Somewhere along the way in my journey to becoming a coach I remember reading the phrase “we are human beings, not human doings.” The author was making the point that as leaders we sometimes tend to focus solely on results and getting things done – the doing part of contributing to the systems we serve. And consequently, we sometimes forget about how we are achieving things – the being part, which can be critical to recovery and creating capacity in our teams and organizations. But what does it really mean; this doing versus being thing? We still have to get stuff done, you may be saying. And you would be right! Getting things done is important. I have come to learn firsthand, however, the powerful impact our way of being has on the quality of our doing.
Earlier this year, I received news that someone very close to me was potentially quite ill, based on the results of some routine medical tests. This news landed heavily. Reflecting back on that day, I now realize I went immediately and fairly unconsciously into my two well practiced default courses of action: worrying and doing. I suspect the first actually fuelled the second. I was of course very worried about all the potential fates that might befall this person so precious to me and I went into the immediate search for answers: talking to doctors, alternative health practitioners, manufacturers of nutritional supplements she was taking and of course I spent some time on-line. The latter did nothing for my peace of mind, by the way.
What I noticed after coming out of that fast but intense period of my search for answers was that I paid very little attention to how I was being through all of this – for my children who were watching and reading my signals, for others who would share my concerns, for myself. About two thirds of the way through the day I suddenly realized I had done all the doing I could do. Because all we could do was to wait for additional test results, there was really no doing left to be done. All that was left was to pay attention to how I was being. We all know that stress can have a profound impact on wellness – so what the heck was I doing getting myself stressed if what I wanted was vital health for this very important person in my life? What I needed to do was to trust that all the doing was done and NOT give fear all of my attention. Hard to do when you are scared out of your mind AND it can have a very powerful impact on what happens next, I’ve come to learn, more than a few times.
Although my pause didn’t come until later in the day, I am still grateful I took the pause and made a conscious decision to create some stress free time in my household that evening. I chose not to cancel an event I was hosting and was rewarded with laughter, connection, lightness and pure joy which was so needed at the time. Conscious choice – so important to our way of being AND our way of doing. Now fast forward to the end of my story which very fortunately, turned out well for that special person in my life, my precious daughter. I make up that my conscious decision on how to be with all of it had an impact on her and the next rounds of tests which got progressively better until they read normal.
So maybe, once again I am learning it is not an “either/or” proposition. Maybe we are human beings and human doings. The key is to be awake and aware of how we are being while we are doing. Both have impacts and I believe one enables the other.
So now take all this to a business situation. What happens to you when things turn upside down in your world? How are you being with all of it? What if we paused when things turned upside down and made a conscious decision about how we were going to be with it? What might be possible then? In my situation, if I had paused and been conscious about my way of being a little earlier, I might have set the example for others around me on how to be with a potentially grave situation. In turn I might have created capacity in them for being with crisis and still being okay.
So next time your world turns upside down, at work or at home, perhaps you can invoke the pause and ask yourself: how do I need to be with this right now, in this moment, for the people who are watching me and what do I need to do to contribute to recovery? That conscious pause and choice may get you where you want to be and serve the people around you in whom you wish to build infinite capacity.
I believe some of the choice we have to make when we pause is the choice between fear and faith. Sometimes, (especially those of us prone to worry) we may unconsciously choose fear and bring more fear to the situation. Think of financial results that don’t hit the mark or anticipated budget cuts which are so prevalent in our world right now. What if we chose to trust in our capability and that of our colleagues and direct reports? How much more co-creative might we be with them to address the real issues, versus being unconsciously fearful which most often tends to result in constriction and paralysis? I think the learning is, the more calm and present we are, the more that is available to us – more creativity, more connection; more fulfillment.
As we come up to the end of the calendar year and maybe our fiscal, and as we approach the season of Christmas, with all the preparation and doing it entails, our invitation to you is to be very conscious and intentional about how you want to be with all of the doing. What matters most to you about this time of year and how do you want to be with those most important to you? At Fire Inside, we are huge believers that once you get clear about what matters most, and intentional about what you are wanting, you can create anything. For our part, we wish for you a peaceful and joyous season and a New Year filled with exponential growth! Merry Christmas!