Are you in the moment?

The vices of modern society, trying to be present and making the most of your MBA – HELP!

By Natalie Cope, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program and BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship Recipient

NatalieCope2-(2)I read recently that learning new information while multi-tasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain. In fact, the cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from smoking marijuana. Although we think we’re getting a lot done, multitasking makes us far less efficient. It would thus seem that while there has never been a moment in time where more is possible, this very abundance of possibility is driving us to such distraction as to reduce our ability of simply ‘being’ and thereby learning and growing.

On the eve of commencing my MBA, a not insignificant undertaking, and one, which like many, will be juggled alongside a life already full with career, travel, family, co-curricular and community commitments, and of course, the pursuit of happiness – one can only imagine my trepidation. If multitasking really does over stimulate the brain leading to what the same article referred to as ‘mental fog’ or ‘scrambled thinking’, then how on earth would it be possible for me to ensure that I achieve the outcomes to which I aspire from my MBA (and life for that matter), that being to be focused, to be present, to learn and to grow?

This question gave me pause to reflect. When was the last time that I was truly focused? When was it that I was so involved in the moment that it was the moment that was experienced? When was the last time that I was fixated on the task at hand and not distracted by the anticipation of an email, wondering how many likes I’d received on Instagram, how had my comments on Facebook been interpreted, who was it that just tried contacting me on Skype, and Wechat and LinkedIn. Am I good enough? Fast enough? Smart enough? Thinking about the future, and the impact of the past, and thereby missing all I stood to gain from being in the present. Oh dear, yes it would seem that I am every bit the victim of our modern world.

Then it occurred to me – the ocean. When I am in the water, it is just my board, the waves and myself. Freed from the shackles of technology, the anticipation and expectation subsides. I am focused; I am present. Indeed, if I allow myself to be distracted by these busy thoughts, the waves pass me by and with it the opportunity to catch them. I want my MBA to be another ocean: a place I can come to collect my thoughts, to learn and grow and be removed from my own expectations and busy subconscious.  I want this MBA, this place and invaluable opportunity for learning to be a space for a kind of focused meditation.

The question and challenge is whether, in this modern climate of which I am so addicted, this will be possible. Can I somehow ignore the vices of modern society and leave the distractions at the door? Well, my friends, I guess only time will tell – so wish me luck! (She says while typing on her laptop in the back seat of a car, all the while trying to mentally prepare for an ocean swim race, contemporaneously keeping an eye on social media activities, listening to a podcast and monitoring work emails).

Hmm, I believe I have some work to do!

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