The art of being

‘We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we’re not doing anything, we’re wasting time. But that’s not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And this is what the world needs most. We all need to train ourselves in our way of being, and that is the ground for all action. Our quality of being determines our quality of doing.’ ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I love this quote. Not ‘to be or not to be’ but how to arrive at this ‘quality of being’, that is the question. It’s a mindset thing I think.

A friend has recently started hiking. She wrote to me the other day about a hike she did that involved a tough climb and said the way down was fine, simple, easy but going up again was daunting. Every time she looked up she thought she couldn’t do it but then focussed her attention on what was in front of her, looking directly in front and actually, in the end, managed the climb up in half the time as the time down. What a metaphor for life! And resonated for me. As a child, I spent many happy weekends climbing rocks on the blueberry laden shores of the Atlantic and this was a lesson my father taught me. Don’t worry about going up, just try to focus on what’s in front of you and take one step at a time.

In all of my years in project management in international development, I learned that this approach applies here too with large scale donor funded programmes. Yes, there is a vision, strategy, plan, theory of change etc. with the big picture of where and what your destination is or should be, identification of risks, monitoring and evaluation etc as a start point. Essential in fact. If you just leap into action, get busy doing, you risk not seeing the forest for the trees.

No doubt my friend stood at the bottom, surveyed the face of the cliff, saw her destination, identified a low risk pathway towards the top. In effect, creating a sort of plan for herself on how best to get to the top. In project management terms, it’s a work-breakdown structure (WBS), a deeper dive into the process of how to generate your outputs and achieve your outcomes, organising tasks into manageable chunks, even if you have multiple streams of activity or sub-projects running in tandem. This limits the overwhelm for the team without loosing sight of the overall aim, goals and purpose driving and informing the action.

Once in, once you’ve entered the forest, started the climb, initiated activity though, it’s got to be one step at a time. Attention on the here and now, the immediate next step. Navigating things, remaining sharp and agile, as new information and unanticipated risks and also opportunities emerge.

Focus. Taking care of where you put your energy throughout the lifecycle and various stages of a project towards achieving a successful outcome is critical! I’m learning more and more that this applies to life more generally. So important to not just be in the moment but embrace it. Have a dream – as Anais Nin says ‘dreams are essential for life’ – but take it one day, one step, at a time. Don’t worry so much about or overthink the future. There are so many unknowns. Limit the overwhelm, sidestep the anxiety, let go of guilt… do it for yourself, for your well-being…self-care.

Most importantly, trust in yourself. When I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed, I always ask myself, ‘what’s the worst that can happen? And, can I handle it? Do I trust myself, have resources to draw on, which would help me get through it, find creative solutions or even turn it into a positive outcome?’

Enjoy your Monday! the now! Enjoy being!! Immerse yourself in the moment. Love what you do but more importantly be alive, peaceful, joyful, loving… sing… laugh… take a break… go for a lunchtime walk in the park. I’ll leave you to start the week with one of my favourite meditations here.

F ox

PS In case you’re interested, I now have a little space on Saatchi art online where some selected pieces from my art adventures are available for sale (originals and prints) here.

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