Hypnosis designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

Hypnosis designed by Luis Prado from The Noun Project

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “continuous partial attention,” it was coined by Linda Stone, a former senior exec at Apple and Microsoft. Stone now focuses much of her time on thinking about focus, attention, and “conscious computing” — the notion of getting back into our physical bodies while using technology.

The Atlantic has a great interview with Stone in their June issue, where she talks about the benefits of truly be present in the moment, rather than lost in what’s happening on our phones. Here’s Stone:

When we learn how to play a sport or an instrument; how to dance or sing; or even how to fly a plane, we learn how to breathe and how to sit or stand in a way that supports a state of relaxed presence. My hunch is that when you’re flying, you’re aware of everything around you, and yet you’re also relaxed. When you’re water-skiing, you’re paying attention, and if you’re too tense, you’ll fall. All of these activities help us cultivate our capacity for relaxed presence.

In this state of relaxed presence, our minds and bodies are in the same place at the same time and we have a more open relationship with the world around us.

Another bonus comes with this state of relaxed presence. It’s where we rendezvous with luck. A U.K. psychologist ran experiments in which he divided self-described lucky and unlucky people into different groups and had each group execute the same task. In one experiment, subjects were told to go to a café, order coffee, return and report on their experience.

The self-described lucky person found money on the ground on the way into the café, had a pleasant conversation with the person they sat next to at the counter, and left with a connection and potential business deal. The self-described unlucky person missed the money – it was left in the same place for all experimental subjects to find, ordered coffee, didn’t speak to a soul, and left the café. One of these subjects was focused in a more stressed way on the task at hand. The other was in a state of relaxed presence, executing the assignment.

We all have a capacity for relaxed presence, empathy, and luck. We stress about being distracted, needing to focus, and needing to disconnect. What if, instead, we cultivated our capacity for relaxed presence and actually, really connected, to each moment and to each other?

Stone also writes about how to be present in a technology-driven world in our new 99U book, Manage Your Day-to-Day. Learn more about the book and our contributors here.

  • Andrew B.

    That’s the paradox — we’re so “connected” yet so completely disconnected. This past weekend at a very typical wedding reception, it was fascinating to watch six other people at a very typical 10-seat round table, all with their heads buried in their smartphones. Some couldn’t even pull away when the bride stopped by to chat with the group. Sad, really. Some of these same people mock me for not being as connected as they are, but the joke’s on them.

  • Verad

    So true Andrew! Being present and connected with what we’re doing and who we spend time with can open up a great deal of opportunity. Devoting more time to the “here and now” is the best thing anyone can do.

  • Ani Remme

    Ever have one of those perfect moments?….Where everything conspires to create an amazing second- the lighting is perfect, time slows, detail shows up and suddenly you are aware of joy and perfection! Each and EVERY moment is bursting with this at any given time- if we can just be present! In a moment like this….every possibility exists! Magic! So, does it increase our luck? YES! We are open to many new possibilities when we are not listening to the chatter in our heads!! We make our own luck through our own intent and focus . I know many mountain climbers and tight-rope walkers who would agree that staying in the moment is a REALLY good idea- and would certainly make them more lucky!

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