The Way to Do is to Be

I like it when other people change.  Every day I make demands and issue small orders to this end. I’m sure I drive my wife crazy.  When I really get carried away she gets in my face and gives me some straight feedback about it.  Sometimes I snap out of it and realize I’m just taking the easy out.  As painful as it is I start to think about the Gandhi quote that I use in my workshops: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”   It’s so easy to want other people to change.  All I have to do is ask, hint, or badger.  It doesn’t always work but it sure seems like a great place to start.  I know deep down inside I’m just avoiding the inevitable, which is facing up to the fact that there is always something I can do to make a difference. I could change!  I could make some effort!

It’s easy to externalize things and focus on things outside of our control.  It takes more courage, determination and will power to look inside and confront the real truth.  The facts are that if I want to see something different around me there is probably something I can do differently.

There is where the thinking of Lao Tzu comes in.  Lao Tzu was a 6th century BC Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism.  When he was eighty years old he recorded his teachings, authoring the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power).

One of the quotes attributed to him reflects the belief that the way to live an enriched life is to examine one’s inner self or being: “The way to do is to be.” Another way to put this in the context of growth, learning and accomplishing one’s goals is to realize that the way we are (our being) drives what we do and what we do impacts what we have (our goals).  This is the principle known as Be Do Have.  Here is a visual example of how it looks:

Our values, attitudes and beliefs contribute to our being: our outlook on life, the way we feel, our aspirations, our intentions-our overall mindset.  For example if I am upset and angry because a co worker did not keep a important commitment they made and I confront this person to give them “feedback”, what kind of conversation is likely to occur?  If my belief is they are incompetent and my anger has consumed me, I am quite likely to have an angry and confrontational conversation.  However, if my mindset and intention is to first understand what happened and then be very honest and direct about the impact of the failed commitment it is more likely that a productive conversation will happen.

So the leverage to create more outcomes, better relationships and to be proud about the way we behave comes from not just changing what we do, but the real power lies in understanding how our being, our mindset influences what we do, and subsequently what we get or have.  This is why Lao Tzu’s words are filled with deep wisdom.

About Don Johnson

Don Johnson, the Founder and President of the Integria Group, LLC, has over 25 years of experience in business management, leadership, sales and consulting in the performance improvement industry. He founded the Integria Group after being a Principal Consultant with Axialent. He has worked extensively with executives at Google, YouTube, Yahoo! AXA USA, Crowe Horwath, The Jamaican Ministry of Defense, The United States Federal Court System and Allinial Global helping them develop their leadership skills and their business effectiveness. Don was formerly the US Director of Sales for Insights for 5 years helping lead the business to record growth and also worked at Achieve Global, a leading international training and consulting firm, holding many positions, including Regional Director and later Regional Vice President. For five years, he managed a 30-person, $15 million business unit, leading his organization through the post-merger integration of three consulting companies. After completing his undergraduate degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in English Literature, Don started his career at Élan Vital, an international non-profit organization that promotes the work of Prem Rawat. A member of the Élan Vital management team from a young age, Don was appointed President of the corporation in 1980 and held the position for four years. He is a competitive tennis player, plays guitar and writes and records music. He lives in Tayport, Scotland, a small village on the North Sea.
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2 Responses to The Way to Do is to Be

  1. While I certainly wouldn’t dispute what you have written in terms of Lao Tzu, you might also delve a bit deeper into his perspective — one shared by Zhuangzi — in that he would say having goals is a problem in and of themselves. Goals are born of the self/ego and Lao Tzu counsels us to move beyond our self-imposed parameters to a live a life that is effortless and free.

    • Don Johnson says:

      Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate you reading my blog and adding your comment about goals to the discussion. Your knowledge of Lao Tzu is much deeper than mine! In a future blog I will write about my experience with external goal achievement, which for the sake of simplicity I will call “winning”. There is another dimension that I describe as living a life in alignment with essential values and I call that “success”. Winning is an external event and conditional and temporary. Success is an internal experience and is unconditional. Pursuing winning only and giving up one’s essential values in my experience is the road to unhappiness and Living a life of integrity is the way to deeper and long lasting happiness.

      I believe having external goals and internal goals actually increase performance, help create learning and build character and strengthen one’s values. Let’s take tennis for example. I can go out and hit balls with someone at my experience level and enjoy that. However, when we start playing the “game” of tennis things change. They get more interesting, I’m stretched and tested and while I am essentially doing the same thing, hitting balls, I become more engaged. I learn about how I perform when I am challenged and I learn about how I conduct myself under pressure. And certainly when I look at who I admire throughout history and discuss this with others I have found that I admire people who have performed admirably, in alignment with essential values, like integrity or kindness, while pursuing external goals.

      So, I will say more about this when I write the full blog.

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