To Be or Not To Be
We live in a world with constant focus on what we – and everyone around us – have. We live in a world with constant focus on doing. As Professor Hinkle says in Frosty the Snowman, we are “busy, busy, busy!” What happens when we focus less on the having and the doing, and instead turn our focus to being?
How might our decisions shift if we focus on being true to our values?
To know our values in the first place takes a bit of reflection. If you’ve never done this, or if it’s been a while (because values can change over time), perhaps you will take some time to do that reflection now! Values are those things that we regard as important in life. You can find many lists online of “common” values to help get you started that will include things like authenticity, compassion, curiosity, determination, growth, humor, independence, optimism, recognition, service, wisdom. It’s helpful to brainstorm a longer list and then select the 5 most important ones. Once you have this list, you can frame your decisions based on that list as a way of being true to your values more of the time. As an example, if one of your core values is fitness – and this is top of mind – it will be easier to make healthy decisions about what you eat, drink, and do by simply asking “is this aligned with being fit?” That doesn’t mean you won’t ever choose a giant piece of cake, too many shots of tequila, or a sleep deprived night binge watching Netflix. It just means most of the time it will be easier, and feel good, to make choices that might otherwise be difficult.
How might our actions be different if we focus on being the way we want others to be with us?
Have you thought about how it feels to interact with you? Similar to aligning your decisions to your values, aligning your actions with the cliché (but very wise) expression “Treat others the way you want to be treated” is a very simple way to be a better person in your own opinion. Believe it or not, you create internal discord when you treat people in ways that you would not like to be treated. Have you ever snapped at someone and then felt a nagging feeling for a while afterwards? Maybe the whole day or longer? Perhaps that’s because – even if they ‘deserved it’ – you would not have wanted someone to snap at you. Or, consider you are at a gathering (pre- or post-COVID!). You meet one person who can’t seem to stop talking about himself in an obvious attempt to seem interesting, telling you everything he’s done and why it’s so exciting. You walk away a little exhausted. Next, you meet another person who seems genuinely interested in you. The conversation is actually a dialog (not a monologue) and you feel warmed by the experience. If you take this experience forward, perhaps the next time you are talking with someone you might remember to be interested in him rather than trying to be interesting to him. If you have ever had a really bad day, but then someone randomly was very kind to you and it made a world of difference, perhaps consider being kind to others especially when they don’t seem to deserve it (because perhaps they’re just having a really bad day!).
How might we attain our goals sooner if we focus on being the type of person who already achieved them?
Very often, people say that they will feel a certain way, or act a certain way, once they have something. For example, “I will be so happy once I lose those 10 lbs!” or “I will start tithing once I get out of debt!” The crazy, crazy thing is that by being that way first you actually can manifest the results faster. I’m not recommending that you drive yourself deeper into debt but by starting to “be someone who tithes” you can donate small amounts – perhaps it’s dropping change in that Ronald McDonald House container at the store counter, or ‘rounding up’ your purchase to the nearest dollar for a charity (which you can find even on places like GrubHub!) – you are training your brain how good it feels to do this. In turn your brain will start looking out for ways to bring in more money so you can do more of this activity (tithing) that feels good!
How might our experience be richer if we focus on being present in each moment?
Perhaps, though, these first 3 examples still include a lot of ‘doing.’ That’s why I’ve saved the most important for last: being present in each moment. Being present means your head and your heart are where you are, and engaged in what you are doing. Your mind is paying attention and you are bringing your full energy. How different is the experience of listening to someone tell you a story when you’re also scrolling through your phone on text, email or FB… vs. when you’re actually listening intently, looking at them and watching their expressions? How different is the experience of having dinner with the family happily engaged in conversation… vs. when your mind is on something that happened earlier or something looming in the future? Do you pause to notice a beautiful sunset, a huge full moon, or a tree that is 5 different colors at the same time? Like really see it and take in the magnificence, not just glance and casually, dismissively acknowledge it. Or miss it altogether. It’s easy to just dial it in. Others may not even notice how present you actually are. But being present is like starring in your own movie, and you can replay the scenes later. Dialing it in is like putting a life-size cardboard cutout of yourself there – you don’t get to really enjoy that scene and certainly won’t remember it later.
I invite you to take a break, at least once in a while, from all the doing and the having to BE. To be true to your values. To be the way you want others to be with you. To be the way you would be “when you have…” even before you have it. And to be present, as often and as fully as you can.