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The Road Ahead - Focus on Doing rather than Being

Don’t try to be better. Just do better for a fulfilling, joyful life

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!

Screaming into the Void

Lying to Myself (or How this Blog is Total Bullshit)

Lying to yourself is nasty business. It’s one of those things that while you are doing it, you don’t know you are doing it. But you are. Then something happens and you recognize the lie. At first, you can’t believe that you have been lying to yourself. All that meditation! All those blog posts! A year of journaling. I just realized in a blaze of glory that I’m lying to myself.

All it took was a moment in time. I brief insight I had while reading a book. And there it was. I am lying to myself about just about everything. Lies. Damn Lies. Sort of like statistics. No, exactly like statistics.

Since I started this blog I’ve been doing things differently in my life. First and foremost, trying to wake the fuck up and stop living my life based on what I think I should be doing, and getting some clue about what it is that I truly want. I’ve read so many books and blog posts and talked to so many people about their own lives and tried to understand what waking up really looks like. I’ve watched movies, looking for clues and walked in nature, literally trying to get lost to try to find myself. I’m such an imposter it’s astounding.

I’ve asked myself questions about who I am. Who I want to be. What I want to be. And not for lack of trying, but I’ve made progress. Wait, is that the right turn of phrase? Anyway, As of right now, coach.me says I have meditated 369 times. I’ve journaled just about every day for 1.5 years. I’ve exercised. I’ve started drawing again. Recently started Tai chi. So yes, I have been doing things. And yet, still lying to myself all the while.

It’s all bullshit. It’s bullshit because at my core, I’ve discovered, errr, rediscovered something I’ve known all along. It’s hard to see the progress when the big insights you have are the ones you already know. It’s like I’m”The Incredible Man with No Memory.”  My superpower is being able to ignore reality and live in the past and future, but never in the present moment. It’s remarkable. And it leads to lies. Lie after lie after lie. I’m lying to myself.

I'm lying to myself

It’s because I feel so alone. 

I can’t help it. I don’t know what to do about it. I sometimes wish I had drugs that would magically make me feel happy. Do those exist? Can I get some?

The crazy fucking bit about this is that I’m not alone. Hardly. I have so many people who love me. You know how I know this? Because one of the meditations I do is being grateful. I even blogged about it here. I know they love me and I am ever so grateful for them all. But it doesn’t matter because it’s bullshit because despite being grateful, I still end up feeling alone. And scared.

This blog post may invalidate every all the other blog posts on this site, or maybe it will prove that they are true. Either way, I call bullshit. I call bullshit on myself. I’m putting calamine lotion on 3rd-degree burns. I’m hiking Everest in shorts and flip flops. I’m a lying liar.

I’ve lied to myself for so long I can’t even remember when it started. I allowed my life to be dragged down the river. No oars. I’m just going wherever it takes me. And while that sounds awfully romantic and “presenty” (not a word), it’s bullshit. Like my lies. I have no control of myself. I’m out of control. I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to be doing, or who I’m supposed to be.

So what next?

How about I stop lying to myself.

It’s a great idea, right? Trouble is, I have no idea how to stop doing it. Also, I don’t even recognize when I’m doing it in the first place. So that may make it tricky as hell. But I am going to try. I’ve been trying something new in my morning pages – telling the truth. I know, novel right? But instead of just free associating what happened yesterday or writing about what TV show I watched or what thing I thought, I’ve started to actually be honest with myself.

A few days ago I wrote down the following gem in my journal…  “Fuck I’m so unhappy.” Then I wrote about why I thought that was and it was all lies, but the effort was there at the start. So it’s something to build on I guess.

I feel so fucking goddamn guilty about feeling unhappy. I feel like I’m betraying everyone I love because they all think I’m so well-adjusted and happy. I’m super good at lying to other people too apparently. Either that or they see right through it and are all wondering when I’m going to crack. 50/50 I’m guessing.

I hate feeling guilty about not being happy. It’s a ton of pressure. Sometimes I just want to be able to be sad. Wow, re-reading all that makes it pretty clear that I should re-think the drugs thing. Yikes.

So let’s recap:

  1. This blog is bullshit because I lie to myself. It stands to reason that most or all blog posts on this blog are also bullshit and full of lies.
  2. My attempts to be honest with myself are headlines at best. Getting past the surface level of honest is proving difficult or impossible at this time. Please hang up and try again.
  3. I probably should be on drugs of some sort. Either prescribed or recreational.

I don’t know exactly how to end this post. I wrote it because I had to get it off my chest – and to acknowledge that I’ve been lying to myself. And to you also of course. Once I hit publish I can either go back to lying or decide to stop. I desperately want to make the right choice here. And that’s not a lie.

