What the heck is the Being & the Doing?
Feel like life balance is fleeting in your crazy busy life? That’s because you have been thinking about it all wrong. In this episode learn what you need to do so you can go with the flow of life while still getting stuff done.
HIGHLIGHTS YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS
- why is this conversation so important 1:35
- what the heck is “being” and “doing” 4:10
- 3 impacts not not balancing the being and doing in our lives 7:25
- 4 reasons why we spend so much time doing 12:30
- what would a balance of being and doing look like? 18:14
- this episode’s homework 22:50
*Please see full transcript at the bottom of the page.
Here’s the link to the page for your Being & Doing homework. It includes a little guide with some ideas about making time for both action and awareness. Download it HERE. When you grab it you will also get my weekly tips about living life the mindful way.
Here’s a blog about how to find life balance
THIS EPISODE’S HOMEWORK
Something to think about:
What is the story I tell myself about why I can’t spend more time being?
Something to try:
Choose one thing and take it off your to-do list. Discard it, delegate it, abandon it.
Then notice your reaction – the stronger the reaction, the more likely you are out of balance.
Want to hear more of The Being & The Doing podcast or subscribe so you never miss an episode? Check out the podcast episode archive or subscribe on iTunes.
CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is Good Morning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Laurel: Hey, lovely ones, welcome to Episode 1 of The Being and the Doing. Today is the inaugural show of The Being and the Doing Podcast, and I’m so delighted that you have decided to embark on this journey with me. So we’re going to start with the basics.
Today, we’re going to define what ‘being and doing’ means, what it has to do with life balance and well-being and why a sense of balance is so darn elusive. And, how to start shifting into a new way of thinking. First, for some of you, the language of ‘being and doing’ it’s just fine, but for some of you, it might feel, I don’t know, a little new-agey or fluffy. So let’s not let words get in the way of this very important conversation.
‘Being’ is awareness and ‘doing’ is action. So substitute those words for ‘being and doing’ if it feels more comfortable to you. We’ll dive deeper into what ‘being and doing’ means in a few minutes, but right now, let’s start with why this conversation is so important.
I’ve spent many, many, many years as a life coach and when clients come to me, they typically have a conversation that is something like: “Why can’t I find life balance? or … Why is life so hectic? They wonder, why is it so busy? Why can’t I seem to get done the things that I want to get done? I wish I had a little more peace and calm conversation really about life balance.” And they never seem to be able to find it. It seems elusive and sometimes I can’t seem to find it and I bet, sometimes, you can’t seem to find it either.
Partly, I don’t know, that’s because people have this unrealistic expectation about life balance that somehow we’re going to find this steady state, Zen-like experience. You know, we’re sitting in a full Lotus position on a Mountaintop and the sun is rising in the background and all is calm and wonderful with the world.
Yeah. Except life is not usually like that. Well, at least not all of the time. Life is naturally chaotic. It’s unexpected, it’s random. You know, there’s that saying that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. So balance really is more about learning to go with the ebb and flow of life. Being able to manage the chaos that happens in life. I’m going to put a link in the show notes to a Blog that I wrote about this if you want to read a little bit more about this idea of Chaos in life and natural chaos, and the chaos that we create.
So I’ve come to realize that the balance that we’re looking for, the balance that we expect, this sense of life not totally being out of whack all the time, it really doesn’t come from figuring out a new way to do more stuff or to do it faster or to do it better. It’s not really about time management. I think balance comes from not balancing tasks and time, but about balancing ‘being and doing’, the ‘being and doing’ parts of our lives. And when we do that, it actually allows us to go with the ebb and the flow, to ride the ups and downs, be able to manage that chaos.
So let’s dive a little bit deeper into what ‘being and doing’ actually means.
I know for a fact that you are a ‘doing’ expert. I know that because everyone I meet is a ‘doing’ expert, I am a ‘doing’ expert. ‘Doing’ is action, productivity, activity, tasks, goals. ‘Doing’ is outwardly focused. We’re wanting to fix or change something, we’re wanting to get stuff done. We want to move from something being incomplete to something being complete. It’s focused in the future, how things are supposed to be or what it is that we want it to be like when we change it or fix it or get it done. And it really is our default mode. We’re all ‘doing’, we all have to-do-list. We all are focused on getting the next thing done.
