Can they be one?
Don’t Mistake Activity with actually doing something.
I love the outdoors and love long distance walks. This morning I took a Walk in a park. Before embarking, I was excited and determined to have a great walk. The path I was followed was 3 km long and I started off energetically and determined, listening to some 70’s music. I kept brisk pace with the beat. I felt the glare of the summer sun and continued. I achieved the timing I wanted but I didn’t really feel anything. I had a sense of exhaustion and dissatisfaction. I felt like stopping but had more time, so continued on the same path again.
This time, I don’t remember why my music was turned off (maybe because I was bored), my pace was reduced; I didn’t have anything on my mind. To my surprise, it was a completely different experience! I heard the sound of water, noticed a crystal clear small stream nearby with a natural waterfall, stopped and watched many frogs starting their day, saw and heard at least 6 different kinds of birds and enjoyed the fitful scurrying of many families of squirrels running around. There was even a snake which was lazing in the sun and when I came closer it speedily slithered across the path. I loved the walk and felt completely refreshed and energized by the end of the round. And my whole day seemed brighter and more possible.
I wondered what the difference was? How come I didn’t notice all this before? I had taken exactly the same route and hour earlier and had had a completely different experience….
And what if I hadn’t taken the second round?
Neither time was I so focused on the walk itself.
Neither time did I consciously choose my approach.
But one walk was a burden and one a delight.
This happens many times in our lives. In our rush of completing activities, we don’t take the time out to really experience or do things fully. We mistake Activity for achievement and often think that keeping busy is a sign of doing well.
Today we have also realised the importance of mindfulness and are encouraged to allot separate time for meditation or being with one’s own self.
There is no doubt that this mindfulness is beneficial for our overall well-being. But can being open and aware during our daily actions convert the day into mindful experiences? Can we benefit from living with awareness in most of the actions of our day? And can we really experience more and do more instead of flurrying through from activity to activity.
As practitioners of Design Thinking, the first step is to empathize with the Audience or User. Let us reflect on who the user is in this case. In our lives. Is it not us and if so should we not empathise with ourselves and understand what is important to us? The next step is to understand the user’s needs and what he wants to be solved. Can we use that empathy to understand our needs and intentions and Live Mindfully not just during meditation time but during each of the actions that we want to achieve each day? Here are a few thoughts which will be useful:
a. Understand and Plan only 2 or 3 important things to do in your day and do them with intention — I loved the method that Lily Singh suggested in her book — How to be a Bawse! Where she actually asks you to draw the 3 things that you want to accomplish in a day on an A4 paper.
b. Give yourself time — whether it is writing, learning, teaching, running — it does take time to move into being and doing.
c. Learn to say No — this becomes more important, as you get older!
d. Check-in with yourself to see how you are feeling and if you are feeling!
e. Really look and listen to the world — I heard a fellow traveller in my car rave about the amazing view of Humayun’s Tomb and its neighbouring tombs from the route I take to work — I have missed it for several years in exchange for a possible email a day.
So if being busy is what is your aim and filling your day with activity is what is your habit, have empathy for yourself, define what it is that you really want to do each day, take a break — perhaps a Think Day or a Think Weekend (since most of us will find a week difficult) and figure out if you can be more mindful of everything you do and really experience life in its fullest.
Being and Doing was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.