“We’re human beings, not human ‘doings.'”

I heard that quote the other day from a motivational speaker we brought in to address a large group of leaders during an off site retreat. It resonated with a perspective I have held for many years, probably since my seminary days, on how who we are must be valued above what we happen to do.

The message was particularly relevant because of the “doing” nature of the environment in which these particular leaders–and countless others you know–work each day. There seldom is a chance to pause for a minute and remember that the “doing” flows out of the “being,” and not the other way around.

One interesting exercise is to intentionally overhear various snippets of conversations at work, at parties, while browsing retail outlets, while hanging out with neighbors, etc. Listen to the nature of the dialogue, and note how much of it is about people attempting to position things they do. Contrast it with how much energy is spent heartily discussing things that matter to them as people.

And then ask yourself, “Am I unwittingly defining myself about things I do or wish I could do (or even pretend to have done)?” The answer will reveal to you just how much you, as my seminary professor Dr. Robert Mulholland would say, have “put on the false self.”

Our false selves are characterized by ambition to spin our image to the world and to ourselves along the axis of accomplishments that define us. Our true nature lies masked beyond this unnecessary facade, and is the part of us that responds to genuine love, music, great stories, nature and other wonderful dynamics that make life well worth this arduous journey of uncertainty.

The traditional economic mode in which we have long been immersed depends upon false self thinking, with product and services to offer that enhance our “doing” identity. Our challenge as we move toward authenticity is to shift into developing new economic frameworks that thrive off of human creativity and collaboration, rather than depending on how much more production we can squeeze out of an already-tired soul for yet another day.