‘Being’, on the other hand, is inwardly focused. It is awareness and introspection and reflection. ‘Being’ is really about who we are. It’s about the qualities that we have, our core values, what are most important to us, the assumptions that we make, the beliefs that we have, the judgments that we hold. It’s really about our worldview or the way in which we make sense of the world. Right now, I think this experience of not being in balance is because we’re all about the ‘doing’ and not so much about the ‘being’.
You know, in simpler times, we moved more at the rhythm of nature. So let’s think about farmers. So when we were primarily agrarian kind of society, everything moved in the rhythm that nature created. We planted, we grew, we harvested, we rested and of course, certainly, farmers still do that today. But we had a cycle that inherently in the cycle of what we were doing there were periods of rest. There was even probably, for most people, a day of rest in their week. And now, we’re just addicted to speed. We’re addicted to achievements, getting stuff done, addicted to consumption. That adrenaline rush that hit of dopamine, every time we use technology or technology now has been created to make neurotransmitters go crazy in our brains.
Because we’re waiting for the next beep or buzz or hit of what happens when we are texting or surfing or tweeting or scrolling or anything that we’re doing on technology. So you might say, well, so what? The 21st century is a busy place, Laurel, get over it. Okay, except there’s this cost to not balancing the ‘being in the doing’.
So let me share what I see is three impacts of not having that balance. So number one; if we’re constantly in action ‘doing’, we function on autopilot and we have to function on autopilot in order to survive because we’re going from this thing to the next thing to the next thing to the next thing to the next thing. And, by necessity, we have to do things in that sort of sleepwalking mode just in order to get everything done, all of the demands that we’re placing on ourselves.
Number two. When we’re in that state, we don’t make conscious decisions. Well, we can’t because we’re sleepwalking or not paying attention, we’re on autopilot. We’re not actually paying attention to the decisions we’re making, we’re actually making the decisions that we habitually make. We do what we’ve always done before.
And the third thing, the third kind of impact of not having a greater balance between ‘doing and being’ is that we really don’t prioritize. Well, of course, we’re not prioritizing because we’re not paying attention. We’re just doing the next thing and the next thing that we do is often the loudest thing because that’s what gets our attention.
So whether that next loudest thing is from our own inner chatter, “You should do this, this needs to get done, do this, and do this.” Or whether that chatter is coming from someone else, someone, outside of ourselves, who’s saying, “Hey, you should get this done, this is important. I need you to do this, fix this change this.”
So our thoughts become these relentless taskmasters, whether they’re thoughts that are originating in our head or the thoughts that we’re playing as someone who’s been saying to us, “Do this, do this, and do this.” So ‘being’, awareness, actually gives us the opportunity to reflect, to make conscious choices so that we can align our actions with her priorities. So that what we’re doing, what we’re spending our time doing, is a really good reflection of what is actually important.
‘Being’ gives us this pause, a pause that lets us take in what is actually happening around us and within us. Where we can notice our emotions and whether the thought that we’re having at any time actually has merit. Because thoughts are not facts and they’re not instructions, but we treat them that way when there’s no opportunity to be so that we can reflect on it.
Balancing ‘doing and being’ is really what we need if we’re going to have a greater sense of balance. It has to be a balance because all ‘doing’ or all action doesn’t work either. Because then we’re not making any informed choices. When we’re all ‘doing’, we’re habitual. We’re living out this unconscious reflection of our underlying worldview, our beliefs, and our assumptions. When we’re not taking the time to pause and be, then habitually, we’re just doing what it is that are underlying thoughts and beliefs and assumptions are telling us.
And there’s an energy to ‘doing’ or an energy to too much ‘doing’ has a lack of joy or a feeling like life has lost its spark, it just feels stale. Sometimes clients will describe it to me as being on the hamster wheel around and around and around and around and around and there’s no joy. There’s no delight, there’s no contentment.
All ‘being’ or all awareness doesn’t work either because we’d never get anything done, right? You can’t just sit in awareness and reflection, in having this deeper growing understanding of yourself and never get anything done. And there’s an energy to that too, of too much ‘being’. I kind of create a sense of anxiety or ungroundedness. Even a feeling of stuckness where it’s, you know, yeah, I have an understanding but I can’t get started. And because we can overcome that inertia, we feel frustrated and discouraged.
