Saturday, February 13, 2010

Being vs Doing

We took the day off the other day, jumped in the sports car, and drove to a friend's Winery (Brandy Creek Winery and Restaurant) for a long, languorous and delightful afternoon of delicious food, great wine and wonderful philosophical conversation and company.

Looking out over the absolutely stunning view, and with a glass of heavenly red in my hand, I asked my friend Rick Stockdale, one of the co-owners of the estate, what he thought was the most life enhancing thing a person could do. His response, and one that runs as a thread throughout the many blog entries I've shared with you, is that creating 'Quality Time' in your life is one of the most important skills and activities that you can do to enhance your life.

As Rick points out, too often people focus on achievement and on rushing from one goal to the next -- and in doing so, they don't remember to sit back and savour and enjoy the journey. Isn't it the case that we sometimes put too much value on quantity at the cost of quality? And too much focus on doing versus simply 'being' -- making quality time to enjoy the simple pleasures of being alive on this wonderful planet?

Transcendental change versus Generative Change

The challenge is that modern society has grabbed onto the Generative Model of Change. This is the model that says that no matter how good life is, we can always make it better. It's about more passion, fun and achievement NOW!!! This is a model that fields like NLP have been promulgating and installing for over 30 years and it has crept insidiously into many areas of management, training, education and marketing.

It's very seductive and it does support success. However... if you follow it slavishly, you'll end up on the treadmill of a 'more the more pattern'... the more you follow the model, the more success you enjoy and achieve, the more reinforced you are to continue making bigger and bigger dreams, goals and outcomes and the more you focus on achieving more. And along the way, if you aren't careful... you get lost in the constant drive for more.

In Positive Psychology this is described as the 'hedonic treadmill' and is an enemy to human happiness. So whilst the achievement of goals and outcomes makes you feel good fleetingly, the constant pressure and drive for success, stresses you unconsciously and wears you down, ultimately eroding your true happiness.

The Generative Model can be contrasted with what I call the 'Transcendental Model of Change'. In this model, we focus on meaning and purpose; on why you think and feel you are on this planet, with this particular life, and are here to experience and learn. It's about transcending the constant need for '$uccess' and 'Achievement'. Indeed, it's more about the 'how' and the 'quality of being' in which you are doing whatever achieving and success'ing that you are doing in your life.

Focus on Qualities

With transcendental change -- with a focus on being versus doing -- it's OK to have times where you don't actually need to do any changing. If the 'how' of your life is aligned with your purpose and with the deeper meaning of life, then you can happily stay exactly where you are. Of course in the massively changing world we live in, it's impossible to stay 'exactly' the same. However, at the level of process, of 'how', of qualities and process values, you can 'change to stay the same'. In other words, you can stop constantly striving for more and more, and make quality time in your life'ing to just be connected, centered, happy and flowing.

Naturally there are many skills and competencies involved in what I've just said. And over the coming weeks and months I'll be blogging on these and sharing them subtly and overtly with you in this blog. So keep reading, and you should find your mind and attention seeing the world in new and life enhancing ways.

And along the way, as of today, begin to notice more and more the opportunities for making 'Quality Time' an important process value in your life. Create the time and space to think about and focus on what sort of Qualities you want in your life each and every day and then put them gently and surely into practice. Take time out from the hectic race for more and more, get off the hedonic treadmill, and just enjoy 'being'. Learn and make time to meditate. Make time to pamper your self. Get out for a walk in the forest. Connect with nature. Enjoy quality time and conversing with people you love and care about. Connect with your self.

At the end of your life, looking back, it won't be how many material items you accrued, or how big your house was, or how many cars you owned, that makes your life worthwhile. It will be the quality of your relationships, the quality of your experiences and the quality of the person you are that really counts.

Bliss Pointing

Life enhancing is about quality and quantity. Not one at the expense of the other. There's a bliss point and a balance. So take time to reflect and examine how you are lifeing. And what better way to do that, than over some wonderful philosophical conversation and a delightful meal for the senses such as can be found at Brandy Creek.

wishing you life enhancing being and doing

and here's some interesting and thought provoking reading that you might choose to add some value to your life:

A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough

"More people than ever are tyrannized by modern life and the incessant compulsion to do, go, and achieve. Is the price we pay for these goals worth it? In this luminous book, nationally renowned author and therapist Wayne Muller shows us how to pay attention, notice, and appreciate what really matters. Quite frankly, this book can preserve your sanity and save your life."

From Being to Doing. The Origins of the Biology of Cognition

"At the beginning of the last century, physicists revolutionised the scientific view of the world. Today biologists are radically transforming our understanding of the processes of life and cognition. Probing the mysteries of the mind, they have been able to prove that, in the act of knowing, the observer and the observed, subject and object, are inextricably enmeshed. The world we live in is not independent from us; we literally bring it forth ourselves. One of the protagonists of this new kind of thinking is the internationally renowned neurobiologist and systems theorist Humberto R. Maturana who was interviewed for several weeks by Bernhard Poerksen, journalist, and communication scientist. In this book, they explore the limits of our cognitive powers, discuss the truth in perception, the biology of love, and give, all in all, an introduction to systemic thinking that is down to earth, imaginative, and rich in anecdote."

Walden - Henry David Thoreau

"A truly classic treatise on being and doing. First published in 1854, Henry David Thoreau's groundbreaking book has influenced generations of readers and continues to inspire and inform anyone with an open mind. Thoreau lived at Walden Pond from July 1845 to September 1847, chronicling his experiences there. It was an experiment in living a life unhindered by social trappings and tradition, defining what it truly means to be human."


  1. truly marvelous post, something our current humanity need to take lessons and am gladly seeing many more people are striving this path. To me the world seems to be a happy place for our future generation and hopefully for current one too :-)

    1. Hey Carbon Savvy, thanks for your positive comment, totally agree, current humanity, especially in the western world, needs the lessons inherent in this post. If we stopped the hunger of greeding, and learned to truly be 'in-joy-in-ourselves' then we'd stop destroying our planet and learn to connect and care more for each other, for the world and for all of life!

  2. What a great distinction. And I thought I was transcending my static self by embracing the verbs in my life and focussing on "doing". Another brilliant QA for lifing. Thank you Grant.

  3. I love your piece of writings, this is one of my favorite article posts on your blog. Additionally, there is one more great being vs doing article I found and you may want to give it a read.


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