I recently read a passage that really resonated with me in The E-Myth Dentist by Michael Gerber, Chris Barrow, Alan Kwong Hing (available here). To paraphrase:
As a child we are always asked “what do you want to be when your older?”
As an adult, the question becomes “what do you do?”
At what point in our lives does this change from being to doing happen? This seems to be a a watershed moment between adulthood and childhood, when the innocent juvenile aspiration metamorphoses into the perpetuity of an adult doing whatever it is that they do.
What do I do? I’m a dentist, I fix teeth.
What did I want to be as a child? As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be two things:
I wanted to be a dad - I still feel this is a strange one but from a very young age, maybe aged 6 or 7, I’ve wanted to be a dad, to have a family to love and support.
I wanted to help people - an extremely broad category that could have lead to anything but for me, this meant being face-to-face and making a positive difference to peoples lives.
I didn’t start wanting to “be” a dentist until my mid-teens, by which point the transformation to “doing” was clearly well under way.
The current global situation has given me a little more time to reflect on whether I'm doing or being. We can get carried away in the momentum of doing when the world around us continues to spin, we jump on the treadmill and do, do, do to try to keep up.
I still want to be that person, that human being that my juvenile self projected. I do not want to fall on to the perpetual mire of doing the same routine day-in and day-out. I want to be the man that kid wanted to be, to be a dad and to help people. To me this means that when I'm at home, I spend time nurturing my family, not being plagued by digital distractions. When I'm at work, I focus on giving patients back their confidence and their smiles to improve their quality of life, in as many ways as a dentist can do this.
Don’t get distracted by simply doing what you do when you're on your treadmill. Learn to be. Be present, in each moment with your family, friends, colleagues, clients, patients. Learn to embrace the freedom that "being" brings and liberate yourself to pursue your ultimate calling, whether that is to nurture a family, or change the world.
Embrace the opening lines to Loaded by Primal Scream (taken from the 1966 film The Wild Angels)
“What exactly do you want to do?
We wanna be free, to do what we wanna do”