So what we really need is this flow between the ‘being and the doing’. Not all ‘doing’, not all ‘being’ but a flow back and forth. This might make perfect sense to you. You might think, yeah, okay, I get that. Which might also then prompt another question about well, then why don’t we have this balance? Why don’t we have a flow back and forth between ‘being and doing’? And I think there’s four reasons why.
The first reason is really a cultural one. That culturally, we value ‘busy and doing’. ‘Busy’ is good. Really ‘busy’ is even better, crazy ‘busy’ is the best. You know, someone says to you, “Well, how are you?” The most common response now is, busy. And if you were to say, “Well, you know, not too bad. I’m not busy. I don’t really have anything to do, not doing anything.” People have a judgment around that, “Oh, it must be nice that you don’t have anything to do because I have so much to do.” And think culturally when we first meet someone, what do we typically say? “Oh, hi. What do you do?” So we place this value on what we do. The world of ‘doing’ actually defines us right now.
I think that’s one of the reasons why people struggle with retirement because they’re now leaving the work of ‘doing’. How they have spent a lot of years 30 40 years sometimes ‘doing, defining themselves that way and now, oh, I don’t have that way in which to define myself and so it feels a little unsettled. And our self-worth is wrapped up in our accomplishments. Because we know what we do is valued, there’s this pressure to do and keep doing and do a little bit more.
The second reason is really, we’re kind of afraid about what might happen if we stop doing that. We’re not really comfortable with that ‘being’ place, we’ve practiced ‘doing’, we’re super-doers. But yeah, I don’t know, I don’t know how to handle that ‘being’ place.
There was a study at the University of Virginia in 2014, looking at people’s choices about essentially ‘being and doing’ even though they weren’t calling it that. And people had the opportunity to opt out of the activity of sitting quietly with their own thoughts. So when asked to sit quietly alone with their own thoughts for a period of 15 minutes, there was a significant portion of people who found that so uncomfortable. So aversive that they opted to give themselves a little trick shock to sort of distract themselves from being there with their thoughts. They had a button that gave them just a very mild shock and people couldn’t last for the 15 minutes without escaping from just ‘being’.
And what’s interesting is that those same people had earlier said in the study that they would pay to avoid having a mild shock, but now that was their choice instead of sitting there quietly with their own thoughts.
Reason number three is I think we’re also afraid that if we step into this ‘being’ space that is not defined by ‘doing’ that, oooh, nothing will get done. It’s like you’re either ‘being’ or you’re ‘doing’. And if we’re ‘being’ then nothing’s getting done and have you seen my to-do list? I have a lot to get done.
We have this bad habit of the more there is to do, the more that we do. And the more that we do, the more that we think that we have to do and we very much think it’s all or nothing, all ‘doing’, all ‘being’. Really that’s not the case. It’s about flowing back and forth. But it’s also about combining the two of them. We’ll get into that a little bit later.
And the fourth reason. Well, I call it the blessing and the curse of awareness. My clients experience this sometimes. Which is, once you know better, once you’ve had some awareness and reflection and you understand what’s going on around you or within you or you understand better your motivation for doing something, you’re kind of called to do better now; Oh, I know a little bit better. I have this awareness. I should do that slightly differently, except that we don’t. We have light bulb moments, ‘aha’ moments all the time, where we have this piece of awareness: “Oh great. Oh, I see clearly now. Yeah, that really means I should do something slightly different. Oh, I don’t want to do that.”
So the awareness wears off. It fades into the background. I sometimes describe it like you have a lightbulb moment and then you don’t use the awareness and now you’re back in the dark. And so it’s kind of unused and unused light bulb moment just leaves you in the dark. So sometimes clients actually lament the aha’s they might have that come in coaching because now it’s almost like, well, I’m making a conscious choice to not act on this awareness or information, a deeper understanding that I have. And that kind of makes you feel bad because now I’m making a conscious choice.
