There’s a reason we’re called human beings and not human doings.
I hope you are well. It’s been a busy and rewarding period for me since my last post including a trip to the UK for my mum’s 60th birthday and moving into a new family home.
I’ve been waiting for some writing inspiration and some came through yesterday when a beautiful friend sent me a link to a Richard Branson letter on how to be happy which you may have come across since it was posted at the end of 2016:
You don’t know me but I hear you are going through a tough time, and I would like to help you. I want to be open and honest with you, and let you know that happiness isn’t something just afforded to a special few. It can be yours, if you take the time to let it grow.
It’s OK to be stressed, scared and sad, I certainly have been throughout my 66 years. I’ve confronted my biggest fears time and time again. I’ve cheated death on many adventures, seen loved ones pass away, failed in business, minced my words in front of tough audiences, and had my heart broken.
I know I’m fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.
So many people get caught up in doing what they think will make them happy but, in my opinion, this is where they fail. Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being. In order to be happy, you need to think consciously about it. Don’t forget the to-do list, but remember to write a to-be list too.
Kids are often asked: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ The world expects grandiose aspirations: ‘I want to be a writer, a doctor, the prime minister.’ They’re told: go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, and then you’ll be happy. But that’s all about doing, not being – and while doing will bring you moments of joy, it won’t necessarily reward you with lasting happiness.
Stop and breathe. Be healthy. Be around your friends and family. Be there for someone, and let someone be there for you. Be bold. Just be for a minute.
If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow. I speak from experience. We’ve built a business empire, joined conversations about the future of our planet, attended many memorable parties and met many unforgettable people. And while these things have brought me great joy, it’s the moments that I stopped just to be, rather than do, that have given me true happiness. Why? Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective. Try it. Be still. Be present.
For me, it’s watching the flamingos fly across Necker Island at dusk. It’s holding my new grandchild’s tiny hands. It’s looking up at the stars and dreaming of seeing them up close one day. It’s listening to my family’s dinner-time debates. It’s the smile on a stranger’s face, the smell of rain, the ripple of a wave, the wind across the sand. It’s the first snow fall of winter, and the last storm of summer. It’s sunrise and sunset.
There’s a reason we’re called human beings and not human doings. As human beings we have the ability to think, move and communicate in a heightened way. We can cooperate, understand, reconcile and love, that’s what sets us apart from most other species.
Don’t waste your human talents by stressing about nominal things, or that which you cannot change. If you take the time simply to be and appreciate the fruits of life, your stresses will begin to dissolve, and you will be happier.
But don’t just seek happiness when you’re down. Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Be loving, be grateful, be helpful, and be a spectator to your own thoughts.
Allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment. Take the focus off everything you think you need to do, and start being – I promise you, happiness will follow.
Wow what words of wisdom from Sir Richard. I have been pondering on this great thought of embracing being versus doing for the last year or so.
As a goal driven person who likes achieving it can be easy to get carried away into always thinking what’s next. I think when we create some space to just ‘be’ as Richard describes it can be really powerful to see what emerges.
I do think we of course need a balance of being and doing to help connect us to others and realise what we’re capable of. I like the thought of being whilst doing, ensuring we’re connecting to the moment and not doing things on autopilot.
Talking to my uncle on this subject, he shared how he finds it sad when people can get too wealthy, always wanting the next material good and stop appreciating the simple ‘being’ things that really make us feel alive like the feeling of catching an ocean wave.
As an avid ‘to do’ list person to help keep me accountable, I love Richard’s concept of a ‘to be’ list too. For me, this would contain gentle reminders like:
⁃ Be grateful
⁃ Be curious
⁃ Be amazed by natural wonder
⁃ Be present
⁃ Be open to life
– Be generous
I try to consciously tap into the moment each day by taking the time to hear the birds in the morning, feel the rush of the wind on my outings, take the time to be really present with the boys and laugh with them.
One thing that’s helped me this year is starting most days with this 10 minute morning ritual meditation by Jason McGrice on Insight Timer. By the end of the recording I’m always smiling and feeling connected and in a good space to start the day ahead. It also helps clarify what really matter and is a priority for my to do list.
How does Richard’s message of a human being versus a human doing resonate for you? Love to hear any thoughts.
Image citation – https://laveldanaylor.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/an-existential-idea-being-versus-doing/amp/ (worth a read on this subject)
Until next time