What is the difference between being and doing?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “being” and “doing” as follows:

Being – the state of existing, the most important or basic part of a person’s mind or self

Doing – the act of making something happen through your own action

What is the difference between being and doing?

The being versus doing balance is so powerful in our daily lives that many books, articles and papers were written on the matter. Even Shakespeare made reference to this topic in his play Hamlet, when Hamlet himself contemplates whether to take action, or let go
completely and commit suicide:Hamlet

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles…..

In our lives we continuously try to balance the “being” and “doing” part of our
behaviors and actions. Whether consciously or not, the struggle between being and doing follows us throughout our lives, and being aware of both these aspects is something that can bring more balance to our lives, and more serenity to our actions and attitude.


Doing involves taking action. While we are in a state of doing we are performing a certain action that has a purpose of gaining something. The state of “Doing” is outward looking as it requires us to interact with our environment and other people in order to achieve a certain goal. It shifts our focus from ourselves to our surroundings, to other people and other elements in our lives. It is centered on the future and is driven by thinking.

In modern times, “Doing” is getting a lot more attention than “Being”, since it’s considered very positive to gain things, and add additional value to our lives, by performing actions that add that value. The western culture today puts a lot of emphasis on “Doing”. It’s important to keep busy, to be on our way to somewhere and to have a clear agenda on things.
A constant state of activity creates more wants and needs, and in essence, it is a process that fuels itself, unless checked.


Being is a state that takes us back to simple existence. This state is focused inward, and it involves greater awareness of our own being. This state is focused on the present moment, and allows reflection and thought of things that happen, rather than trying to affect the flow of events, and deliberately changing the outcome.let-it-be

All though the “Being” state is associated with passiveness, it’s not to be confused with laziness.  The state of “being” requires work on our part. All though it is intuitive to reach it, the western lifestyle made it more difficult to reach. If you doubt this, just try to focus all of your attention on the screen in front of you, without thinking of something else, for 3 minutes. This difficulty exists because the state of “Being” requires us to actively monitor our thoughts, and exercise a certain detachment from our surroundings, while the modern lifestyle keeps us busy and always doing stuff.

Because the state of being is calm and reflective in nature, when we apply it to our daily lives, it may present new insights on topics and areas, which we didn’t quite see before.

Human doings instead of human beings

All though there is nothing wrong with “Doing” and taking action, flipping the balance to one side of the being doing scale, may cause unwanted side effects.

Waking up each day to go to the office, dropping the kids to school, working endless hours in a demanding workplace, only to come home exhausted and having to deal with the chores that the home requires. This leaves one hour, at best, at the end of the day for us to sit back and relax, at which point we are so tired, that all we want to do is just go to bed, only to wake up tomorrow for another day like this. Sounds familiar?

The modern world keeps us constantly in the state of “Doing”. The current technology keeps us always connected and online. Using our phones, laptops and other devices, we are always reachable 24/7.  Most of us became frenzied workers that keep reaching our phones, checking e-mails and glancing at our tablets to see if anything new happened yet. Why is that? Why do we have an urge to keep doing all the time? Did we confuse being and doing to a point where we think that doing IS being?to-do-list

When we are in a constant state of doing, we may lose track of the big picture of our lives. When we burden ourselves with the day to day actions that must be performed, we sometimes feel as though we are operating like rats on a wheel or automatons.

The state of being enables us to stop for a minute and think of our direction. It enables us to reflect on our actions, and direct our efforts towards our goals, in order to achieve them in the most efficient manner. When we don’t stop and think of our action, it may create unguided and empty actions, that might keep us busy, but would only serve to drain our energy and leave us feeling empty.

In short, endless doing, without any guidance and outside perspective of our actions, would not only drain us of energy but might also take us further from our goals, rather than get us closer to them. This guidance and perspective can be obtained, when we stop for a minute and ask ourselves what is the purpose of our actions? Am I doing what I’m doing just because I’m used to it, or is there a larger goal in mind?

