#WorkAndLife: The importance of being present

How can you be so calm?
Whenever I talk to you, you always act as if you have all the time in the world even though I know your calendar is full!
How do you get so much done? 
These are comments from my colleagues. Colleagues who seem to expect me to be stressed, short and rushing around because of the role I have in the company.

I don't rush around. Those who do often end up being busy, busy, busy doing nothing at all.

The answers to "how to get much done" are many. In this blog spot I will focus on the importance of being present.

When you are present, you focus. You do not think about the next thing on your to do list, your next answer in the conversation you are involved in or whether or not the person you work with likes you. You are there. Present.

This can mean listening. Fully listening with the intention to understand.
It can mean setting aside time in your calendar to fully focus on a task and conclude it, ignoring mails and notifications that pop up.
It can mean sitting down and focussing on the chair you are sitting on. Watching its material in detail, feel how it feels under your butt, smell how it smells.

Be fully present in everything you do.

What happens if you are fully present?
You will achieve better results. You will achieve better results because:
Anything worth doing is worth doing well
and you will only do things well. With full focus. And you will have time to do the important things well because the things that are NOT worth doing you will not do at all.

You will have more rewarding relationships. If you truly listen to persons around you, you will learn things about them and about life you had no idea about. And to be truly listened-to is such a great feeling that people will want to be with you.

And, last but not least. You will be calm. To be present, to be in the moment and fully focus on what you do will reduce your pulse. Any stress you may feel will disappear.

No need to take my word for it. Andy Puddicombe who knows a lot more about mindfulness than I do, tells you all you need to know about that in this TED talk:

All it takes is 10 mindful minutes

What to do next?

Your day is probably full with slots when you have too little time left to start with a big task, but still a few minutes before the next activity starts.If you find yourself in that situation you can use the slot to be present. Calm yourself down and increase your focus.

The other day I prepared for a meeting and I was ready with all preparations five minutes before the start of it. Instead of reading a mail and get distracted from the meeting I was going to chair I chose to be mindful for a few minutes. I looked around and saw the cute little tin I keep nuts in. I looked at it in detail. Every single shade of color. Every line. Imagined the girl in the snow, how her hands would feel inside of the muff.

I could feel my heart rate go down. I felt how my head got clearer. When it was time to start the meeting I was not only prepared, but also focussed and refreshed.

It's as simple as that. Be present.


"To vote, you should pass an intelligence test first!"

This was the opinion of one of my classmates when I studied at Chalmers university of technology. Or, as he put it:
 "Det borde fan krävas intelligenstest för att få rösta!"
However, since democracy by definition is:
"A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections"
it will not be a democracy if only part of the people, those who pass an intelligence test, is allowed to vote.

So I disagreed with the comment at the time, but there was something in there that resonated with me and I have remembered it ever since.

Recently I read a quote from Roosevelt that made it all more clear to me:
"Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education."

That was it! It is not an intelligence test that is needed, it is ensuring everyone is "prepared to choose wisely"!

How do we make sure everyone is prepared to choose wisely?
Free access to education is one step of the way. It is not enough though.

Because as I wrote in this blog post: Ignorance is not the problem; pre-conceived ideas is. To not know, but behave as if we do, by spreading and believing in simplistic and incorrect views of the world is a recipe for disaster.

So if education is the first step, the second is to accept that no matter how much we know, there is always more that we do not know so we need to keep an open mind at all times.

Finally, we need to be willing to choose wisely.
Willing to not just accept the simplistic answers.
Willing to not act stupidly when in reality we know better.

Because as Martin Luther King Jr said:
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and consciencious stupidity."
I hope you are all willing to apply the knowledge you have, keep your mind open and choose wisely.


Angela Merkel - I wish you were Swedish

Many Swedes are proud of persons like Raoul Wallenberg, Dag Hammarskjöld and the contemporary Jan Eliasson.