 

Living Life To It’s Fullest Requires Mindfulness and Presence

Part of getting older now is this odd feeling of “Yep, I’ll never do that thing or this thing again, or ever for that matter.” Door feel like they are closing. And I guess that’s natural. At 46 as of this writing, I’m starting to feel scared that given the path I’m on right now, I’ll regret not doing certain things in my life. I’m not living life to it’s fullest.
When I think of having regrets like that, I say “Holy shit, I do not want to regret anything.” Given that there is still time on the clock, I don’t regret anything really. I own the choices I’ve made in my life and can live with my decisions and actions. It’s the stuff I’ve NOT done that is starting to scare me a bit.
I left home for college, got married, had kids. Lived on both coasts. Got jobs, quit jobs. Went on amazing vacations and more. All good decisions, all Carpe Diem. But it’s the things I haven’t done — the things that have truly scared me that worry me.
Like all of us, my journey has been an interesting one. But it’s not over yet. There is a lot more to do and to experience. As I’ve written on this blog, I’m experimenting and learning as fast as I can — or at least faster than I had been until somewhat recently! I do know that while the path I’m on today is better than it was a few years ago, it’s still not quite right.
But on deeper introspection over the past few days as I’ve been writing this post, I realized that this must be how life works. The figuring it out part is life – the really real actual journey. I feel like I have known this for a while but for some reason it is only now sinking in. If life were a movie (I know, it’s not!) then this would be the montage sequence where I struggle and try and fuck up and learn and grow and figure out which direction to head. My character “arc” would progress and I’d learn something new that would lead to growth and change. I feel as if I have managed to ignore a lot of the growth I should have had the past 20 years and now that I’m cognizant of it, I can pay attention to it and honor it.

So, what does it mean to live life to it’s fullest?

What I’m slowly realizing is that the destination is a by product of all that figuring stuff out — let’s call that part “Living life to it’s fullest.” It requires mindfulness and presence. Both things I struggle with. This is an entirely new way to look life for me and it’s a bit disorienting. But it is exciting and feels positive and good. I’m going with it. Because if I’m on my deathbed with regrets, that would be bad. I’d very much like to avoid that fate.
Ob-la-di, ob-la-da

Obla-di Obla-da

Apologies for the lack of posts recently.

I have been very busy living life as an experiment as I’ve written about previously.

Meanwhile, I have gotten a few emails from readers asking what I’ve been up to and to ask why I haven’t posted lately.

One e-mail said “So, friend, keep going, keep writing, keep creating; we are truly the creative masters of our world and reality” which resonated deeply with me as I plod along on my journey.

Another e-mail reflected “I have found myself becoming more and more disconnected and inactive in all areas of life and rarely feel excited or inspired by anything.” I can relate. I do relate.

I am so grateful for these e-mails and for anyone who stumbles across this tiny spot on the interwebs and reaches out to connect.

(more…)

Keep out Experiment in Progress

Living Life as an Experiment

Are you “living life as an experiment?” I finished reading the amazing book Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron last week and loved it so much, I went back through it and wrote down several pages of notes. As I was reading through them this morning over coffee, one jumped out at me as I try to live life as an experiment…

LIVING YOUR LIFE AS AN EXPERIMENT – adopt an attitude of “I’m not sure what will help in this situation, but i’m going to experiment and try this.”

As I re-read my notes, I realized how powerful this idea has become for me. As it turns out, I spent years and years doing things that felt like life or death – certain jobs that made me crazy, with people that made me crazy, doing things that made me want to jump out the window. I made huge life decisions not with the mindset of experimentation but with almost a life or death feeling.

As it turns out, I’m very good at living inside my own head and getting totally lost in a task, to the point of forgetting to be present and mindful of my entire life experience. As I’ve grown older and started to focus on my experiences, I’ve started to realize that that while being in “flow” is good, being ignorant to the world around me is not – it’s quite literally been keeping me from having a mindful, present life.

I recently took a step backward and asked myself “Okay, I’m living life as an experiment, then what’s an experiment?”

According to Wikipedia: An experiment is an orderly procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, refuting, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated.

I’ve started to realize that I’ve allowed myself to not have an explicit hypothesis for anything. I’ve allowed myself to assume there are good reasons for doing things. All those have been subconscious and I’ve allowed myself to live a life where I’m not asking the conscious questions, nor am I living life as an experiment. And if I am, I’m a sloppy excuse for a scientist!

When I read that quote from Living Beautifully, I think something clicked and I started to write down and consciously think about what experiments I’m currently running and have pledged to gain insights into my thinking – and gain control of my life.

My most recent career experiment was to try to define the sort of work I want to do, on my own terms and to put myself into a small company or start up to validate if I actually like the chaos and uncertainty it brings. In the past I had flirted from job to job looking at each new challenge as an opportunity to make more money or find a new challenge to keep me excited. Instead, now I’ve got a working hypothesis that I’m testing in real-time.

I am also running an experiment with this blog and site as I try to connect with others struggling with living a conscious, present life. The hypothesis is that there are a ton of people, just like me who are struggling to wake up, they know there is more out there, but it feels awkward and scary to consider a totally different way of living.

With both these experiments, I’ve felt myself slipping back into being asleep, and have had to remind myself that I’m in the middle of an experiment! It’s a weird, uncanny feeling to be honest, but I’m pretty sure I’m on to something. I’m documenting the results and adjusting my experiments on a regular basis.

I’m wondering, does this resonate with you, are you running any experiments? How are you living life as an experiment?