The benefits of being

In an effort to show the upside of just being, here is a short list why it’s well worth your while to start being rather than doing:

  1. Being makes you see things differently. Being enables you to focus on the present, which in turn raises insights that might have been overlooked, on different areas of your life
  2. Being gives you more time than doing. When you stop and think of your actions for a minute, you can see how to improve the quality of your actions, and how to make yourself more effective. This also helps in identifying the really important tasks on your to-do list, which enables in concentrating the effort where it should go to.
  3. Being is easier than doing. Unlike doing, being doesn’t require any special knowledge. All that needs to be done is just let go, and relax, the rest will come naturally. This might take practice, but you don’t need any knowledge in order to do it.
  4. Being uses less energy than doing. When we are in state of doing, we exert our energy in order to achieve something. When we are in a state of relaxation, we not only don’t use energy, but we actually receive new energy
  5. Being increases our personal development. When we are in a calm reflective state, we get in touch with ourselves. This leads to greater awareness and furthers our growth in life. I really believe that personal development is essential for a happy life (I personally use several programs like Bob proctor’s Six minutes to successto develop myself further), and that’s why “being” is very important to exercise in our day to day activates.
  6. Being is more fun than doing. When we do, we miss doing the things that really makes us happy. In this sense, doing is plain boring. Being makes us aware of the most important things we have in our life – our life.


I hope the article made the difference between being and doing clearer. If you think I have missed something, or if you have any insight to share, let me know in the comments below, or mail me directly.


8 thoughts on “What is the difference between being and doing?

  1. If you talk the walk, you have to walk the walk. Words are empty without action. Great reminders to us all. Thanks for this!

  2. Hi Ido
    You have a great site here. So easy to read and great information. I like your discussion on being vs doing. What are your thoughts on practicing mediation or mindfulness as a tool to enhance “being”.

    Also have I got the idea right that if you could achieve being and doing at the same time, you would be truly living in the moment? I love that feeling!


    • ido

      Thanks for the Feedback David.

      I think that meditation is a great tool for for enchaining the feeling of “being”. As a matter of fact, one of the purposes of meditation is exactly that, to increase your awareness, and vibration while spending time in a state of just “being”.
      All though meditation could simply be taking 10 minutes a day to yourself in a quiet surrounding to relax, and think about nothing, when I explain people about the balance between being and doing, I usually try to avoid using that word, since I feel it kind of scares people.

      I think everybody is being and doing at the same time, the question is how much is someone focused on one of the poles. Without being, we would have misguided action, and without doing, our thoughts wouldn’t be able to take physical form.

  3. Christian

    This was an interesting read. One side to being is that you can observe and through observation you can gain wisdom. But I guess if you are observing you are doing something. So the question is can you be without doing something? I think I could talk myself in circles about this all day. 🙂

    But I think the point of your article is to have a balance between being and doing. At some point you have to stop doing and push down all of the noise. When I work I have the ability to have a laser focus. I can block out everything and just concentrate on the one task. Is that being or doing?

    Thanks for the thought provoking article.

    • ido

      That’s a good question.
      If you are in the middle of performing a task, then you are “doing”. However, concentration is very important to “being”, as it requires to shut yourself from outside noise. At this, the laser focus can be extremely helpful. Try and use that focus on your breathing, or on a small point in space (like a candle flame), I’m sure it would do wonders for your relaxation.

  4. Hey, I feel you. Reminds me of that famous Ferris Bueller quote: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

  5. hi Ido
    Wonderful topic! I agree that our modern society is focused on doing but being. And I am certainly guilty of that too. I am often left with about an hour of free time a day and I am frequently if not always doing 2-3 things at once….But! About a year ago, I was forced to slow down. And it allowed me for probably the first time in my life to be. To just sit with myself and see what came up. And it was hard let me tell you! But it was needed. As it is an essential skill that we all need to have. To be able to just be with ourselves. And since then I have taken the time to just be every day. And it has helped centered me and basically has kept me sane!

    • ido

      Hi Emily,

      I’m really happy to hear that you took control of your life and decided to balance them!
      I keep meeting people who tell me that they need more hours in the day, and every time I get reminded how the simple truths in life, like just taking an hour for yourself each day, are sometimes forgotten.

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