Mostly we walk around looking down at our phones. When was the last time you walked around looking up… not so far up that you tripped over tree roots or fell into construction pits… but just more up than down? Do you remember?
What would it be like to wander down the street or sit on public transportation ready to connect with others or simply sitting and noticing what’s going on around us? People might even be suspicious if we were actually looking around instead of staring down at a phone or at the floor.
Here’s the difference in two approaches to a walk down the street:
A “look down” life is:
- isolated and not welcoming
- engaged elsewhere
A “look up” life is:
- inviting engagement with others
- present in the here and now
I find it easier to remember to look up literally, though, than to remember to look up metaphorically. I forget how good I have it. I focus on negatives and not positives in my life. When reflecting on how a trip was, I’ll probably lead with a diatribe about the flat tire I had instead of with a soliloquy about the beauty of the mountains I saw.
Why is that? My mouth betrays me, but so does my brain. Because I’d say that I’m an optimistic person, full of hope. But then you’d doubt that when I started talking (or if you could hear my brain’s ruminations).
And I say that I like to engage strangers, to notice the world around me… yet I often walk around looking at my own phone, or just zoning out when out in public (beyond the recommended social boundaries and privacy-respecting norms).
When we look up, we see things that we might not ordinarily see. I love this TED Talk. Check out the portion where the improv crew gets people to LOOK UP at New York’s Union Square — and see unexpected things (5:02 in the video, though all of it is fun to watch!)
There could be street theater around us at any point. There could be a long-lost friend walking by. There could be a bird we’ve never seen before or something that will make our day.
And internally, there’s usually something positive to focus on, even if it’s just the fact that the horrific thing happening will make a funny story one day.
So look up. And if you do and you see me looking down, permission granted to challenge my focus.