A Coaching Power Tool created by Shobha Naidu
(Intercultural Coach, INDIA)
We are human beings, not human doings. Deepak Chopra
“Being” and “Doing” are perhaps the two most commonly used words in any language, and the debate between the two is a very old one. These two states are familiar to all humans, and all philosophies have underlined the value and necessity of “being” and “doing” for a balanced life. From modern times however, and with the industrialization of our societies and improved economic growth, “doing” has been perceived as more gainful and superior to “being”, and therefore, advocated and pursued more diligently.
Action is intrinsic to “doing” and action in itself is not a bad thing, for it is only through action that we interact with the outer world and with others. We learn, we make progress and we move forward. The state we are concerned with here is the state of “doing” that is one which is execution oriented, and in which we are perpetually compelled to action and performance.
The state of “being” in the Oxford dictionary is just described as existence, nature and essence. The description sounds so simple and suggests that it is a state that is within everybody’s reach. But in our pursuit of growth and development, we have often mistaken the “doing” for the “being” and have therefore pursued the “doing” even more intensely. “Being” can best be described as a reflective state, one of contentment and awareness, and in which one is more inward looking and in that sense, self sufficient. When one feels a heightened sense of “being”, there is a greater awareness of the present moment, and the person feels anchored in the now. While “doing”, one is perpetually outward looking, externalizing, interacting, and is more future oriented.
Hamlet, in contemplating the nature of action, says some of the greatest lines that Shakespeare has ever written on the topic of human “being”.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
Modern day working relationships need us to be continuously in a state of “doing”, in an interactive mode, performing tasks, locally, globally, virtually, across silos, multi-tasking, and available 24/7. The technologically connected world has also greatly enhanced the “doing” space. We can ‘do’ more, just at the click of a mouse. But in the din of these remarkable technologies that we are surrounded with, the question that begs to be asked is “what are we really “doing?” Is “doing” just about the quantifiable? Is the “doing” space a checklist of items? How can we function from a greater sense of “being” while “doing?”
Technology has entered our lives as never before, in seductive forms that make connections, entertainment, learning, work so easy and accessible. There are more opportunities out in the world, than we have ever had. The world has shrunk and become “flat”, and there are new geographies that offer new scope. Home offices are becoming more common, and working out of home is becoming an acceptable arrangement for Corporates. But with all these conveniences, the line between office and home has blurred, and as a result of which we ‘do’ even more. Many of us have become compulsive workers, reaching for our laptops, mobile phones, PCs, tablets…clicking, scrolling, connecting, always “doing”. Why this frenzied pace to ‘do ‘everything? Are we afraid that if we slow down, we might miss something?
A “doing” state is also about the beliefs that we have about ourselves. “Doing” is perhaps a more reassuring state, because the more we do, the more we have. It keeps us occupied, and it is gratifying to see the results of our actions. “Doing” is also associated with hard work, while “being” is often perceived as passive and worse still, as laziness. A “being” state is not easy and implies some amount of detachment from the world around us, and even from ourselves and our actions. This does not mean that one does nothing and just expects things to happen. It simply means, putting greater awareness into our actions instead of acting in a compulsive manner, and “being” more discerning about what we ‘do’. It takes considerable effort to ‘be’ with oneself and in reflection.
“Doing” on the contrary creates attachment and gives a sense of security. As children we have been urged to action: “do something, don’t just sit around” is what most parents will say, and in this way, “keeping busy”, “being active”, ‘being on the go” has become associated with a good way to ‘be’. In our adult lives, the media images that are bounced at us are all about “DO, “Do”, “Do”, “Go”, “Go”, “Go”, and there is so much emphasis put on having an agenda, on staying busy, just doing as much as you can. A perpetual state of activity creates restlessness and more wants. So much of our activities are happening so fast, sometimes even as automatisms.
Deepak Chopra on You Tube says:
As I was waiting at the train station in Barcelona, I noticed that the person next to me kept looking at his watch, even though he knew what time the train was coming. It made me contemplate how we have become human doings instead of human beings.
We ‘do’ because we must, and it would seem that the French Philosopher Rene Descartes’s famous aphorism “I think, therefore I am” could today, more appropriately be rephrased as I do therefore I am. We get a sense of “being” from “doing” and maybe that’s why we ‘do’ more. When you can ‘be’ you look within yourself and it is a state where “less is more”.
Standing still, you overtake those who run. The Upanishads (Ancient Indian philosophical discourses).
Being + action = right action, because there is greater awareness of being
- What do you feel when you step back from always “doing”, and allow yourself to become a witness to your actions?
- What do you think would be the result of activity conducted without reflection?
- How do you think you could create a greater sense of “being” in your life?
In a state of “being” there is stillness and calm, and awareness about the fact that we have a perpetual ability to create more needs, hence be “doing” all the time. This awareness can help the client to step back and become a non-judgmental observer of his / her intense, sometimes frenzied activity, and the anxious wait for results. The client can then become more in tune with his / her authentic self and have the necessary detachment to take wise and well thought out decisions. Needs get reduced, the noise gets less, and a harried client in particular can move towards a more contented life.
The coach can bring a very busy client to a greater state of “being” by encouraging the client to do a reality check from time to time and ask: “what state am I in, right now?” and “is all this running around and “doing” really serving me?” If the answer is no, the client will understand that he / she will need to let go. Established in “being” brings greater clarity and focus into one’s life, and makes us more productive. We spend less nervous energy dealing with innumerable wants and distractions, and remain focused in a state of relaxed alertness.
As the client goes through the process of moving from a perpetual state of “doing” into one of “being”, ask him / her to observe the changes that happen. The client will notice that in many instances he / she is being driven to “doing” and feels in control and feels a sense of loss without the “doing”. His or her language itself will be more rushed, busy, nervous, maybe distracted and even breathless…The moment the client realizes this, he / she has already stepped into a greater sense of “being” and to gaining more control over his / her own life. The client can also be encouraged to spend 5 minutes from time to time, not “doing” anything but staying silent and reflective.
The choice is yours. If you choose to function from a state of “being” you can bring more meaningful action into your life and create greater well being. As Lao Tse says:
When the water is muddied how do you see the bottom? Let it lie still, and then you will
- What are you afraid of losing, if you were to stop “doing” something?
- What are some behaviors that you can adopt to be more established in a state of “being”.