I recently heard this quote and it has been bouncing around my head ever since: “We need to stop becoming a human-doing and instead become a human-being.”
A human-doing is a person who is focused on doing things. Accomplishment, task lists, full calendars and the constant activity is where a human-doing lives. Constantly on the run and always somewhere to go and something to do. We become so obsessed with getting it all done, getting the inbox to zero that we have forgotten why we are doing it. Stephen Covey aptly captured this with is story about the people in the jungle cutting down trees and ignoring the person who was up top yelling down to them that they were in the wrong jungle.
Becoming a human being requires time. It’s not a sprint but multiple marathons over a long time. I don’t run, but as I understand it, you should not run a marathon every day and according to this article you really shouldn’t run more than two every year.
Life is the same. We cannot go full steam all the time. It’s one of the reasons we need to sleep. Our bodies and minds need time to recover and replenish themselves. Studies on sleep, athletic recovery and how even reflection can help us improve our performance abound. So why do we keep getting caught in the same traps? (And by “we” I’m really talking about myself here).
A personal dive into my own reasons reveals that I have an intense desire to prove myself. Imposter syndrome abounds in my psyche and the need to keep up with what I feel is an acceptable level of output is certainly part of my drive. Part may also be due to the desire to not let others down. I have an intense sense of duty and obligation. If I make a promise, implicit or explicit, I do everything I can to keep that promise, no matter what. For better or worse, that puts pressure on my to do everything I can to make deadlines, even if things have changed since.
How, then, does one break the cycle? I have heard of instances where people have been forced to stop and take a break, usually some kind of health wakeup call is involved. But I would hope that we can avoid something like that.
There are any number of times we can take a break. Sundays are usually a good time for most people since they tend to not have much happening on those days. But any time is a good time to take a break and reevaluate how you are doing.
New Years is a traditional time to pause and take stock of where one is. The Groundhog Day Resolution system David Seah has set up is a good mechanism as well. Instead of doing what everybody else does and cram a set of ill-thought-of goals into your year, taking a full month to reflect and think and finally, carefully and deliberately plan out what you want to accomplish in the coming year is a good program.
Finally, those times when you are forced into isolation either because you are sick or because you need to stay home and take care of family can also provide a good opportunity to slow down and reflect. There are brief periods during those times when you can pause and take stock of where you are and what you really want to do.
Earlier this week I had a the chance to just lay in a hammock and take some time and think. It was a great pause and gave me a chance to reflect and I highly recommend it when you get a chance. Carve out some time in the coming weeks and see what you can do to be more of a human-being instead of a human-doing.
Photo by Samuel Austin on Unsplash