Today, when men, women and children seek refuge with such desperation that they perish on the way, the Swedish politicians...
  •  talk about how terrible the situation is 
  •  talk about how more countries need to provide shelter for refugees
  •  talk about how we need to agree within the EU about how to handle the situation

Talk, talk, talk.

When children are drowning the time for talking is long over.

If a house is on fire there is no time to discuss who should put it out or how to make sure everyone contributes in a fair way. First you put out the fire.
Who should put it out ?
Anyone who is able to.
What if not everyone helps out?
Then those who put out the fire do so without the help from the others. After the fire is out, there will be time to talk to the ones who did not help out and agree on how to improve in the future.

Angela Merkel seems to know this. In addition to talking to other politicians, she takes action.

She has decided to ignore the Dublin regulation for now, letting refugees from Syria stay in Germany even if they originally entered via another EU country. (When Swedish politicians were asked if Sweden would do the same the answer was that they wanted to discuss it more within EU first.Talk, talk, talk...)

She has sent in armed forces to put up tents in public parks, to provide shelter for refugees.

She is showing the way for her fellow politicians when she says:
 "If we rescued the banks, we can save refugees"
The title of this blogpost says that I wish Angela Merkel were Swedish. Let me re-phrase that:
Angela, I wish the Swedish politicians would act the way you do.
Dont' get me wrong. This is not a complaint. Sweden is doing well; giving shelter to many refugees and being part of discussions to improve the situation. But the leadership is without a doubt coming from Germany's Angela Merkel.

PS. There are people who spread a video on social media where Angela Merkel is telling a Palestinian girl that not all refugees can stay in Germany. Often the ones who share the video do it to discredit Angela.

I wonder if the same persons think that we should not honor Nelson Mandela for all the great work he did, since he also participated in violent actions before he was put in prison?
And should we ignore the great I have a dream speech because  Doctor Martin Luther King Jr was not only a great civil rights fighter but also a man who cheated on his wife?

Let´s not be childish. People who do great things today should be recognized for that, even if they have also done things that were not great.
Luckily Angela is recognized by many for what she does, for instance by a number of Syrian refugees. According to an article in the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs posten she is now referred to as The mother of the outcasts:

Maybe one day Angela, you will be the reciever of the Raoul Wallenberg award - or maybe there will even be an award named after you.


#SwedeInMadrid: Fine Spanish fines

Fine fines? How can there be something fine about fines?

Well, fines are never really fine, but some are less bad, or "finer" than others.

Like paying a fortune to park the car outside of Liseberg; a great attraction park in Göteborg Sweden, estimating the time when we will be back and noticing when standing in queue to the last attraction for the day that we will miss the end of the paid time with a few minutes - and then ending up with a heavy fine. There is nothing fine about that. It makes me wonder why I paid for the parking at all, I could have just paid for one hour and not four when I ended up with a huge fine anyway for not paying for four hours and ten minutes.

When we parked in the Spanish town Santiago de Compostela the same thing happened.  We came back to the car some time after the time we had paid for had expired. Now to the fine part. By going back to the automat where we had paid for the parking and paying a little extra (in our case 6 euros) we could avoid the fine of 60 euros. That sure felt a lot finer than the fine I had to pay for standing a few minutes too long outside of Liseberg!

Another example are speeding fines. I have had my share of these in all three countries I have lived in; the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain.

My approach used to be to ignore the fine and hope that they would forget all about it and I would not have to pay. That worked in the Netherlands. In Sweden, with personnummer (similar to social security number / NIE numbers) and efficient authorities that never worked. My fine would never end up lost and after a reminder I would pay it.

In Spain we (well, I was the one speeding, but the car is registered on my husband, thus we) received a fine as well. It was not possible to pay via internet so my husband went to the bank, shortly after the fine came to our house. We were both utterly surprised when the 100 euro fine was quickly reduced to 50 euro, "since we paid it so quickly".

So to me, the Spanish fines are finer than other fines.