Being and Doing

We are not nouns, we are verbs.
I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next.
I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.
— Stephen Fry

Here’s an interesting mental trick:

By the time people ask “who are you?“, what’s your answer? Make a list of them.

Then translate them into something like this:

  • I’m not a programmer. I write programs.
  • I am not a writer, I write stuff (to think and to communicate).
  • I am not a teacher. I teach.
  • I am not a manager. I manage people and projects.
  • I am not a guitarist. I play guitar.
  • I’m not a singer. I sing.

Try it and see what happens in your head and how it makes your heart feel?

— DO —

For me, doing this reminds me what I liked about doing these activities. It gives me perspective that helped me not take things so personally. I like how this helps me become aware when I’m attaching my worth and identity to the noun. It’s also easier to convince myself that I am not any less valuable, respectable, or lovable if my programs get buggy or projects I manage failed.

Do something for the sake of doing the thing, because you like it, because you can, and because you want to. Not because you want to be known as the person who can do the thing really well.

— BE —

I am a daughter, a sister, a friend. I cannot reasonably translate these into the “doing” equivalent. I can also say I am an Indonesian, cebonger, millenial, jaktim-er, and any other tribal or political affiliation.

Which ones are the things that truly matter and truly valuable? That’s something only you can answer for yourself.

— SO —

Perhaps that’s the secret of a clear mind and calm heart.

Don’t confuse what you do with who you are. Take stock of who you are — who you identify as and who you identify with. Decide for each of them 1) why you identify with them, 2) whether being them still help you feel more empowered (maybe they did at some point but is it still true?), and 3) how will it make your life better.

Do what you do and be what you be. Just don’t be what you do, and don’t be who you never consciously decide to be.

What about you? What are your verbs and what are your nouns?

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