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Doing or Being?

“We are not human doings, we are human beings.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “being” and “doing” as follows:

“Being – the state of existing, the most important or basic part of a person’s mind or self.”

“Doing – the act of making something happen through your own action.”

What is the difference between being and doing? 

“Doing” refers to the actions you take. “Doing” is an activity and implies a drive to accomplish or achieve things. It is centered on the future.  In modern times, “doing” is more socially valued. This is especially true today where we are motivated by progressing, advancing, and capitalizing on our successes.  


By spending a lot of your time in “doing” function, you may begin to have the nagging sensation that you should be doing more, something outwardly productive. Your identity may begin to be shaped by your perceived level of productivity.  You risk getting caught up in a frenzy or feeling like you're being driven by a motor.  Our 24/7 access to the online world can contribute to this.

“Being” refers to the core of who you are. It is focused inward and connects you to your essence. Humans are a combination of Mind, Body, and Spirit. Each of these components within you ought to work together to support the other’s roles.“Being” is acknowledging that your identity is not shaped by your productivity, but by your unique worldview: your beliefs, values, and principles. “Being” connects you to your meaning, purpose, and your “why”. 

Your “why” is the reason you do what you do. Don’t know your "why"? With reflection, you can explore this idea. Sit with the idea, self-examine, and learn what drives and motivates you. This can reveal information about who you are and why you experience the world as uniquely as you do. Thinking about your “why” can be especially helpful if you lack a sense of purpose or meaningful connection. If you begin to feel lost in your work, relationships, roles, or responsibilities, defining your “why” is the area you’ll want to explore. Knowing your “why” directly impacts your ability to settle into a place of “being”.

“Being” defines the spirit with which you show up in your day-to-day life. 

“BE-ing” motivates “DO-ing”.

“Being” might seem tricky or even daunting, but it’s also where robust, sustainable change happens. Often people who desire change set out to change on the “doing" level, but often it doesn't stick.  Deeply meaningful change starts in the heart, or within your being, and outflows from there. 

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” – Jean Shinoda Bolen

The Iceberg model - your being and doing modes.
The iceberg illustration captures doing and being modes. What is driving your doings? Whats your motivation and your why?

Here are a few steps to get you re-focused on “being”. Start with these questions:

1) Think about what’s important to you and what you’re about. 

2) Be okay with who you are right now. Give yourself permission to step back- letting go of your expectations for yourself and expectations of you from others. 

3) Explore what’s truly meaningful to you.  Explore here, here or here

If you think you might like to take a closer look at how you are functioning in life today, I offer a Discovery Intake Session. This is an opportunity to get a birds-eye view on where you are today and what you’d like to be moving towards tomorrow. This is a great opportunity to examine your “BE-ing” and to let the “DO-ing” flow from there.

The more acquainted you are with your “being”, the more purposeful and fulfilling your “doing” will become.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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