When faced with a personal or professional challenge, a problem or a feeling of being stuck, often our immediate thought is, ‘What do I need to do?’ We quickly begin to conjure up solutions. We list off the various things we need to do to fix things, to restore order or to get moving.
We seem to believe that our salvation lies in doing.
In my experience, automatic or reactionary ‘doing’ is not the answer. This habitual response deprives us of the opportunity to check in with ourselves at a deeper level. The challenge, the problem or the feeling of inertia takes on a brand new meaning when we can stop and contemplate a resolution that is fashioned from the place of reflection and contemplation.
Taking time to turn our attention inward, to listen to the inner voice, and to think deeply about the situation, allows us to make incomparably wiser decisions. When we consider our feelings and connect with our soul, we harness an ability to tap into the meanings, beliefs, values and motivations that can lead us to personally aligned and truly purposeful action.
In my work as a coach, I often hear my clients say that they don’t know what to do. “I’m stuck, I don’t know what to do.” Another way people phrase this sentiment is, “I’m unclear, I don’t know what to do.” Sometimes it’s turned around as, “I don’t know what to do to fix the problem.”
In these instances, I suggest that they stop and think about what they need from any decision they make. I ask them what they believe about the situation, and to consider their options from a position of truth.
Doing is not the place to start, it comes later.
Society affirms the pathology of excessive doing. It rewards the busy bees. We have been taught to admire people who claim they are ‘so busy’, who say things like, “I don’t have a moment to scratch myself,” and so on. The doers are perceived as the leaders, the highly paid, the most successful of us… but at what cost?
There is substantial evidence that our busy ‘doing’ lives are killing us.
We need look no further than the sharp increase in stress-related mental and physical illnesses, as well as the chronic breakdown of relationships, to realise that doing is not going to result in greater happiness or freedom.
Once we begin to master the art of deep listening, we begin to live in a more conscious way. Our behaviour moves from automatic, ‘doing’ reactions, to well-intentioned, robust and meaningful action.
By letting go of our addiction to doing, we can cultivate clear, motivated thinking, which in turn results in actions that actually manifest positive, meaningful outcomes.
When we learn that doing doesn’t have to be our first priority, we can learn to live in a spirit of thought, meaning and truth, rather than letting all our waking moments amount to a continuous stream of knee-jerk reactions.
Monica O’Brien is a Certified Coach with more than 15 years’ experience working with creative people, business innovators and coaches in various stages of their careers. She is the founder of Creative Edge Coaching. She helps her clients identify their ideal audience and build strong, mutually beneficial relationships, while also empowering them to craft truly authentic offerings, acknowledging themselves and their creativity as having genuine value.