We live in an action-oriented era. Our lives are structured around whatever we’re doing. Take a look at some of these everyday phrases and realize the prominence of “do” . . .
How do you do? How are you doing? What are you going to do? Don’t just sit there, do something.
The escalation of doing is a worldwide phenomenon. Not just in the West, but the Europeans and the Orientals also seem to be absorbed in the race to do more, do it better, do it cheaper, do it quicker . . . and get it done.
Sure, it’s important to do — everyone has things that need to be done — things we want to do and things we never get around to doing. Time slips by as we are consumed by our doing until one day, even our time is done.
“Eighty thousand seconds in a day, you can’t borrow what you can’t repay.
When your time is spent, you might wonder where it went,
And wonder why you spent it on the run.
While the earth is turning, and all your time is burning, I hope that you are learning,
That you are the only one who can take your time, and have yourself some fun.”
- from the song, “You Gotta Have Fun” by Tupelo Kenyon (written in 1979)
“Unless each day can be looked back upon by an individual as one in which he has had some fun, some joy, some real satisfaction, that day is a loss.” – Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Allow Your Being to Balance Your Doing
A satisfying life includes time for doing, balanced by time for being. In the time set aside for being, doing is not required. Not necessary. Not allowed. Time for being is quiet time. Time for staring into space and enjoying the moment. Time for daydreams, contemplating and musing.
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action with without vision is a nightmare.” – Japanese Proverb
“Think like a man of action. Act like a man of thought.” – Henri Louis Bergson (1859-1941)
These inner activities could also be considered a type of doing, but the difference is, they are inner activities. They belong to the realm of being, more than to the realm of action and outer activity.
With time invested regularly in the realm of being, the time spent doing takes on a different quality. Actions become more focused, more deliberate, and more on-purpose.
“Keep to your specialty; to the doing of the thing that you accomplish with the most satisfaction to yourself, and most benefit to those about you.” – Frances E. Willard (1839-1898)
Perform Your Actions On-Purpose
Many people embrace action, for action’s sake. Their lives are a frenzy of undisciplined, random activities . . . confusion in action. Massive action can definitely produce results, but inspired, focused, deliberate action is more efficient and more satisfying.
“Never mistake motion for action.” – Ernest Hemingway (1889-1961)
“Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Origin of Satisfaction
The word, “satisfaction,” contains some interesting insights. The dictionary says satisfaction is the act of fulfilling, the state of being gratified. Contentment.
Here’s the interesting thing: satisfaction contains two root words — satis and action. We all know what action means. “Satis” is a Latin derivative meaning “enough.” So satisfaction means literally, “enough action.”
Satisfaction is a rare commodity these days. Almost nobody has “enough action.”
The Rolling Stones had their own take on this idea with their 60’s hit, “Satisfaction.” They brought an entirely different layer of meaning to action and satisfaction . . . I can’t get no enough action.
“The action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.” – Francis Hutcheson
For Most . . . Action Rules
Action, of one kind or another, rules our lives. The realm of doing is front and center. What is your action-plan? Let’s see some action. Are you getting any action?
Did you hear of the man who was looking for his lost key under the street lamp? Another man happened by and offered to help. After several minutes, he happened to ask, “Can you remember exactly where you dropped your key?” The reply was, “Oh, I lost it in my house, but it’s much too dark to look in there.”
We are driven to perform more and more actions, out there in the world, because we think it will bring satisfaction. Perhaps we look for satisfaction in all the wrong places, simply because it’s easier.
Where to Find Satisfaction
The feeling of satisfaction is an inside job — it’s more in the realm of being, and not so much in the realm of doing.
“Odd, the years it took to learn one simple fact: that the prize just ahead, the next job, publication, love affair, marriage always seemed to hold the key to satisfaction but never, in the longer run, sufficed.” – Amanda Cross
With action and doing so deeply entrenched into the colloquial and slang usage of the language, we are obviously an action-oriented people.
Why are we so driven to act and to do? What is the objective? Do we work ourselves into a frenzy performing our actions and doing our deeds for the joy of the doing or for some perceived reward for action well done?
Are our actions performed because they are fulfilling or because we are working toward some future goal? Perhaps . . . a feeling of satisfaction?
Do we perform our myriad actions simply to get to that point of “enough action?” If so, what’s the point of so very much action? How do we know how many actions are enough?
How do we know when we are ready for satisfaction? How do we facilitate a satisfied mind? Is that a worthy goal?
If so, is there something we have to “do” about it? Do we need to add it to the list of our action plans? (Note to self: achieve satisfaction, enough action already.)
