Human Beings vs. Human Doings: How do we consciously choose one over the other?

Human DoingMost of us seem to live our lives as human doings.  While this is not an original term that I coined, I can’t seem to recall where I first heard it.   We tend to get caught up in the rat race — trying to make it happen, doing a good job, sending kids to college, saving for retirement, and on and on.  We are consumed by our first phase of our life, so that we can enjoy our second phase, usually after we retire.

In 2004, I had spoken about this at a conference for South Asian youth in Chicago, but could not easily extricate myself out of the race until now.  I had urged the youth to consider a balanced life, easier said than done.

Then I turned fifty last year, and it hit me hard in the face.  The popular path is to work hard, save enough money, and then retire and have a good time.  I realized that the prime years of my life were being consumed in incessant doing and very little in terms of being fully alive and present in all the intricacies of our life and nature.  My concern switched to the possibility of me dying before getting to do some of the things that I always wanted to do, like spending quality time and having fun with my children and making a difference in our world.

So the challenge is, “Can we live our life in such a way that we can fully engage and experience its fullness and richness without any significant sacrifices?”  My answer to this question, after years of deliberation, is a resounding “Yes.”  The key is to work with our egoic mind and its minions, the PIG and the APE, who will do their very best to steer us towards pleasure and away from real and mostly imagined pain.

Is it easy to accomplish a balanced life?  Not really, but it can be simple.  If we can accept and become aware of the fact that the only Happy Human Beingtime we ever have or will ever have is “now” and if we let it get away while obsessing over the future or the past, we will definitely lose the most precious part of our life.  Being present in the current moment, dealing and accepting what is, both the good and the not so good, is the path to living life as a human being.

Focusing too much on goals and getting caught up in the mechanics and viewing the work merely as a stepping stone to a future state will rob you of the joy that is in the vocation or the journey.  So it is critical that we not only choose our goals with care, but also pick the path we choose to follow with a high degree of awareness.

Two weeks ago, I was speaking at a church group and asked the folks in the room, “How many of you have set goals and achieved them?”  About 80% of the room raised their hands.  I then asked them, “How did it feel when you accomplished your goals?”  There were three quick answers.  The first was “What’s next?”  The second was, “A short-term rush,” and the third was a sound that my limited creativity can’t seem to recreate with text, but it usually accompanies the shaking of the palm in a back and forth fashion to communicate “whatever.”

So I asked them the last question to which I did not hear an answer.  I will leave you with the same question.  “If you knew that this (the above reactions) is how you would feel when you achieved your goals, would you have made it so important and set aside so many things and focused most of your energy on them?”

To be clear, I am by no means diminishing the value of setting goals, but I am saying that by being unaware in the present moment will diminish the anticipated result at the moment of achievement.

Love to hear your reactions.

Peace and be well,

Krishna Pendyala

About Krishna Pendyala

Author of "Beyond the PIG and the APE: Realizing SUCCESS and true HAPPINESS". I am a life coach, speaker and workshop leader. My vision is to enhance life on our planet by raising awareness of the ego, in a simple manner. My commitment is to empower men and women make better choices to achieve joy and fulfillment, without protracted struggles or huge personal crises. I believe we can create an enlightened society where inner awareness empowers people to thrive in harmony.
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7 Responses to Human Beings vs. Human Doings: How do we consciously choose one over the other?

  1. I would have asked the audience the next question, did you feel better in the journey versus when you reached the goal? There is a book, “Success: The Glenn Bland Method” by Glenn Bland that has my favorite definition of success. My paraphrase from memory, “Success (or did he say happiness?) is the pursuit of worthwhile goals and dreams while maintaining a balance between financial, health, family and spiritual areas”

    • Great point, Kanth and thank you for your book suggestion. We did discuss the journey and the reactions were mixed. If you have deluded yourself into believing that it is the most important thing to do, you can also gain a false sense of achievement, but it is not sustainable for long.

  2. Alfred Mancini says:

    Since I’m almost 70, I really think that peace of mind is what I’m really after. Recently I try to involve myself in activities that could potentially contribute to my peace of mind, like talking about important issues or seeing a good movie. Thanks

  3. Joe Stafura says:

    The metaphor of ‘balance” is an interesting one to use, but sometimes it becomes hard to understand what exactly is being balanced and what happens if balance is lost.

    Too often it seems we want to identify the things that unbalance us as external forces and demands; from employers, from co-workers, to friends and most of all family. So often the introspection time is spent in the state of “Theory of Mind”, where one tries to imagine what others are thinking and feeling, in other words, “what do they want from me”.

    My first break through was to realize that what they “want from me” is often much less than imagined, so breaking out of the mental model that shows you at the center of the universe is a good thing, just as it was when it was discovered that the Sun and all the planets didn’t rotate around us, in fact most of them barely notice us.

    Once one’s relative insignificance is understood then you can stop worrying so much about what people think of you, once again because they barely think of you at all, so no one else is so worrying about your “Goals” then maybe you shouldn’t either, at least not with such gravity in your thoughts.

    The other problems with big goals is that they have a tendency to focus thinking in a manner that tricks one into thinking the goal is so important that it justifies the means, and then we have inside trading, drug consuming athletes, and politicians that have one set of stories for the voters and another for the billionaire backers.

    Once it is clear your goals are fleeting and insignificant in the longer view then the values you are willing to throw away to achieve them become more important than the imagined outcome. We love glory though, so there no illusion that this mode of life will become popular anytime soon, no one gives out awards for just living life as it comes.

    • Beautifully stated, Joe. I especially love your last sentence. If folks are in the business of amassing awards, they still care way too much about the good opinion of others. I remember Wayne Dyer defining self actualization as the freedom/independence from the good opinion of others.

  4. Nagaraj says:

    It is not possible to know how you would feel when a goal is set what it would be like when you actually achieve it. Goal setting involves taking into consideration of time, resources, importance, and usefulness of that Goal. If more information is available at the onset about these factors, then obviously you may decide to pursue or not pursue that goal. As the other Krishna said in Bhagavad Gita, “Karmanyeva adhikaraste, ma phaleshu kadachana, ma karma phala heturbhuh, ma te sangostu akarmani” meaning you only have the right to action not the end results. So don’t become goal oriented and also don’t become inactive (due to fear of failure or success).

    • My point is to take the time and become aware of the source of your motivations while setting your goasl.  If the driving force for our goals happens to be our PIG, APE or oue Ego, the chance of us truly enjoying the journey becomes a lot lower.  Goals set from a place of giving and benefiting the larger good tend to generate sustained levels of joy and fulfillment.  In your comment, you mention the “importance and usefulness” of a goal. The question becomes, “From whose perspective?”  The little you or the big YOU?  

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