Do you remember this scene from the original Fast and the Furious franchise?
(For those who can’t (or won't) access the clip: it’s the part in the film when Vin Diesel’s character tells a bright-eyed Paul Walker that he lives his life “a quarter mile at a time.”)
While souped-up Honda Civics aren’t really my thing, he has a point: whether we acknowledge it or not, we're all living in the moment. A yoga or meditation instructor would call it "being present," and involves bringing your best self, your full attention, and your spirit to the now, leaving the past and future out of the equation.
And that’s why I try to treat each date, regardless of its place on the numeric totem pole, as the first one—and the last. It forces me to bring my A-game. That means staying engaged, and keeping my iPhone out of sight and out of mind. It means not worrying about where things are going, and genuinely enjoying and appreciating the other person’s company. It also means that I can't take the time I'm spending with the other person for granted: showing up is a choice, and it's one that has to be made by both parties involved. People want to be around other people who make them feel good about themselves.
If you need an example of what the opposite looks like, just think of any time you've been out to a bar or restaurant and have witnessed a couple in the heat of an argument. Arms crossed, lips pursed—it's clear there's trouble in paradise. (And yes, I've unfortunately been there before.) It's not only awkward as hell to be around, but it's really not fair to other people who are just trying to have a good time. In other words: if you really don't want to be on that date, then leave, or don't agree to go out to begin with—half the battle of dating is listening to your instincts and picking up on connection signals—but do take responsibility for and ownership of your emotions.
This same principle applies to friendships. Why would your friends want to hang out with you on the weekend if you're constantly complaining about work? (They don't.) Does anyone like making plans with someone who frequently cancels at the last minute? (Uh, nope.) Are you actually listening to what your brunchmate is saying, or are you too engrossed in your Facebook feed to realize you're unconsciously shutting her out? (Let's hope for the former.) I can't think of a single person who enjoys feeling ignored or taken advantage of.
Whether you call it, ahem, living life a quarter-mile at a time, showing up, or something else in your own words, it's worth a shot—and all it requires is a simple shift of your mindset.
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