A quick Wikipedia search demonstrates that our society continually confuses ‘being’ and ‘doing’ to our own detriment. Pull up the biographical info on a sample of ‘successful’ people from almost any profession – athletics, entertainment, politics, education, or business. Sadly, you’ll find a myriad of accomplished, prominent, wealthy people whose lack of character is devastatingly undermining the potential positive impact of their lives. Unfortunately, the trend is so prominent you probably thought of a handful of examples immediately.
‘Doing’ does not necessarily reflect your ‘being’ – thus, you can ‘do’ something significant or impressive, but ‘be’ something undesirable or worse.
This reality has come into marked focus in my own life in the last few years. In thinking about the immense time, effort, and expense of getting a JD and becoming an attorney, I realize none of it necessarily engenders any positive effect in my person. While my ‘doing’ is valued as a respected accomplishment, it does not necessarily mean anything for my character. This holds for any given pursuit. You may accomplish something society values highly, but your character may stagnate, nonetheless.
Why? How can it be that a person can put so much effort into improving her situation, but still fall short long-term?
I think it’s due in large part to how we’re taught to think about our lives, and success generally. I’ve created a simple chart to help explain my meaning:
This chart provides a generic representation of our society’s perspective on life. As indicated, we’re generally taught to understand ourselves and other people from a ‘Do’ perspective. Accordingly, ‘success’ is the main focus. The horizontal axis represents ‘time’ and the vertical axis represents ‘status.’ The green dotted line represents ‘being’ (i.e., character), and the red solid line represents ‘doing’ (i.e., objective notions of success, such as title, material possessions, influence, physical attractiveness, etc…). As your life experience probably attests, most of the elements signified in this chart are considered mere collateral attributes providing context for success, which is the central fixture society emphasizes and celebrates. Meanwhile, notions of character remain somewhat ambiguous – present, but lacking recognized significance.
With this in mind, are the Wikipedia search results really all that surprising?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
– Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
As a Christian, I’d like to invite you to consider a different perspective, regardless of your particular religious persuasion: God does not view life this way – He never has. More importantly, neither should we.
Instead, as the verse above implies, He is much more concerned with the development of our ‘being.’ This does not necessarily mean that He is against our ‘doing.’ In fact, He says, “[May you] prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers!” (3 John 1:2, NASB) However, it does mean that if we’re to see things from His perspective (and buck the extreme success-oriented focus and its negative externalities as evidenced in our Wikipedia search) we have to make an intentional change in our perspective and the way we think about our lives, other people, and success.
Here, in my opinion, is the exact same chart with an important qualitative twist:
I think this rotation puts things in their proper place! Though the elements remain the same, the implications are much different. God is concerned with our ‘being’ and continual character growth, which is now represented vertically. Of course, our ‘doing’ – the red line – remains dynamic. The movement is real and important, but is now actually somewhat arbitrary. More significanty, the focus on vertical movement in our ‘being’ is more prominent and progress is better ideated. I think this more accurately reflects the way God values our ‘doing’ and our ‘being.’
Here’s the significance: If this is true, and we want to live lives of impact, then we should encourage each other to set ‘Be’ goals, in addition to our ‘Do’ goals!
- Holistically, I think we’ll find this discipline more fulfilling because it’s in alignment with what I’ll describe as ‘eternal’ values.
- Practically, it allows us to make a more intentional impact on the trajectory of our lives, and ensure we don’t succeed by society’s standards while concurrently wasting our potential legacy.
If you’re like me, your lack of ‘Be’ goals stands in sharp contrast to a number of written ‘Do’ goals. Alternatively, perhaps you’ve already got some well-established ‘be’ goals and you’re making progress. Either way, why don’t you join me in setting some new ‘Be’ goals?
Do you want to be a more patient boss, husband, father, friend, or – at least, in Southern California – driver? I do.
How about being more generous to those in need? Me too.
Would you like to be more prayerful, but often lack the self-discipline to pray daily? There’s another great ‘Be’ goal.
All of us can avoid the mistake of confusing ‘being’ and ‘doing’ by changing our perspective, as indicated above. Think of a few new ‘Be’ goals, write them down next to your ‘Do’ goals, and you’ll make a significant impact on your own life and the lives of those around you starting today!
Leave a Comment: What new ‘Be’ goals do you want to set for the next week, month, or year?