“Doing” Mode vs. “Being” Mode

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Henry David Thoreau

Most of us spend a large amount of our daily lives working towards “doing stuff” and “getting things done.”  We may even become extraordinarily efficient and skilled in our ability to multitask and accomplish many tasks necessary towards reaching our larger goals.

There is another mode of operating that is based in simply being in the moment – of non-doing.  Recognize that being mode and doing mode are both useful in different ways and at different times.  The danger lies in over-identification with either mode or applying the wrong mode of mind for a particular situation.

Qualities of “Doing” Mode

  • Awareness of how things “are” and how they “should” be
  • Goal-oriented efforts to “fix” things
  • Increasingly harder efforts towards reaching goals
  • Most actions tend to happen automatically
  • Lack of conscious awareness in the present moment

Qualities of “Being” Mode

  • Connection with the present moment
  • Acknowledgement of how things are in the moment
  • Willingness to allow things to be just as they are… no efforts to alter/change experience
  • Openness and acceptance of pleasant, neutral, and negative emotional states
  • Calmness, stillness, and a sense of being centered

Visualization Exercise

Take a moment to engage in the following visualization exercise to get in touch with your own “doing” mode and “being” mode:

  • Imagine the ocean.
  • Notice how the surface of the ocean is full of movement.  It may be choppy or it may be peacefully rolling.
  • Observe the waves on the surface and bring your awareness to their life and activity.
  • Now imagine that you are sinking deeper into the waters of the ocean.
  • You are looking up from the deep still waters below and you can see the choppy surface above you.
  • From these still depths, you are able to cultivate a calm and quiet awareness – a sense of being.
  • This still and quiet place is where you simply are, observing all around you from a place of peace.

We all have the capacity to engage with the “doing” mode that is the lively surface of the ocean just as we all have the capacity to merge with the “being” mode that is the still, quiet, and calm depths of the sea.  Begin to recognize what moments and events in life benefit from interacting with life from your “doing” mode versus your “being” mode.  Cultivate a mindful awareness of the moments in life when it is in your best interest to take action versus when it is in your best interest to simply let things be as they are.

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Alidina, S. (2011). Mindfulness for dummies. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Featured image: In the quiet, in the stillness by kelsey_lovefusionphoto / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.

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