Human Being vs. Human Doing
The Pressure To Hustle
Eight years ago, I embarked upon the career path which brought me to this blog entry. For better or for worse (mostly the latter), I’ve had no gaps in employment since I started working. In hindsight, I appreciate what hustling hard for this long has done for me — awards & accolades, successful startups, multiple streams of income, etc. At the same time, I regret what it has undone for me — I sometimes struggle with restlessness, impostor syndrome, distractions, and the occasional emptiness. During my undergrad, I studied under Professor Garry Leonard. A cynical critic of modernity, he distilled the experience of modern life down to a sort of “relentless pursuit” driven by five distinct myths (which conveniently form the acronym, PEPSI) –
- Progress: You aren’t advancing far enough.
- Efficiency: You aren’t advancing fast enough.
- Perfection: You aren’t good enough.
- Satisfaction: You aren’t as happy as you can be.
- Innovation: You aren’t new or exciting enough.
Whether we subscribe to these myths or not, they are inescapable. They permeate our movies, music, television, literature, advertising and education. They present themselves to you when you scroll through your timeline, and on the walk to work; they present themselves to you while in line for groceries, and in the comfort of your own home. If you’re not critically examining your relationship with these messages, they can (and will) wear you down. For these myths are just that: myths — artificial constructions. By design, these myths have no end, making their dogged pursuit ultimately futile.
Hustling Harder Isn’t The Answer
When the first gears of the Industrial Revolution began to turn, we set in motion an arguably irreversible pressure to create, perform and exceed. In response to this pressure to hustle, we started hustling even harder (after all, we began competing against indefatigable machines). According to arecent survey by Ernest & Young, one third of full-time workers globally say that managing work-life has become increasingly difficult. 9,700 workers in the United States, Germany, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, India and the United Kingdom revealed that they are working longer hours and harder than ever before, leaving very little time for much else.
Are You Being?
What does it mean to be a Human Being? How does someone manifest mindfulness, awareness, openness and flow? Here’s the start of a list which will continue to grow as I unpack this concept:
- Does the right things
- Listens, and is receptive
- Understands why things are happening
- Driven by values
- Needs trust
- Practices rest & relaxation
- Not scared to fail
- Creates & nurtures
- Goes through transformations
- Questions answers
- Answers to ‘why
Are You Doing?
Now consider the other end of the spectrum, the Human Doing. How does someone manifest effectiveness, efficiency, determination and resilience? Here’s the start of another list which will continue to grow as I unpack this concept:
- Gets things done
- Active, and exerts
- Reacts to outside forces
- Driven by behaviour
- Needs control
- One speed: go!
- Motivated by success
- Plans and organizes
- Goes through changes
- Answers questions
- Answers to ‘how’
Being More Human
These days, I’m re-learning the benefits of stillness, rest, mindfulness and even boredom. I’ve gone so far in the direction of simply doing in the last few years that hitting the reset button could prove disastrous. Instead, in an effort to recalibrate balance between being and doing in a more sustainable way, here are a few practices which I’m bringing back into my life:
Don’t batch all your vacation days together for a 14-day dash around the world. Instead, consider going away for a weekend. Try taking days off in the middle of the week, or working from home. Take little jaunts, but often.
There’s an immediately noticeable difference in your ability to focus when devices aren’t competing for your attention. Every so often, turn your phone off. Not silent. Not on night-mode. Completely off. Manage your distractions — don’t let your distractions manage you.
Leave your phone at your desk and go for a walk. Don’t plan your destination, just get up and start walking. Walk until you find what you’re looking for (which is usually yourself).
Don’t bring your work to bed. And wean yourself off all blue-light emitting devices a good two hours before bed so as to not scramble your sense of day & night. Give yourself the 7–8 hours of quality sleep your body needs.
Art, Not Design
Design is something you do for clients, while art is something you do for yourself. Produce things for an audience of one. Write, sketch, play, create. Whatever your medium, build time into your week for making art.
Don’t look for benefits in all of your leisure activities. Not everything needs to support your health, wealth and other underlying/overlapping objectives. Sometimes, it just need to simply support your happiness.
The Being/Doing Paradox
Being and doing are sometimes at odds with one another. Excessive doing can produce anxiety, burnout and fatigue. Excessive being on the other hand, flirts with lethargy, inertia and indecision. As with anything in life, a balanced approach is needed. Hustle responsibly to improve your station in life as well as the quality of your leisure. But at the same time, make sure you’re cultivating the time and mind-state to enjoy the goods of your grind.
Do, so that you may improve the quality of your being. And be, so that you may improve the quality of your doing.
This post was originally published on Medium.