“Until there be correct thought, there cannot be right action, and when there is correct thought, right action will follow.” — Henry George (1839-1897)
“Thought is the seed of action.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Compulsive Action as a Smoke Screen
Work-a-holics sometimes have bigger problems lurking in the shadows of their non-stop action. The sub-conscious reasoning goes something like this: “If I stay really busy, I won’t have time to slow down long enough to address the things that are really bothering me. Instead, I will just work, work, work . . . and maybe those uncomfortable problems will just go away. Nobody will fault me for that . . . just look at how busy I am!”
This is an entirely different motivation than being inspired. When you are inspired, you jump into action mode because it feels so good. When you are on-purpose and inspired, you can work for long hours without fatigue because it doesn’t seem like work at all. It’s fun and the action itself is very gratifying. The activity nourishes and re-energizes you at your deepest levels, so the more you do from that inspired place, the better you feel.
The compulsive “action-figure” type of individuals, driven to continue the frenzy of activity, may be avoiding confrontation with someone, or even with themselves. This kind of action is not satisfying but draining. It doesn’t replenish and revitalize the soul. Instead, it continually depletes reserves until exhaustion strikes.
Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not to be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism or doubt.” – Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-81)
Who’s Behind the Action?
Especially in the West, and especially in the 21st century, it may be considered sacrilege to suggest that a satisfied mind is a worthy goal. The fabric of culture and society has conditioned us all from even before our earliest memories to do, act and perform out there in the world. Very little attention, and even less importance is placed on the realm of being. Who am I? How am I? Who can I become?
“Action without a name, a “who” attached to it, is meaningless.” – Hannah Arendt (1906-75)
The emphasis is success, money, prestige and all the trappings of outward success. This is all fine — it’s an important piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the entire puzzle.
“How many times have you heard someone say,
If I had money, I would do things my way.
But little they know, that it’s so hard to find,
One rich man in ten, with a satisfied mind.”
- from the song, “Satisfied Mind” by Jeff Buckley
Action is obviously important. It makes us who we are as a species. We build homes, libraries, airplanes, industrial complexes and cities. “Doing” has allowed us to accomplish what no other species has accomplished.
“Man always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time.
But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reason.” – Douglas Noel Adams (b. 1952) – “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
The Big Questions
In the mad rush to do more and more, have we compromised our capacity to be? Do we remember why we came? Are we still asking the big questions like who we are and why we do the things we do?
Or is it mostly just unconscious conditioned responses programmed into us by the society and culture we are born into?
Are we still asking the questions that allow us to continue building and growing who we are, as well as what we can do?
Are we allowing “who we are” to drive “what we do?” Or . . . is “what we do” driving “who we are?”
“As the kindled fire consumes the fuel, so in the flame of wisdom the embers of action are burnt to ashes.” – Bhagavad Gita (c. BC 400)
This is an ancient idea. Is desire the fuel that keeps the wheel turning? Is it the very thing that makes this life possible? Is it the very thing that makes it necessary?
Without desire, would we need to be born into this world of motion, action and reaction? (These ideas are explored in more detail in a previous article, “The Dilemma of Desire.”)
“As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
The ancient Hindus and Buddhists were wary of desire and its offspring, action. They considered it a distraction from their main objective of inner personal growth, understanding and enlightenment.
These days, we live in a different world. So much has changed in the outer world, even though so much remains the same in our inner worlds.
Living a Balance of Doing with Being
As long as we’re here, why not make the most of it by embracing and celebrating all aspects of life. Being, doing, having . . . all these things are important ingredients of our package of life experience. Denying any aspect of it only serves to diminish our joy of living a full, inspired, and satisfying life.
Balancing the realms of being and doing seems to be a healthy objective — on a personal level as well as on a global level. When our perpetual propensity to do is inspired and driven by “who we are” — the realm of being . . . then our actions bring satisfaction.
“Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.” – Tryon Edwards (1809-94)
Once we begin to discover our own personal balance between being and doing, we do whatever we do for the joy of doing. And our lives are blessed with a feeling of contentment and fulfillment.
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John R. Wooden
With balance, who we are and what we do work in concert. Action and satisfaction.
While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.
Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.
You Gotta Have Fun
Our moments are fleeting . . . and finite. Too few to squander on "bad news". We must steer our attention deliberately in order to attract the kind of life we were born to live.
May You Have Joy
Do What You Love
Live From Your Heart
Love is Who You Are
Songs by Tupelo
The Dilemma of Desire
Work – Just a Job or Visible Love
10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose
Your Passion as Your Compass
Take Time for You
Articles by Tupelo
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