was it so hard for me to understand what she was saying until Nick said the same thing?
This is because the advice isn’t perceived as a subjective form of feedback. Even though Nick and I are good friends, our friendship is still new and I am not immediately searching any advice given for its double meaning, like I so often do. Nick was simply stating an observation that he had. However, when Nycol stated her exact same observation, I questioned her motivation and intent behind the counsel.
The trick here is something I learned from work: assume positive intent.
This is asking you to trust the people around you and to do your best to not immediately go on the defensive whenever advice is given. It’s scary to think that everyone has not only their best interest in mind, but potentially yours.
The truth is there aren’t many people that are out to get you and if they are, just let them swim past you and focus on the people who truly do care. Don’t look back on moments as stories and remember the details because that’s what matters most. It’s something I’ve been working on and the little effort I’ve made so far has made all the difference.