4 Steps to Move from “Doing” to “Being”

Taxis and Etched Glass / Lalique windows at Henri Bendel, NYCIt is hard to get through a whole day anymore without seeing Gandhi’s words: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Ask folks why they admire the quote, and you are likely to hear warm words about the work they are doing to create a better world.
But Gandhi did not say, “Do great things to change the world.”  His instructions were clear; it is not about what we do to create change; it is about being that change.
Ugh! We know the “doing” part backwards and forwards – the skills, the tools, the techniques.  But what exactly does it mean to be the change we want to see?
Being is a state that affects all our work, creating context for all our decisions and actions. Whether we are talking about a board, an ED, a consultant, a funder – when our work stems from “being the change we want to see in the world,” the “doing” falls into place alongside that reason for being.
So how can one move from “doing the work” to “being a catalyst for change?”  I hope the following 4 steps encourage you to begin right now.
1: Slow Down and Be
It sounds flip, but the best way to practice being is by being.  Slow down. Pay attention.
If you think you are too busy to take time for that, keep this in mind: “Paying attention doesn’t take extra time; it actually gives you more time.” *
Step 1 is therefore to slow down and just be.
Spend two full minutes (set a timer) paying careful attention. Notice what is really going on around you with beginner’s mind.
Notice your work environment, your surroundings. What pictures are on your desk? (When was the last time you looked at them?)
Notice your co-workers. What are they doing? How do they feel about that? How do they talk about their work?  Is it joyful or rushed? Is that talk focused on the community or on the piles on their desks?
Breathe it all in. And then breathe it all out again.
2: Aim
“We accomplish what we hold ourselves accountable for.”  This very first of The Pollyanna Principles is because it is all about aiming.
Question #1:
What are you holding yourself / your organization accountable for accomplishing? And accomplishing for whom?
Make a list. What are you holding yourself accountable for accomplishing each day? Each week? Each month?
Question #2:
Look at your answers to Question 1.  Are those results about the change you want to see in your community?  Or are they about accomplishing the means to those ends (perhaps ensuring the bills can be paid)?
What does your list reveal about the primary focus of your work? Where have you been aiming?
Question #3:
To begin seeing the forest AND the trees – the day-to-day within the context of the change you want to see in the world, consider the items on your list, asking:
If I accomplish this task, what will it make possible? For whom?
Once you have an answer, ask the same question about the answer. Then ask again.
Keep asking, “What will that make possible? For whom?” until you reach the very highest ultimate result you want to hold yourself accountable for creating.
And here’s a hint: If you are being the change you want to see in the world, the ultimate result will not be for your organization. It will be for the community you want to effect.
3: Practice
The steps so far will no doubt create “aha” moments for you. But aha moments on their own are worthless. It is only when those “aha’s” become everyday reality that change begins to happen. And the path to that transformation is simply a matter of practice.
Isn’t that something? We are all encouraged to take course after course in Nonprofit Management, focusing on tools and techniques and – well – doing.  Yet it is that slow incorporation of our aha moments into the very cells of our being that will transform ourselves and our organizations into catalysts for change.
(As an aside, if you have been frustrated that despite installing “best practices” into an orgainzation, little has changed, you can begin to see now why that is.)
The following is just one of many ways to practice with your “aha’s.”  (If you have others, I hope you will share them in the comments!)
Look at your to do list for this week.
For each item on that list, ask, “What could accomplishing this task make possible for our community?”
Then list 1 or 2 things you will do to infuse each item with your new-found accountability for community results.
Task: Write a report
What might you add to that report, to infuse it with accountability for community change?
Task: Meet with the accountant about the 990
How might you infuse that visit – or the 990 itself – with accountability for community change?
The more you ask the question, the more creative your responses will become. It could be what you talk about. It could be who you talk with. It could be the route you take to an appointment.  It could be anything!
Ask that question as a routine part of making your to-do list, being as conscious as possible to be accountable inside that task. (Note that when it comes to words like accountable and conscious, there is no “do.” There is only being accountable, being conscious.)
4: Celebrate
At the end of your work day, take a moment to breathe in the day.
  • What stood out for you today?
  • What brought you joy?
  • What are you grateful for? (Extra points if you can be grateful for what may have been painful!)
  • What can you celebrate?
This simple practice will move your focus away from everything you failed to get done today (I know I am not alone with that list!). It will move you one last time from a focus on “doing” to a focus on being joyful, appreciative for the things that matter most.
From there, sleep well. And greet tomorrow committed to being the change you want to see in the world.
* Gratitude to Genine Lentine for her article in the July 2010 issue of Shambala Sun Magazine, quoted above
* Photo Info: Fifth Avenue, as seen through the Lalique windows at Henri Bendel. NYC 2009

3 Responses to 4 Steps to Move from “Doing” to “Being”

  1. Hello,

    I ran across your blog on Alltop. This article is exactly what I’ve been looking for, but had no idea about how to word it. I felt like I was getting stuck in a bit of a rut, when at the same time I really felt I should be taking my efforts to the next level (doing). Thanks for the clarification between doing and being. This was perfect timing. I look forward to getting more from your blog in the future.

    Janvier Morris

  2. Hello, I ran across your blog on Alltop. This article is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’ve been in a bit of a rutt lately, but really felt my efforts should be multiplied to get the result I want (doing). Thanks for helping me see my error. I think it’s everyone’s goal to BE, but society makes it so easy to DO. I look forward to getting more from your blog in the future.


  3. This is an Absolutely Beautiful Post ~ thank you, Hildy, and the Happiest of Birthday Weeks to someone who gives so much to the world around her and those of us in it 🙂