Words not only describe the world around us, they reveal the world within us. If we pay attention to how we use words, we may be able to improve that inner world and become happier people. This is especially true when it comes to the verbs to do and to be.
Happiness is the ultimate goal of every human (or should be), but it is not something that you can do, only something that you can be. It is interesting to note that we don’t talk about doing play the way that we talk about doing work. I might do my work, but I simply play. That suggests to me that play is far more likely to lead one to happiness than is work, an observation seemingly true on its face, but one we seem to ignore.
Doing, of course, connotes all kinds of action. We do work and we do practice and in this age we even do lunch. We greet one another with “How ya doin’?” which is an indication that we are really inquiring into each other’s activity level. A common response, one regarded as entirely appropriate, might be, “Oh, man, I’m so busy.” If someone were to answer, “Oh, man, I’m so happy,” we would regard that almost as a non-sequitur. This is because we tend to confuse doing with being, and at our own emotional peril.
Our guidance counselors asked us what we wanted to be and we all answered with talk about the job that we planned to do. The correct answer, of course, was happy, but we spent all of our time preparing to do, so it’s no wonder that we got that answer wrong.
We go through Life making “to do” lists, but while it might strike the ear as odd, we need to start making “to be” lists. “Do the dishes” is an example of something that might be on the former list and it is important in a general sort of way. Think of what should be on that latter list, however; those entries are downright imperative. Such a list may read something like the following:
- Be patient
- Be kind
- Be thoughtful
- Be encouraging
- Be happy
Words create reality, especially our inner reality. After all, love doesn’t exist until you say it does. Next time you find yourself talking about all the things you must do, make sure that you consider all the things you must be.