I’ve struggled with the idea of becoming something better my entire life. It’s led to so much pain – bad business investments, bad personal choices, misunderstanding the importance of status, job titles and the value of money. Life is sweet when you focus on “doing better” instead of trying to “be better”
Focus on the doing rather than the being
As I was reading different posts on this subreddit, something struck me odd and it led to this post. Don’t get me wrong, the notion of “deciding to be better” isn’t wrong, it’s actually quite positive. However, I think the sentiment is a tad misguided. In my recent experiences, I’m realizing that deciding to be better would be better framed as deciding to do better. Because being present, and finding joy is in the doing and not the being.
A bit of background as I try to work my way to making my point.
A few weeks ago a friend posted on Facebook that he was buying a Tesla. And then another one posted the same thing. And another posted about their new job, a very high level appointment at a high flying tech start up. Yet another posted incredible photos of a 3 week vacation they took around the world. And in all cases, instead of being happy for them, I felt a deep resentment and shame that it wasn’t me that was getting those things and having that sort of success.
It took me a few weeks to process those feelings. I hated myself for being angry, and envious. I hated myself even more for feeling shamed. Seriously, why was I feeling shame exactly?
Then a few days ago something changed inside me. I was thinking about my own journey, and how far I’ve come in the past few years. I quit a high paying consulting gig, stopped destructive and bad personal behavior and started meditating and journaling almost every day. I did this because I realized that those things were not leading me anywhere I wanted to go.
My inner voice started to whisper in my head, telling me that the anger and shame were misplaced. The voice was telling me that I was lying to myself about those feelings of anger and shame.
And also, what the hell do I care if a friend does well and buys a nice car, or gets a huge promotion. I mean really, good for them, right? Right!
And yet I was still struggling and having these feelings of shame and envy. I realized that my ego was telling me that I deserve more success. That I deserve more money and more status. That if my friends can get it, so should I!
What’s incredible is that I’ve spent the past 2.5 years redesigning my priorities and my life to escape exactly those traps!
I figured a few years ago that success, money and status is exactly the wrong road for me to travel. It’s a road that leads to loneliness and to my massive ego ruining my life. It’s me giving in to the matrix, taking the wrong pill. Walking the wrong road. And other quotes like that.
Goddamn ego man. It really is the obstacle.
The point is that deciding to be better is the wrong sentiment and can potentially lead to the wrong destination. But doing better, now that’s the right track. That’s having focus. Being in flow. Creating, producing and being productive. It’s subtle (sort of) and powerful.
And it’s all around if you look closely.
- Actors talk about doing the work is what leads to great performances.
- Writers talk about doing the work every day, without fail is the only way to produce anything worthwhile.
- Nick Saban (Head Football Coach, University of Alabama) created an entire process focused on “doing” that leads the Tide to being the best. It’s not being the best that makes you the best, it’s the doing part that matters!
I have found that focusing on my work and my own process is where I can relax and find joy. It’s where I am truly present. I never realized it before because I’ve been chasing “being” – status, titles, money, power. None of which is what I want.
And now, I really need time to figure what it is I want to DO. I can feel my ego fighting me even as I write this – egging me on, telling me to pick things that lead to money, status and power. And that little voice, gaining in strength every day is just whispering quietly, no. Don’t listen. Just go do stuff, experiment and figure out what it is you do. And then one day, you’ll BE happy.
Update: A thoughtful reader sent me a note about the last line of the post where I say “And then one day, you’ll BE happy.” Firstly how awesome that you read the entire post! Secondly, you are right that that line is problematic in that it is focusing on some future result. I didn’t intend it that way, I meant it in juxtaposition to the concept of being vs. doing, but I get your point loud and clear. Here’s to staying present!