David Shechtman discusses the importance of shifting from “doing” to “being” during the holidays; and why it is so needed at work and everywhere else in our lives.
Our world needs more wisdom and compassion. I say this, in part, based on personal experience. When I’m more compassionate in my dealings with others, I feel better and others appreciate my efforts. And when I attempt to make decisions incorporating wisdom (from others’ input, academic research, tradition-based sources, and self-reflection), I tend to make stronger decisions that stand up over time.
I also say this because of my study of Buddhism and other Eastern-sourced religions. I was not raised Buddhist, I do not consider myself a Buddhist, but I am captivated by Buddhism’s ideas, tone, and demeanor. In fact, I think I get way more out of studying it because I didn’t grow up practicing it or hearing about it much in the popular culture. I truly examine it, as an adult, for what it is—and I’ve been impressed with its results in my life.
When I study Buddhist teachings, I feel calmer and more personally confident. I don’t think it’s better or worse than mainstream Western religions. I just see it as a different in style and preference.
In fact, what I think appeals to me the most about it is its emphasis on living in a higher state of being. And this higher state of being is what, I judge, Western society to be sorely lacking right now.
Particularly now, during the winter holiday season, think about what this time of year could be (and maybe should be): a time of slowing down, spending time with cherished loved ones, and reflecting on what’s most important.
Yet think of what it is for many of folks: a time of frenzied chaos as work as people scurry to hit final numbers and solidify budgets for next year; a time of endless to-do lists as people try to give an appropriate gift to everyone who theoretically deserves one; and a time to keep up with the neighbors by decorating the house like the newest upscale casino on the Las Vegas strip.
The winter holiday season has for many of us become yet another complicated and expensive task list and proving ground.
Understanding the concept of state of being requires the assumption that we all live in two different states simultaneously: the state of doing and the state of being. The one we tend to focus on (at least in Western societies) is the state of doing. This aspect of our lives is actionable, measurable, and quantifiable. It encompasses our schedules, activities, tangible efforts. The other, often less respected, state is being. This aspect of our lives is internal, subtle, and sensory.
When someone asks, “What are you up to today?” they are usually curious about your doing state. When some asks, “How are you feeling today?” or “What’s going on with you?” they are usually curious about state.
In my experience, most of us in the Western world are in a being crisis. We don’t know why we are doing what we’re doing. We don’t know why we’re so unhappy. We don’t know how our efforts add up to something bigger. We’re on this speeding treadmill of life, moving faster and faster towards another treadmill 10 feet in front of us.
In my coaching work with professional executives and elite sales producers, most of them feel like impostors and struggle to realize a sense of fulfillment with what they are doing.
This doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is awful, misguided, or wrong. In fact, helping them slow down a touch and focus on being-related issues often redoubles their commitment to what they’re doing. Yet this work often comes partway into a very scary and painful crisis.
It doesn’t need to be this way.
Some of the reason, however, is environmental. It’s astonishing to me to see how many companies and professionals have lost touch with why they do what they do. Simon Sinek’s wildly popular initial TEDx Talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en) brilliantly challenges people to communicate with others from a source of why rather than from how or what. It’s so powerful because it’s so simple.
Yet how in the world have we come to a place where most companies and people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing? Isn’t this a shocking situation?
I think, in part, it’s because the means of work—the how and the way—have evolved so dramatically in the last few decades. It really is nothing short of astonishing. The whole nature of communicating, adding value, and developing professionally is light years ahead of what it was in the early 1990s. To some degree, people are just attempting to keep up.
I also think that many companies have so emphasized short-term growth—often at the expense of long-term sustainability—that people are forced to buy a ticket on the wild and addictive ride of manufacturing immediate results. This approach basically dismisses the state of being as an irritating obstacle to growth.
But, ultimately, regardless of the environment, this is a personal choice. And, interestingly, I’ve found that when the being state comes into focus the doing state comes alive. Said a different way, when a person ignores being, doing eventually suffers. But when a person embraces being, the doing side flourishes.
The harmony of the two—sometimes antithetical to Western thinking—creates a stronger whole.
It doesn’t need to be one or the other. Noted author Jim Collins had right when he said that we often allow the “tyranny of the OR” to guide our decision making. We can DO and BE on a regular basis.
So, in this season of holidays, time off, and reflection, attempt to engage and enliven the being side of yourself.
Here are some specific ideas:
- Have some no-activity time with your family or friends. Just spend time together without an end purpose in mind.
- Lose yourself in a hobby, such as gardening, hiking, or woodworking.
- Spend some time journaling your thoughts, ideas, or feelings. It can be hard to do without a script to follow, but try it out.
- Follow an artistic impulse. Write a story, paint a picture, learn an instrument.
- Write your personal vision statement for three years from now. What will your life be like personally, professionally, and financially?
- Connect with those you love. Nothing nourishes the soul like meaningful connection.
And when you get back to work, all the challenges will be there—you might just handle them better because of your commitment to BE something.
Photo credit: Flickr/najibexpert