Merely Meaning It
You don’t have to be a Star Wars nerd to remember Yoda’s words: “There is no try. There is only do.” Despite the green and the wrinkles, that little guy was on to something.
The difference between trying and doing – between wishing and being – is possibly the most significant factor in living the life that will fulfill you versus merely existing. We all know those people who “try” to improve; we also know the people who simply get things done. From the outside, getting things done (and doing them well) can look like luck, or connections, or timing. Certainly these things can be part of the equation. Positive thinking and action gets you pretty far, but others’ actions are their own, and can either help or hinder you (and there’s usually not a whole lot you can do about that, despite what purveyors of The Secret might have you believe).
But I think there’s something different going on here. Problems and disappointments just don’t add up under the current try vs. do system. Yoda was on to something, but not everything.
I believe that very few people are truly malicious, and yet: we are constantly let down and disappointed by others, whether that’s individuals, groups, organizations, institutions. How is this possible? And the fact that we are by nature “self-interested”, while true, still doesn’t explain why people hurt each other, let each other down, or, you know…try to get better.
Let me ask you:
- How many of you have ever been hurt by someone whom you know seemed to mean it when they said they wanted to be better…but nothing changed?
- How many of you have been baffled by someone’s words and actions being completely incongruous – baffled because you know they meant what they said? (If that’s not cognitive dissonance…)
- How many of you have really agonized over whether or not someone meant what he or she said? Because meaning it would make all the difference?
Think of all the movies and shows – especially dramas and romantic comedies – that feature heart-to-hearts discussing this very issue: “Did he mean it when he said…” “But if she meant it, then…”
Guess what? Not only is trying not the same as doing, but meaning is not the same as doing, either.
Does a person mean what he says? Big deal.
Meaning does not equal being. Only doing equals being. I believe if people realized this – that a person can still fundamentally mean what he says and never live up to it – we’d be a lot better off. We give “meaning what you say” a lot of weight in this society. A lot. As long as you meant it: meaning those words implies sincerity, honesty, genuineness. “I just have to know that she meant it.”
The real reason we give “meaning it” so much weight is because we have met those rare people who actually do what they say. What they “mean” is who they “are”. Unfortunately, a lot of people who aren’t so possessed of this depth of character have gotten the notion that simply saying something with earnest belief is therefore good enough. They go through life really, truly believing that they are responsible – because hey, they mean what they say. We meet people and interact with folks every day who clearly think that meaning what they say has given them entrance into the “doing and being” club. They themselves don’t see it. And most of the time, they really aren’t malicious – they really do mean what they say (which makes it painful for the rest of us, who believe it when someone “means it”).
But their endless cycles of drama and tension and dissatisfaction are the direct result of the fact that they merely mean what they say. Meaning isn’t being.