I was having a conversation with a client about her life the other day when she said “I’m feeling much better, but there’s one thing that’s eating away at me and I’m feeling it more and more as I get older. I just want to achieve something important before I die.”
Her comment really made me reflect and ask myself how I felt about achievement these days. Achievement has been a major motivator in my life. There’s so much emphasis placed on doing things in our society. Being a Jewish girl from Brooklyn, New York, and having a father and older sister who are both ultra smart and successful lawyers, I have often felt the compulsion to live up to the achievements of my family and the society I grew up in. That feeling has often propelled me into actions that have really sapped my time and energy and not usually brought me fulfillment.
So, what does it mean to do something important? It’s all a matter of perspective of what we call ‘important.’ If we consider having lots of awards and titles and trophies important, then we may have ‘success’, but, from my experience, I feel good for about 10 minutes and then a voice inside starts asking, ‘What’s next? What else do I have to accomplish in order to maintain this feeling of achievement?’ The list is never-ending.
What to do?
It’s not that there is anything wrong with achieving things, but I have realized over the years that when I focus on ‘achievements’ as an end goal, I tend to go into autopilot mode and find that I criticize myself a whole lot and I lose sight of my deeper purpose.
The Difference Between Doing and Being
The Taoists have an expression “Do Nothing and Leave Nothing Undone.” It seems like a paradox — how can you Do Nothing and still Get things Done? –until you understand a concept that I started learning about years ago when I trained in the Alexander Technique: Non-doing.
There is a way that we can ‘do’ things without so much effort and tension. That’s what we were taught in the Alexander technique. To allow things to happen and BE a part of the action, without being the one to make the effort to DO it. To be able to NOT DO while DOING is quite a trick, but it becomes easier when you can learn to let go of the need to ‘DO’ and learn to ‘BE’.
‘Easier said than done,’ you say? Perhaps, but I actually feel that it’s our birthright to BE and it’s the graft of the personality, which isn’t who we really are, that DOES. I find the greatest sense of fulfillment when I make ‘being’ more of a priority than ‘doing.’
Look at a Mountain
I had a teacher once who pointed out that human beings spend their lives trying to accomplish things, but look at a mountain. Mountains don’t accomplish anything. They just sit there for thousands of years not ‘doing’ anything. But their beauty, magnetism and sheer presence provide inspiration, support and guidance to thousands (and sometimes millions) of people, plants and animals. And all they are doing is ‘being’ a mountain.
After moving to California and living in view of beautiful Mt. Tamalpais for almost two years and experiencing an entire album of music BEING written almost entirely from her inspiration, I really came to a deeper understanding of what my teacher was saying.
I’ve heard many masters say that ONE person vibrating in a high frequency (such as pure LOVE) contributes more to the planet than thousands of unconscious people who are busy DOING. So many people are looking for a way to contribute to society and if they only spent more time focusing on BEING, they would feel so incredibly fulfilled and satisfied with their contribution.
The Art of Being
So how do you do it? How do you learn the art of BEING? You practice. For me, Tai chi and Qigong are two forms of conscious movement that have really taught me how to practice being rather than doing. It’s not the only way, but it’s a way that I know and it works. 🙂 Through consistent practice focusing on the energy flow while performing the physical movements, eventually I started to experience a more consistent state of BEING. I wasn’t TRYING to make this happen. It just happened.
Are you living for others or living for yourself? A checklist:
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you set out to accomplish something:
- Are you passionate about it?
- Does it give you energy or do you feel depleted after working on it?
- Are you more concerned with how others respond to your achievement or how it makes you feel?
- Do you feel the need to tell others about your accomplishments?
- Are you measuring your success simply by the end result?
- What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?