Doing Less and Being More

Brenda - Raleigh, North Carolina
Entered on February 15, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I live in North Carolina, where the state motto is “Esse Quam Videri” meaning “to be rather than to seem.” It seems to me that we are doing more these days, but being less. I believe we can be more by doing less.

I watch my friends, family and neighbors juggle career, home life and hobbies like the plate spinning guy on the old Ed Sullivan show. And I always feel like applauding when nothing crashes down. Spinning more while accomplishing less.

The trickledown effect has reached teenagers in epic proportions. Many teens engage in after school activities primarily to build their college resumes. What about learning for learning’s sake? In the rush to be the student body president/star athlete/club founder all in the same year while playing sports, doing homework, volunteering, and much more, these young adults are learning that they always need to do more, often at the risk of spreading themselves too thinly. Spontaneity and capriciousness are now rare commodities; hard to squeeze into highly regimented, pre-programmed and structured days. Stressing more, perhaps reflecting less.

It’s no coincidence that we live in a soundbite world and that reporter Carl Bernstein recently chastised today’s reporters for not covering anything in depth. Covering more yet covering less.

However, even though you’re probably listening to this right now on NPR, one of the last remaining bastions of in-depth coverage, I doubt that many of you are simply listening to this radio essay. What else are you doing right now? Are you driving too or working or cooking or cleaning or exercising? You’re not just sitting there listening to me, are you? The idea of simply listening to the radio conjures up old black and white images of American citizens huddled around their massive radios on their well-worn sofas and upholstered armchairs focusing with bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness on the speeches of FDR or old timey comedy routines. Time marches on, my friends, whether you’re in the moment or not. Less cruise control and more self-direction.

I believe that old dogs can learn new tricks, but just one at a time. I used to pride myself on my multitasking abilities — the more things at once, the better. Now, I see that multitasking has become the necessary evil to get through the day. And yet, never has the need for contemplation been so urgent. Realistically, I know that doing one thing at a time is a luxury few of us can seem to afford. I’m just as guilty as you. However, I’m trying right here and right now to focus on this one idea: Doing less and being more.

This I Believe.