My name is Ryan English, and I’m addicted to my iPhone. This revelation came after my wife, my 5-year-old daughter, my mother and a co-worker all asked me to put the phone down within a three-hour span of time. Most of these occasions occurred during important conversations, though that’s not quite right since at least two committed people are needed for a conversation. My wife had asked me the same question four times before I even responded with a vague “Huh?’ The plea from my daughter occurred, however, while she was sitting on my lap, soaking up “daddy-time,” the night before I was leaving on a Colorado getaway for, as we measure overnights in our family, “3-sleeps.”
I acknowledged my addiction to my family that evening and avowed to make positive changes in my life. The next day, my wife and I left on a ski trip to Aspen with her cousin, Lauren, and her husband, Zach. And for the record, I typically do not make a habit of socializing with lawyers, but always make an exception for these two.
During the trip, we all engaged in several conversations about life, parenting, work, music, politics, whether figure skating should be an Olympic sport. You know…typical conversations. On the lifts headed up the mountain, Zach and I would discuss how we wanted to become better at our jobs and what we needed to improve upon. We also talked about wanting to be great fathers and what obstacles we struggled with. One constant theme seemed to emerge with me- my iPhone addiction. And there was no better setting than the mountains to enlighten me.
When I was up on the mountain skiing, I had no cell phone service. No access to phone calls, emails, the Internet, basically, the world. I had only one focus and that was skiing. My sole intention was keeping my skis close, shifting my weight, and being mindful of what was out in front of me. I had to concentrate on the only thing that mattered at the time, and that was skiing safely down the mountain. I had to live and operate in the present. It was relaxing and liberating.
Over a frosty Aspen Independence IPA one morning evening I thought about the freedom I experienced on the slopes to dwell in the moment. It was a stark contrast with my all too willing dependence on the iPhone, which caused me to squander so many moments of my life. I wondered why I was not choosing to live and operate in the present around my family, friends, and coworkers. After all, that’s all they want from me. To be present. Why is it so hard to put the phone down, and savor spending time with the people that mean the most to me? Is that email, text message, internet news story, social media post, or you tube video more important than the people in my life? For all of life’s hard questions, this should be the easiest to answer.
I don’t know if the start of the Lenten Season and my trip to Aspen occurring the day after my addiction admission was divine intervention or just a coincidence, but it was the perfect time to reflect on the changes I needed to make to live more intentionally. I decided the best way to take better control of my life was to put away my phone from 5:30 – 8:30 every night AND be present with whomever I’m with. If three hours seem minimal, please keep in mind my job requires me to be on call 24-7.
I’m twenty days into my cold turkey iPhone Rehab and can honestly say it’s changing me mentally. No more angst, stress, and frustration associated with that enslaving device. I feel relaxed and liberated in the evening, off the grid, living and operating in the present, just like on the slopes. And now I even find myself intentionally leaving my phone in the car when at the gym or during family excursions to the park, playground or restaurant. I am focused on enjoying those around me and deriving fulfillment from the moments spent together. I’m learning how to BE PRESENT so I can be a better husband, dad, son, friend and co-worker. It’s a challenge for sure and the temptation of a sneak peek is always floating around me. But I’m determined.
What about you? Do you feel the need to stay constantly connected? Is your cell phone attachment affecting the quality of your life? How do you unplug? What works for you?