Last week, I took a few minutes to create a list of all the major things I’ve done professionally so far this year. While the list was relatively long and I felt a certain amount of pride in reflection, something was just a little off.

I tried to recall how I felt at the time each project was being created. Did I enjoy the process? Did it bring me joy? How much stress or pressure was involved in each? In short, reflecting not on what I had done but how I had been.

I have been thinking a lot lately about this tension between doing and being. As a culture, we seem to have a daily bias on the former while the latter gets relegated to the occasional reflection.

For example, how many of us create “To Do” lists? Many I would assume. Now, how many have ever created a “To Be” list?

Our days are filled with conscious decisions of what “To Do or Not to Do” forgetting that Shakespeare famously told us “To be or not to be. That is the question.”

While there is often a chicken or egg aspect when it comes to doing vs. being – are we the sum of what we’ve done, or does our true being drive the quality of what we produce? Hamlet’s soliloquy seems to provide this answer. Can you imagine how much more trivial this whole speech would be if it began with “To Do or Not to Do?”

If one wants to create something that makes a difference, the first step is not to write down a list of things to do that day. Rather it’s to be present both in our own minds and with those whose lives we want to make a difference in. From that fertile ground, inspiration springs.

Those of us who are parents are often overwhelmed with lists of things we need to do each day for our children. Taking them to practice, going to the store, making their meals, planning social events and on and on. But isn’t the first step of being a parent, simply being truly present for our child? That’s a much harder task when we’re running around all day like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to get as much done as we can.

The same holds true for almost any role we play in our lives. By its simplest definition, being is about how we exist in the world. The essence of ourselves that we bring into every interaction with others and ourselves.

So how are you “being” lately?

I made my list because the end of the year was approaching and I wanted to check in on how I was doing. By that measure, I guess ok. But in thinking about how I’d like to spend the last few months of this year, I want to try to focus on being.

I have a hunch that I’ll feel more joy and satisfaction with whatever that produces, as will those around me.

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