When I was trained as a coach 8.5 years ago, one of the things that stuck with me the most was the emphasis on helping a person see who they are “being” – that is to say, helping each individual look past the surface doings into how he/she is showing up and how that way of being is effecting their choices.

I read an article by coach and writer Danielle van de Kemenade this morning, and her words resonated with me a lot:

The biggest impact I’ve been able to make in my clients’ lives is on their states of being rather than changed acts of doing. The coaching paradigm itself is perhaps the best way of exemplifying the belief in doing as a primary method to achieving a better way of being. After each session, I’ll ask my clients to come up with five things they’ll do between our sessions to start to move towards greater personal well-being.

Fundamental to all of the above seems to be this thought: I’ll be a better, happier, more fulfilled person through more (focused) doing. I do (or have done), therefore I am. And yet, lately my views on this have started to shift, subtly.

Perhaps one of humanity’s challenges this century won’t necessarily be to do more better and faster, but to refine our ways of being and to let our actions flow from this.

On one hand you might think, “Wait, that doesn’t quite jive with what we are trying to do with small steps.  Isn’t the goal to help people make tiny changes that will eventually lead to lasting health improvements and better well being?”

I would say, yes, that’s still the goal, and important one at that.  But alongside making those tiny changes is the real need to recognize that what truly drives our choices, even the tiny ones, are our values-the things that make us who we are at the core, underneath all the layers that build up over a lifetime.

van de Kemenade goes on to say,

As an ambitious woman myself, the easiest way I’ve found to lean in to better doing through being is with a simple Sufi meditation: “I” on the in-breath, “Am” on the out-breath. And then I’ll get back to work, with vigor.

So I suppose the daily challenge is this: It is to remember to look under the layers.  It is to remember to acknowledge what’s under the commitment to a walking goal or the determination to eat one cup of veggies a day or the persistence to keeping trying to meditate in the morning even when it doesn’t always happen.  It’s not always easy to do, this acknowledging of someone’s ‘being’.  And it’s not easy to do for yourself either – when’s the last time you genuinely acknowledged yourself for the person you truly are, underneath it all?  But I think that if we can practice giving voice to those bits of being that show up…… when we notice them we can bring being back into the conversation and let it do its essential work in our lives.

Who we “be” is far more important than what we do or how well we do it. That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings. ~ Parker Palmer

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One thought on “On Being

  1. It’s so hard to value “being” when society is SO focused on doing. It’s like a constant inner mantra I need to say to even remember, despite what I’m accomplishing/doing: “I have value.” Thanks for the reminder! Practices that don’t look like “doing” seem to help also: meditation, mindfulness, thankfulness, service, observance/respect of nature… I guess getting back to our values, right?

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