My life used to be inextricably bound to a “to do” list. Apparently, this is excusable in part due to my Enneagram number (One). I would usually not go so far as to write things on my list I had already done just so that I could cross them off, but every now and then it would help me to feel better about my day (and myself).
One of the things my coach did early on in our relationship is encourage me to think about whether or not that list was consistent with my basic principles and core values.
I thought about living in and being shaped by a culture heavily weighted to “doing” vs. “being,” and about how much self-worth I attach to “getting s*** done“. I was aware of my general desire to resist being trapped in that frame and saw how the lists reinforced it instead. I thought about the behaviour-thinking feedback loop.
My to do list is an effective way of outsourcing memory; not forgetting to do things that I have or want to do reduces anxiety. The list can also be a helpful prioritization tool. Those tasks stay on the list. There were also items (exercise and meditation are a couple of examples) which I want to connect to my being state rather than my doing state. There is a qualitative difference between exercising or meditating because it’s a task I have to complete, and being a person who regularly exercises and meditates.
This is a plug for having a coach for a while (or a spiritual director, friend, etc.) with whom you can reflect on how you live and in what ways you can grow into your more authentic self. It’s also an invitation to think about how the being-doing thing works in your life. The “we-are-human-beings-not-human-doings” cliché is there for a reason. When we focus on being first, the doing that flows from it is more easily rooted in meaning and purpose, and more sustainable and life-giving than running on the equivalent of a hamster wheel just because it’s there.
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