As you go about your daily life, moving from one space to another, consider the impact of being mindful and present for the next 180 seconds. The concept of the “180-second rule” is a tool for practicing mindfulness and enhancing our interactions with others. This idea is well-aligned with a quote by Ruther Bader Ginsberg, who said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” By taking small steps to be present in our daily lives, we can gradually reshape our experiences and ultimately, foster more meaningful connections with the people around us. Focusing on the next 180 seconds is a small step you can take today.
My journey with the 180-second rule began during a period of extensive travel for work between 2000 and 2018. At the time, we coached mid-level leaders who had just been promoted across several different industries. Most months I was “on the road” up to 15 nights, rarely consecutively. Oprah Winfrey once remarked, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” This quote inspired me first to build a coaching company and ultimately to study my life and routines. Doing so, I discovered the power of being present in each moment, and ultimately, changing my approach to coming home after being away. Through this journey, I learned that being present and engaged in our experiences can lead to a more fulfilling and adventurous life.
Changing My Routine
Before I explain what I changed, let’s examine my routine at the time. As a productivity, time management, and efficiency coach, I practiced what I preached. I began to question whether my routine was truly fulfilling. I realized that, like Arianna Huffington, who said, “We have little power to choose what happens, but we have complete power over how we respond.” While I had settled in to a comfortable routine of traveling back home after working with clients somewhere in the world, I knew I had the power to change my approach. This realization prompted me to reevaluate my priorities and focus on creating more meaningful moments in my life.
We lived in Ojai, CA, which was a 90-mile drive from my home airport: Los Angeles International. As I usually traveled three times per month, that meant I returned…three times each month. My routine was clear: Park the car, unload the luggage, enter the house, unpack my suitcase, start laundry, set up the computer, repack for the next trip, input expenses to start the invoice, etc. Generally, after I had completed the tasks, my wife and I would head out to catch up with friends over dinner. While this routine was efficient and organized, it lacked a crucial element: mindfulness and presence.
This insight echoes the words of Brené Brown, who said, “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” By recognizing the importance of being fully present in each moment, I began to understand that true happiness could be found in the everyday interactions and experiences I might previously have overlooked.
Inspired by this insight, I decided to alter my approach on what I will call my 137th trip. (Just go with me here…it took me a couple of years, that’s all I know!) Instead of immediately diving into my usual routine, I parked the car, walked inside, hugged my wife, and asked if she had time to sit with me on the patio. I don’t remember how long we sat there THAT time, but I know over the subsequent years—and to this day—when I get home from a trip we generally meet on the patio (or, if it’s too cold outside, on the couch) to “be” together. This change in behavior was reminiscent of what Michelle Obama once said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” By taking the time to connect with my wife and truly be present, I was able to make a positive difference in both of our lives and foster a deeper connection.
The impact of this small change was profound, illustrating the power of mindfulness as emphasized in popular psychology. During my next trip, my wife asked if we could sit on the patio again when I returned home. This experience connects to what Melinda Gates once wrote, “A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” This time to reconnect let us both share our voices. By practicing mindfulness and truly listening to each other, we were able to strengthen our relationship and empower one another to express our needs and desires more openly.
Today, I call this practice the 180-second rule, a concept that aligns with the popular psychology notion of mindfulness. This rule serves as a reminder that we have the power to shape our experiences and those of the people we interact with when we enter a space. As Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, once said, “Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder, but if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the Earth, you are a great leader.” By embodying the principles of mindfulness and presence, we can become better leaders, both in our personal and professional lives.
Whether you’re reaching for a door, logging into a Zoom call, or boarding a plane, always take a breath and remind yourself: The next 180 seconds matter.
A Lasting Impact
Embrace the power of being mindful and present, as popular psychology suggests, and transform your interactions and relationships with others. The 180-second rule is a simple yet powerful tool to help us live more fulfilling, connected, and present lives.
As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” By practicing mindfulness and truly connecting with others, we can leave a lasting impact on the people we encounter and create meaningful memories that stand the test of time.