Often when people want to know how we earn our living they will ask; what do you do? This is because most people see earning a living as work and work is supposed to be hard and painful. It is something that you must put a lot of effort into and still produce average. They do not believe it must be easy, yet those who are the best at what they do are said to make look easy what others struggle to do. There is a difference between being and doingbesides the obvious.
Being refers to allowing what one already is– it is freedom in performance. Doing is trying to be- it is an attempt at the real thing. Doing is therefore a struggle. This is why the better question to ask when you want to know how a person earns their living will be, What are you? But then again, you might confuse the situation with that because most people are doing which is why we have more average performers than high performers. This idea is better explained by my favorite performance theorist Abraham Maslow with his self-actualization idea;
“Self-actualization is the intrinsic growth of what is already in the organism, or more accurately, of what the organism is”. (Psychological Review, 1949)
“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.” (Motivation and Personality, 1954.)
When a person is endowed with natural skills and naturally gravitates towards something, all his resources both internal and external must be directed at that specific activity. This gives him a head start when others have to struggle to pick up the basics. This when polished by training intensifies the level of skills so that a task becomes effortless. This is the difference between peak performance and what some refer to as hard work with the former being the most potent. Being also means to be united with something– an occupation for our purpose. It is when a person is so good at something he becomes an icon for that activity. This comes about because of the depth of his involvement in that activity. When one unites with the task he begins to access a new level of intelligence as the task begins to reveal its secrets to him. His love for that vocation is rewarded with the love of the vocation and they are united as in a kind of performance intercourse. As a general rule, love begets love and lover is likely to divulge her secrets only to the love of her life.
So that Lionel Messi is an icon of football because of the depth of his involvement and the quality of his output. This depth has a lot to do with love. For this he receives the best reward football can give. Such persons when undertaking the tasks, sheds all their physiological needs and travels to a place in the mind where there is total bliss as the task tends to be the only thing that matters. A sense of security and happiness also creeps in; so much so that working for the sheer enjoyment is primary and monetary gains become secondary. It is a kind of Occupational orgasm that is experienced by so few people, it is a rarity.
A person in the being state enjoys focus, persistence and determination all by default and never by effort. When a person is doing, they need to create focus. Creating focus becomes a task in itself as it needs to be cultivated with effort. Whiles this can be really difficult, it also reduces the amount of energy actually spent on performing the task itself. The effort to create focus could have been better spent on performing the task itself. This can be compared to putting some task on autopilot so you can direct all your energy into what you are really about. The feeling is similar to spending time with someone you don’t really like and having to tolerate them. You struggle to maintain a conversation. The conversation itself becomes stressful and may often lead to conflict.
Words like determination and persistence imply friction. It means forcing oneself to do something they are not made for. Any kind of friction leads to faster wear and tear which equals stress in humans. Stress on the other hand is known to be responsible for most diseases and an unhappy life. One’s life becomes difficult and going to work or undertaking a task requires a lot of effort in the middle of pain and reluctance. Even the people at work are not friendly and the world becomes a burden. All things being equal a person who performs the same task effortlessly will always be ahead while a persistent person may think of himself as working hard with little or no results. When one experiences this feeling, it will be time to re-examine the motives behind one’s involvement in the specific task or vocation. From the above we must see that a person who has identified his or her life purpose is a more likely to attain peak performance.
Being also has spiritual dimension. In his book “the Tao of Jeet Kune Do” Bruce Lee the world famous martial artist wrote about a psychological state: where actions become effortless. In martial arts, students are taught to be united with a punch in order to produce maximum impact. They are encouraged to pack every inch of energy (ki or spirit) in their very being into one punch so that for a split second, the whole being is concentrated in the one punch- unity. This makes possible the breaking of bricks and the other seemingly impossible things they do. The potential of a punch then goes beyond what can be seen and it is at its best when it is united with that which cannot be seen. When one’s energies (both physical and non-physical) are disconnected, the impact of the punch is reduced to the amount of physical strength exerted and the effect is minimal. Because of this the student must first clear their minds of everything else in order to focus on that which matters. It is a mastery over the various dimensions of one’s very being. It is a complete control over internal and external resources in a determined direction. It is therefore the unity of the two- the tangible and the intangible that ensures maximum impact. When the balance is right one requires little or no effort at all to create miracles. This is what happens with those we call geniuses. In this state one is inseparable with the task at hand. It is the state where something greater has taken over the operation of the person and he does not know where the information, creativity and performance is coming from. It is when one finds it difficult to stop even to meet bodily needs. Actions become effortless and output surpasses normal and one beats their personal best.
Eastern philosophers refer is to a state of mind as the “action of inaction” or “doing without doing”. This is the same state referred to as flow by Czicksentmihalyi. Many high performers have described this state as having occurred to them in various disciplines including athletics.
“No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed.”
Those were the words of Roger Banister in description of the state he was in when he first achieved the four minute mile record. He tells us what he is
I was always a great bundle of energy. As a child, instead of walking, I would run. And so running, which is a pain to a lot of people, was always a pleasure to me because it was so easy.
In running therefore he was being. The expression be yourself is therefore well placed. It must be clear at this point that it is in this state of mind that one is able to go what is described as the extra mile and explains why it is very difficult for others to achieve this no matter how well known the idea itself is. Being the best we can be is therefore not a matter of just knowing and practicing a trade. It is about being the trade. It is perfect unity only found in the action of inaction. Scientifically this has been proven.
The following questions help you make a valuable assessment.
Re examine the reasons why you are involved in your current occupation and clearly explain how it makes you feel.
Does it allow you to be your best consistently?
Is there another occupation you think you can be better at and why?
Do you have trouble focusing on your work?
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