Why We Should Stop Obsessing Over ‘Doing’ and Instead Focus on ‘Being’
“We labor at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have the leisure to stop and think. Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”― Friedrich Nietzsche.
The new year is just around the corner. Our fixation with New Year’s Resolutions, annual strategic plans, and goal setting follows suit. All of these are shorthand for adding more tasks to our already hurried lives.
As Blaise Pascal said so many years ago, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber”. We do not appear to be able to sit and do nothing in our modern accomplishment-oriented worldview.
I, for one, suffer from this craving in that I’m driven to do and do. I’m not advocating that we quit doing and become passive. There is a reason we are called “human beings” rather than “human doings”.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines doing as “the act of performing or executing — taking action”. We take action to gain something. It’s outward-looking, requiring us to interact with our environment and other people to achieve a specific goal. It is focused on the future and is guided by thought.
The quality or state of having existence — our essence — is characterized as being. It’s inward-focused and allows us to become more aware of ourselves. This state is focused on the present. It helps us to reflect on past feelings and contemplate how we feel instead of interfering with the flow of events and changing outcomes.
We have come to regard being busy as the ultimate badge of honor in our modern culture, which has made it imperative that we are primarily ‘doing’ beings.
This constant desire for activity creates additional wants and needs, and it is a self-perpetuating cycle that never stops unless it is checked.
We consider a life of just being without doing anything as being passive and, ultimately, lazy. That could not be further from the truth. Jenny Odell, an author and artist, remarks, “Nothing is harder to do than nothing”. It’s difficult to resist the urge to control our experiences, people and things around us and accept things as they are.
Being means reclaiming our autonomy, not running away from our realities. We must calm down and make better life choices.
The reality is that to truly change our behaviors and actions, we must first address who we are — our state of being. It’s what’s at the heart of everything we are doing. It’s our conditioning, beliefs, values and worldview.
For example, when many of us feel we have had a stressful year, we immediately set a goal to start meditating, keeping a gratitude journal or practicing Yoga or sometimes all three. We want to start doing things to alleviate our pain.
However, the real issue to address here is not stress but that we’ve aligned our identity with being productive and becoming achievement champions.
We can’t stop doing things that stress us out because we are afraid that if we do so, we will fail in life. We change and don’t like who we’ve become. When we’re not doing and accomplishing, this fear manifests as guilt. We then stop the yoga or meditating and go back to our old identities and work even harder.
At the end of this year, instead of setting ‘doing’ goals, I want to set ‘being’ goals. I will look at each area of my life and visualize how I’d like to feel in it.
For example, instead of setting a goal to increase revenues for the company that I own and run, I’d rather go to work feeling energized, engaged, and not frustrated. I want us all to slow down and understand what goals we need to pursue instead of chasing around like headless chickens.
I want to lower expectations, so we are not under too much pressure and frustrated all the time. The first step is to identify fewer priorities for each department and ensure that they are all met. Next, I’d like to include more team training so we are all on the same wavelength.
Finally, that I’d have to lead more as a coach by establishing a meeting structure that provides clarity for everyone on the team while allowing everyone to be vulnerable enough to voice their opinions.
I want to get into flow with my writing and tap into my subconscious, allowing it to reveal itself to both me and the world. This is where self-awareness happens. Instead of chasing goals like increasing subscribers and social media followers, I’d prefer to engage and connect with my readers. I don’t want to make something I enjoy into yet another goal to achieve.
With my family and friends, I imagine myself in a state of inner peace where conversation flows and is deep and enjoyable. More than anything, I want connection. I want to listen to my loved ones and be there for them. I don’t want to preach trying to fix people, as I tend to do. I don’t want to feel anxious, especially as the Christmas holidays approach with their many events and people. I want to relax, have fun and chill for a change.
I’ve often fantasized about taking a 6-month hiatus to travel the world solo and find the inner peace I seek. However, when I consider what state of being I want to be in, I start to question whether that’s what I like.
What if I’m chasing someone else’s goal, or if my head has been corrupted by Instagram photos of people meditating on mountain peaks? Maybe, I don’t want the solo trek but only to feel the inner peace that comes without feeling overwhelmed and anxious all the time.
This state of being that I dream of might be attained anywhere, not necessarily while trekking the world. When we focus on our ‘being’ level, we delve into our essence and what’s important to us — to be okay with who we are right now; to be okay with not knowing what will happen in the future.
Instead of focusing on doing things, we begin to know what we want to do with our lives when we comprehend and confirm who we want to be and how we want to feel.
Examine your actions in detail. Are those things you’d like to do for the rest of your life?
Examine your feelings in all areas of your life. Is this how you want to feel all of the time?
What is your true nature of being?