Not too long ago, an ex-colleague passed away and I went for her last rites. This lady had worked with me for over 8-9 years in my previous organization and briefly also served as my Executive Assistant. We had high mutual regard for each other.
At the cemetery, the prayers were being said and for a few moments my thoughts moved elsewhere. When I snapped back to present time, I noticed everyone had their hands folded and were seemingly participating in the prayers. I immediately folded my hands, shut my eyes, and started to show that I am also participating in the prayers for the departed soul. I thought to myself that I could not be seen as insensitive, especially in front of a whole lot of ex-colleagues and the relatives of the deceased.
At that moment, it occurred to me that I was acting to pray and that I was not in the experience of the prayers for a dear colleague who had worked hard and had served my organization for many years. I was doing this to look good to people around me. It made me feel I was not being genuine.
Then on I tried to be in the prayer itself and stopped performing.
This has stayed with me ever since and I am now being alive to so many different times in a single day that my actions are a mere performance; and not so much for the experience of it. This includes very basic things like saying ‘good morning’ to my colleagues just for the sake of it, without meaning it.
This world sets us up for performance. We are being judged all the time and we are being compared to others as well as our own past performance. No wonder then each of us feels the pressure to outdo the last performance.
Performance is in the domain of doingness. While experience is in the domain of beingness. Sure, one needs to ‘do’ or ‘perform’ various acts. However, while one is doing or performing these acts, the person simultaneously needs to be alive to the experience of the act being done.
‘Be’ first and then ‘do’. Inconsistencies come in your ‘performance’ when you are not being the person you are acting to be. Last Saturday, I had unannounced visitors in my office. There was a young man and a lady, no more than 21 years of age promoting an NGO for educating orphans. The young man’s enthusiasm was contagious; and clearly he was interested in the NGO and the work they did. The way he spoke showed the genuine interest he had in making a difference for the children associated with this NGO. He was full of energy, going door-to-door seeking donations for the NGO. On the other hand, the lady with him seemed uninterested. She did make a few requests to me to make a donation. However, it was evident that her requests were made only to show that she had done her bit in seeking donations, while really she did not care.
The young man was experiencing making a difference in the lives of these children; while the young lady was only performing her role, without experiencing it.
Think of the last time at your job when you were not being the designation that you have and were only performing the tasks expected of that designation. Be alive to the impact it had on your way of being and how you felt at that point of time. Similarly, think of the last time when you were being the designation that you have and were performing inside of that being. Once again, be alive to the impact it had on your way of being and how you felt at that point of time.
Once you have done this, it should conclusively address the point that I am making here. It is not about Performance. It is about the experience!
Sameer Dua, Founder Director, Institute for Generative Leadership, India
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