Being vs Doing: How to Find Balance and Happiness in a Busy World and Learn the Dutch art of Niksen!

In the early days, when I was a Buddhist monk, I was given an instruction that at the time seemed very counterintuitive: I was told when sitting in meditation to do so with the willingness to waste my time, and to welcome the boredom that would descend upon me sooner or later. At first, I struggled with this, until during a one-month retreat, I sat with the boredom, with nothing to do, until I woke up one morning and it was gone – replaced instead with an extraordinary sense of peace, clarity, and joy. This was my first understanding of being v doing.

What is Doing Mode?

The Doing mode is action-oriented. It’s about achieving, solving, and fixing. It’s a linear mode, with a clear start and end, and usually has a goal in sight. When we are in Doing mode, we are focused on the future or the past, and we are often reactive to our circumstances. We may also experience stress, anxiety, and a feeling of being rushed. Almost everyone I meet in the corporate world is in this mode most of the time. They might temporarily escape it with alcohol or other addictions or during the annual holiday.

Doing mode is not inherently bad. In fact, it can be very useful and beneficial for certain tasks and situations. It allows us to achieve objectives, complete tasks, and solve problems. It can also lead to tangible results and progress.

However, if we are constantly in Doing mode, we may lose sight of the present moment, and miss out on the richness and complexity of life. We may also neglect our emotional well-being, our relationships, and our inner self. We may become burned out, exhausted, and unhappy. Probably we don’t even notice this happening as we will have drifted in living in auto-mode.

When I first became a Buddhist monk, with a corporate background I was used to doing and achieving – it even crept into my spiritual practice. But I soon started to notice that the promises of doing were very empty – something would be achieved, only to provide very short fulfillment. Whereas when I shifted towards Being, the fulfillment was deeper and longer lasting.

What is Being Mode?

Being mode is the opposite of Doing mode. It’s about presence, immersion, and acceptance. It’s a non-linear mode, without a particular aim or endpoint. When we are in Being mode, we are aware of the current moment, without judgment, without trying to change or modify the current experience. We are open, curious, and calm. We shift out of fight or flight mode into the rest and digest mode, and we discover that a natural peace and joy starts to emerge; we take things less seriously and we develop a different perspective of problems, relationships, purpose, our work, etc.

Being mode is actually our base mode – it is inherently peaceful and gives us access to intuitive information.  It is very beneficial to integrate it into our lives and activities. It enhances our emotional well-being, reduces stress and anxiety, and increases self-awareness. It also strengthens our connection with ourselves and the surrounding world.

However, if we are always in Being mode, without integrating it with doing, we may lose our sense of direction, purpose, and motivation. We may also become passive, inactive, and detached. We may miss opportunities, challenges, and growth.

How to Find Balance Between Being and Doing?

As you can see, both Being and Doing modes have their advantages and disadvantages. The key is to find a balance between them and to use them appropriately for different contexts. How can we do that?

One way is to practice mindfulness, which is the awareness of the present moment, with acceptance and without judgment. Mindfulness can help us recognize our current mode, and make conscious choices about our response. We can also use mindfulness to switch from Doing to Being, or vice versa, depending on our needs and goals. This can also be described as having an open or narrow focus depending on what the moment requires.

Another way is to practice Niksen, the Dutch art of doing nothing. Niksen is literally doing nothing, or deliberately doing something without any purpose or goal of productivity. This can be lounging around, listening to music, or looking out the window. Niksen is a form of Being mode, but it’s not the same as meditation or mindfulness. Niksen is more about letting go of the outcome and allowing our mind to wander and relax. It is what we tend to do when we go on a relaxing holiday.

Niksen can help us transition from Doing to Being, by offering us a break from the continuous Doing. It can also help us reduce stress, boost creativity, and recharge our energy. Niksen can be practiced anytime, anywhere, for as long or as short as we want. The only rule is to do nothing, without guilt or pressure.

Olga Mecking popularized Niksen with her best-selling book in 2020: Niksen: embracing the Dutch Art of doing nothing which demonstrates the emerging need to stop, rest, and simply be.

Does Being Mean Being Passive and Inactive?

A common misconception about Being mode is that it means being passive and inactive. This is not true. Being mode does not mean that we stop doing anything, or that we give up on our goals and dreams. Being mode means that we are fully engaged with the present moment, and that we are not attached to the outcome. Being mode means that we are flexible, adaptable, and responsive to changing situations. Being mode means that we are living, not just surviving.

Being mode can enhance our performance, productivity, and happiness, by allowing us to be more focused, creative, and resilient. Being mode can also help us enjoy the process, not just the result, and appreciate the journey, not just the destination.

When Being is truly understood and a shift has been made into Being (which is associated with getting out of your head) it is not so much about balancing Being and Doing – it is more about Doing from a place of Being. This is captured in the ancient Chinese Taoist approach called Wu Wei which translates as Effortless Action.

How is Being a Countermeasure to Our Fast-Paced Life and Social Media and Phone Addiction?

In our modern society, we are often bombarded with information, stimuli, and demands. We are also constantly connected to our devices, social media, and the internet. These factors can make us feel overwhelmed, distracted, and stressed. They can also make us lose touch with ourselves, our values, and our purpose.

Being mode can help us counteract these negative effects, by slowing down, simplifying, and reconnecting. Being mode can help us create space and time for ourselves, to reflect, rest, and grow. Being mode can help us cultivate gratitude, compassion, and joy. Being mode can help us find balance and harmony in our lives.

As a monk, I went on to discover that Being contains its own unique intelligence that is vastly superior to left-brain dominant brain intelligence. It is intuitive, right brain dominant, sees the big picture, and moves us towards what is truly fulfilling for us. It became clear to me that this is what we are all truly looking for.


Being vs Doing is not a dichotomy, but a spectrum. We all need both modes, in different proportions and situations. The challenge is to find our own optimal balance, and to use each mode wisely and skillfully. By practicing mindfulness and niksen or just learning to slow down, we can learn to shift from Doing to Being, or vice versa, as needed. By embracing both modes, we can enhance our quality of life, and achieve happiness and fulfillment. Better still, learn to DO from a state of BEING.

Being is always available to us – sometimes it is useful to formally shift into Being via a meditation practice.

On my associated website: you can access a free 12-minute meditation that helps you to shift into BEING – no signup required!

During my transformational coaching sessions, Returning to Being is often a key component of the programme.

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