There is a way out of that. Any conscious choice that we’re making is more powerful than an unconscious choice. So what it actually looks like if you had more balance between ‘being and doing’? What would that look like for you? Let me paint you a bit of a picture.
You would flow between awareness and action. You’d end up making more conscious intentional choices and have fewer reactive or habitual ones. You’d have enough time, ‘being’ time, let’s call it that. You’re aware of your values, your core values and I mean really aware of them. Not just that sort of superficial, on the surface answer that people often say when you ask, what are your core values? What’s most important? What do people say? …
Family, which isn’t really a value. Family, world peace, something like that and my health. Yeah, except that’s just so vague and general that it really doesn’t help direct our actions, And I was going to make a great podcast one time really talking about what actually do core values mean. So you’d have a better awareness of not on the surface but really deep down.
What are the things that are most important to you? What kind of beliefs do you hold? Because beliefs direct our actions and just because you have a belief doesn’t mean that you always have to have that belief, we change our beliefs all the time. And so we become better aware of what is it that I’m actually believing about this. What assumptions I’m I making about something? And you’ll be able to recognize how these things all influence your choices and direct your behavior. And part of this picture is you’d still get stuff done, only you’d probably get it done more efficiently and more purposefully because it would be intentional and conscious.
So what if you were to start to bring some more ‘being’ back into your day? Some moments of pause and reflection that you can then use to help inform what you’re doing? Here’s a simple one. No matter what you’re doing you can pause and ask this question. Given my current priorities, is this the best use of my time and energy? Now if you say, “Yes it is.” Then it’s great, carry on. And if you say, “Yeah, no, not really. This is not used the best use of my time and energy.” There’s a follow-up question, what would be a better use? And you will know the answer.
Then there’s the blessing and cursing of awareness. You will either decide that you’re going to act on that and shift what you’re doing or you’re going to go back to doing what you were doing before the light bulb goes off. The ultimate balance of ‘being and doing’ would mean that we are engaged in purposeful activities in a way that authentically reflects who we are.
Let me say that again. When we balance ‘being and doing’, when we flow back and forth between them, we’d be engaged in purposeful activities in our lives, in a way that authentically reflects who we are. Doesn’t that sound good? That’s really kind of the whole idea of mindfulness is sort of marrying these two ideas of ‘being and doing’. So mindfulness is really about ‘being’ while ‘doing’. So it’s not first I’m ‘being’ then I’m ‘doing’. Mindfulness is really about infusing the two of them together that I’m actually ‘being’ while ‘doing’.
Hey, let’s begin at the beginning. Let’s just start to bring some ‘being’ back into our day so that we can start to get things more balanced. And then we can talk later about how it is that we can ‘be’ while ‘doing’.
You know, this is a really big conversation and that’s why we got a whole podcast series about how we can learn to bring the ‘being’ back into our lives and make the ‘doing’ more efficient and aligned with what’s most important. So we got lots of episodes to come. I’ve also come to believe that this balance is actually the key to your sense of well-being. That if you’re looking for well-being and who isn’t? That this is really at the heart of it.
But for now, let me leave you with a little ‘being and doing’ homework. Something to think about and something to try so you can grab a pen and write this down now. I also will leave it in the show notes. Also in the show notes, you’re going to find a note taking sheet that you might find helpful. So it’s a sheet that you can just download and be able to write your answers to your homework questions.
Here’s the thing. If you don’t write stuff down, it doesn’t really become real. So you can use the sheet if you want to use it or a journal or whatever works for you, put in your phone doesn’t matter. But the act of writing becomes an important one.
So here goes, something to think about. What is the story I tell myself about why I can’t spend more time ‘being’? Let me say that again for you.
What is the story I tell myself about why I can’t spend more time ‘being’?
Now, something to try. Choose one thing tomorrow and take it off your to-do list. Discard it, delegate it, abandon it. Take it off your list and then notice your reaction.
Now, you might even be having a reaction right now. Like whew, I’m not so sure about that. The stronger the reaction, the more likely you are out of balance in this ‘being and doing’ way of looking at things.
So there you go, a crash course in The Being and the Doing. Next time, I’m going to share some ideas about ‘well-being’ and why I think we’ve been approaching it all wrong. So until then lovely ones, pause, breathe and enjoy your day.