Doing v.s. Being – can we be both?

We are all complex, unique, brilliantly talented individuals.  One moment we are spontaneous, the next we maybe reflective, we can have moments of muddle, and the next be extremely focused.  This is because what we do is a by-product of what we are feeling, thinking and what we know.

That said, we all have a propensity to lean towards certain behaviours or preferences.  Part of the reason is nature, but a great part of that is nurture, it’s what we have learned.

Some people are doers, or activists.  You know the type, act first, think later, and just jump straight in.  This is a learning style that was itself learned as a child.  Often confident, often extrovert, the activists and doers learned that just jumping in, getting it done, and moving on gets results.  There is often a lot of adrenalin, and stimulation is often gained from the external and high energy and risk taking.


The opposite is a reflector.  These guys tend to hang back, mull things over, watch, learn and think.  They maybe more introverted, and as a child may not have been as confident.  To be honest, in the playground or classroom, they were probably pushed out-of-the-way by the activists and developed their own style of learning.  This worked for them then, and therefore continues as an adult.  They are often more internally focused and much more aware of the being side of them.

Then there are those that like to think, observe, and then develop their understanding, essentially theorising what’s going on.  Theorists maybe more analytical by nature, and may prefer to interpret what that have seen, observed, and know to be true, and look for patterns to make sense of the world around them.  They may have been brought up in a more analytical and perhaps sceptical world.  They have learned to question, challenge, and look for the evidence.

Then you have the pragmatist, who, like the activists, like to get stuck in and get things done.  They like to try things out, experiment, and play around. They diversify, and are creative.  They love to learn, and are happy to be “taught”, read, watch and do, but then want to try out what they’ve learned straight away.  Again, in the classroom, they were probably etching to get stuck in but were elbowed out-of-the-way by the activists, but were a close second.  They benefited from listening to the teacher, then trying it out.  It worked for them then, and continues to do so now.

  • The activists learn as they go along, and figure it out along the way.
  • The Reflectors prefer to read, watch, observe, then reflect, and mentally embed before trying out what they have learned.
  • The theorists like to watch, observe and read, but then like to figure it out mentally, through evidence, data, analysis, and learn through processing.
  •  The pragmatist can take on the teachings or new learnings from a variety of sources, and then likes to try it out quickly to put theory into practice.

But if we are always doers, do we have time to look within and really understand ourselves, or explore what we have learned and what impact that has had on us internally, not just externally.  Surely you are not fully learning if you only learn from the external, then move on.

Equally, if you only ever learn within the mind, how do you know what happens on the external.  Sure you know the best routes to walk up a mountain, all of the gear you need, what the pressures are on the body.  You can watch a film to see the views and the flora and fauna you might encounter.  However, you will never know what it feels like to push your body, mind and spirit and then sit back and take in the view.  You will never know what it feels like to have the cold wind beat on your hot flushed face.

A theorist will never know what it’s like to spontaneously do something with an act of faith, or simply not thinking about it.  The freedom of just being, and that stillness of mind and not thinking, analysing and assessing.

So step outside of your natural, learned, preferences.  Practice being and doing, reflecting and activity.  Learn from all different experiences and deepen the understanding.  It will make the experiences so much richer.


So your homework today….

Think about what is your preference to learn and interpret the world.

Now think of a situation where you can try something completely new.

It is hard, but it is possible.  You are simply expanding the instruments you play in your own orchestra of life.  Diversify and make the music play a different tune.