In life, many of us need to be constantly doing something in order to validate our lives. Our minds are endlessly churning with upcoming tasks, our desks are scattered with to-do lists, and we frequently get caught up in routine schedules as the years pass us by. Our productivity is measured by the amount we accomplish that day, and before even finishing up the last sentence of an email, our attention has already shifted to what’s next on our list. Even beyond the 9 to 5, we find ourselves running from this birthday party to that wedding reception, with laundry, cooking and cleaning squeezing their way in between. We long for all-inclusive beach vacations as an opportunity to put away our Blackberry and take a moment to breathe. As a society, our drive towards efficiency and instant results force us to become phenomenal do-ers.
My Mom epitomizes this philosophy. As an organizational development and leadership guru, she has constantly been on the move, flexing her brain in a range of retail, pharmaceutical, financial, insurance, healthcare and government organizations over the last twenty-five years. I have always thought of her as Mary Poppins – arriving at a company with gusto, causing transformational change and making a meaningful impact before moving on to another organization. This was until the cancer diagnosis. Over the past 5 months, much of what defined her as a person – and arguably, her sense of self-worth – has been radically shaken. No longer is her success determined by implementing a company-wide change model, but rather by her ability to climb a flight of stairs without assistance. Five months ago, her joy came from leading a talent management process. Now, what brings her pleasure is to be able to taste food. For someone with the drive to add value and the zest for life that my Mom is known for, this experience has indeed been an interesting one. It has forced her to slow down and embrace the art of being.
My Mom has had to learn to listen to her body. She has had to become conscious of where to spend the limited amount of energy she has. She has had to learn to accept and trust that everything will be okay. This has not stopped her from taking on projects around the house with enthusiasm. But by balancing the doing with the being, she has allowed space for her priorities to emerge and explore a new way of living.
What I’ve learned through this process is that some people naturally tend to gravitate towards doing stuff, while others are more comfortable in the being state. The trick is to consciously make time to do both and strive to strike a balance between the two – this is what I believe is the key to living a fulfilled life.
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