To Have Or To Be

The trend in “Lifestyle Design” these days is all about minimalism, but I’m afraid they’re missing the point.  Their focus is on reducing things through clever tactics, but this is only good in the short-term.

The fundamental flaw with this strategy long-term is that it assumes the opposite of “having” is “not having.”  Physically, this is correct.  Mentally, this is false.  Mentally, the opposite to having is being.  “Not having” is still in the paradigm of a having mindset, and therefore will regress.   “Being” is a new mindset, a healthy one that is not corrupted by consumerism.

A young woman that desperately wants to have a husband and kids is an emotional wreck.  Rather, if she focuses on being a great and supporting person, she will likely gain a husband and kids.  Even if she doesn’t, she’s still happy because she’s not focused on having anything, but has already accomplished her goal of being a great person.

An employee at a large company who is denied a supervisor position is frustrated, and tempted to do unethical things to get the position. He may lie, cheat, or simply game the system to get there.  If that same person let’s go of wanting a title and instead focuses on being a strong leader, he will likely gain that position over time.  Even if he doesn’t, he will still be a leader and respected amongst his peers.

The same strategy works in the anti-consumerism goal that minimalism attempts to accomplish.  However, rather than forcing yourself to get rid of things (as most minimalist bloggers suggest), try being a person that doesn’t rely on these things in the first place.  It’s a paradigm shift.

  • Rather than having smaller meals, be a healthy eater.
  • Rather than having no car, be a runner/walker/cyclist.
  • Rather than not having pre-processed foods, become a great cook.
  • Rather than having a gym membership, be an athlete.
  • Rather than having a big savings account, become an expert investor
  • Rather than having a successful blog, be a helpful writer
  • Rather than having a faithful and loving spouse, be a faithful and loving spouse
  • Rather than having obedient kids, be a loving parent

Do you see the trend?  If you do the “being” you’ll likely get the “having.”  But that’s not the goal in itself, it’s an outcome that you are not dependent on.

Focusing on “not having” is a band-aid to a mental awareness our culture has bred which has created a “having” mentality (it’s not your fault!).  Instead, become aware of this fact and consciously shift to a mindset of being.  Otherwise, it will be your fault going forward.

Stop and thing for a second, what are you focused on having/not-having, and how could you change to a mindset of being?

19 Responses to To Have Or To Be

  1. krantcents says:

    I think I get it! Concentrate on what outcome you really want. I start with the outcome and work backwards to accomplish the tasks involved to reach my goal.

  2. agree there are better ways of putting harder things in action, or at least called upon. Nice write-up

  3. All good points. Totally agree.

  4. 1step says:

    Completely agree. I remember when I first started full time work after college, I wanted a higher salary, without first showing/being a good worker. Thankfully things turned around in my head.

    • I was the same way. I thing, in hindsight, I was a good worker. But I could never have enough.

      When I switched to a focus of being, I was able to accomplish more. The most important thing I accomplished was not increased salary (although I got a lot of promotions and raises), but instead I accomplished my goal of being a leader among the engineers in my organization.

  5. Nice post. I am reading into it….. having seems to imply a sense of entitlement….I am entitled to have obedient kids. Being seems to imply a sense of responsibility over life, as in I will take the needed steps to be a loving parent.

    • Yes – perfect example. If your goal is to have obedient kids, you are putting your contentment on someone else. This is unfair to both you and your kids.

      If you put it on you, you can take the necessary steps to accomplish your goal. And you’ll have a pretty good chance of raising good kids, to boot.

  6. All that talk about being caused a wave of calmness to rush over me. Being forces you to focus on the present. Although I’m all about planning and plotting out the future, it’s nice to relax and just be some times.

    • There’s nothing wrong with continuing to plan for the future, it’s just a modified planning.

      I plan to be a renaissance man, where as now I have very few (specialized) skills. In order to do that, I need to save money and retire early, thus freeing up the time to learn many trades. So I’m planning – but my focus is on being. This is why I say that the opposite of “having” is not “not having”

  7. What I take away from your post is the “having” seems to imply that you’re expecting things to magically happen – it doesn’t imply a solution. The “Be” column implies you’re doing something.

    Having a gym membership by itself is not going to get me into shape. But if I take the action of “being an athlete,” well, that’ll get me somewhere…

    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  8. Untemplater says:

    “Mentally, the opposite to having is being.” I love that! I’ve been a bit obsessed with trimming down my possessions and minimalizing my clutter and it’s been so freeing. I really do have more time to “be” – blog, hike, go out with friends, travel, etc because I have less to clean, and less distractions. -Sydney

    • I think decluttering is one area where “not having” is a required step, before the “being” can take place.

      Like you, I had a huge increase in time to “be” when I made the decision to reduce my possessions. But once they are mostly gone, it’s important not to obsess on “not having” and more than you should obsess on “having” – instead, just on being and not being.

  9. I like this paradigm shift in thinking, and very weel explained with some awesome examples. Quality post.

  10. Hi. I just found your blog via Yakezie. Nice article. Wanting to “have” is detrimental to our goals in more ways than one. Regardless of what you have, you always want more. All having does is raise the bar for future wants. I agree that focusing on who/what you want to BE is vital to long term success. If you are content with what you have become, you stop wanting to have more.

  11. jessie brenna says:

    I so agree @ the wanting/having versus the ” being. “YES’ when we r content with who we r and who we’ve become,we do stop wanting so much! I’ve experienced it myself 4 a long time now. The Bible tells us we r 2 b content with little or much. I try 2 live His words bcuz they r the REAL DEAL. The Lord is my Shepherd ‘nothing shall I want’ He provides my every need AND so many wants too!

  12. Steve Adcock says:

    I like this, very well done. Really, this article is talking most directly about a state of mind, and I think it was written in the same context as, say, a diet. It’s not that you “can’t” have a donut. It’s that you “don’t” eat donuts.

    It is one of those phenomenons that, unless you fix the root cause, it is not truly going to solve anything. Getting rid of your stuff might work temporarily, but if you aren’t living like a minimalist, that stuff will eventually come right back. Likewise, if you “go on a diet” and lose 15 pounds, but refuse to change your eating habits to a more healthy lifestyle after, then you’ll probably gain those 15 pounds right back.

    Or, plainly stated, don’t make “fixes” temporary. Instead, make them permanent.

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