At last month’s book club meeting, we discussed a book that was out of the ordinary for our “CliffsNotes” Book Club that typically focuses on business books. We featured Braiding Sweetgrass Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
On the surface, the book offers no immediate lessons for CEOs or up-and-coming frontline leaders. Yet we were all mesmerized and found immediate ways to apply it to our work as coaches, facilitators, and leaders. Most interestingly: the book was written in 2014, but it’s recently getting a lot of attention—and it’s now a best seller.
The book is beautifully written and has many great lessons; however, what captured my attention is the larger narrative. Why are so many people paying attention to this book, and why now?
It's a book about lessons from indigenous people and Mother Nature. How is it that now we are finally waking up and acknowledging the beauty, strength, and benefits of connecting with earth?
One reason that I'll offer, and of course this is just a hypothesis, is that in this fast paced, highly-technical world, with advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we want to get back to our roots. We’re craving it. Through the lens of polarity-thinking, I see the tensions of “Being” and “Doing.” Perhaps as a society, we're (finally) recognizing that we're leaning too far into the “Doing” and have ignored the “Being?” Here's what it looks like on a polarity map, with "Doing" and "Being" as the two poles.
Being & Doing – Through a Polarity-Thinking Lens
Let’s look at “Doing” and “Being” from a polarity perspective, and consider the upsides and downsides of each end of the pole.
On the one pole of "Doing,” people are collaborating with partners across the world and dreaming up innovations they never knew were possible. New AI systems allow us to work faster, smarter, and more efficiently. We have WiFi, we connect to work on all of our handheld devices, and we have the flexibility to work from home, which reduces commute time and further increases productivity time! There are so many upsides of “Doing!”
That said, we've already seen, and many of us feel, the downsides of overusing this pole... We're burned out. Many of us have no boundaries from working from home. It’s a 24/7 work week, we experience information overload with access to news as it happens all around the globe, and we’re expected to be everything to everyone. There’s no pause for life’s mishaps and for many a 3-day weekend is a “vacation.”
Perhaps the pull and appeal to this book is that we're reaching out to the other pole. We’re connecting with the appeal of “Being.”
The upsides of “Being” are about coming back to our roots, slowing down, appreciating the beauty right in front of us...A focus on “Being” redirects you to not put all of your energy into improving, fixing, changing, but instead to carve out time for thinking, observing, and paying attention to appreciating what is. It’s about leveraging what already exists—and connecting back to our purpose and our meaning.
Sometimes all it takes is finding a “Sit Spot.”
There was an exercise I once heard of called having a "Sit Spot." This is a spot in nature, outside your home or place of work (somewhere you visit regularly) and for 5, 10, or 15 minutes a day, you just sit in that spot and observe. You may notice the same squirrels running by, or the same song that birds sing to alert others when you walk out the door, or the way things look different based on the time of day or weather. By just simply sitting and observing you recognize all that is around you. You share this home with others; it is just as much their home as it is yours.
“Being” also has downsides. Perhaps we don't operate in this pole as often because of the fear of leaning in too much. We fear becoming complacent, lack of energy, no ambition, no drive, etc.
How do you leverage the best of “Being” and “Doing?”
With a polarity-thinking lens and Mother Nature lens on, I wonder how we can best lean into both ends of the poles, to get best benefits of both “Being” and “Doing?”
Most of us are already great at "Doing" but what are some ideas to lean into "Being." Here are a few ideas to start. Many came from the Braiding Sweetgrass discussion at Book Club.
How to Leverage “Being” at Work
How to Leverage “Being” at Home
If you are interested in learning more about polarity-thinking, join our April Book Club session (April 13, 2022). We are so delighted to have the author, Dr. Barry Johnson, join us and engage in dialogue on his book 'And: Making a Difference by Leveraging Polarity, Paradox or Dilemma.' To register, visit the Book Club portal.