Updated: Aug 7, 2020
Being good and doing good are two very different things. Let me explain...
"Being good" is very much like "being a revolutionary", or "being an atheist", or "being a good christian" for that matter. "Doing good" would be similar to "acting out a revolution", abandoning social rules, norms and believe systems and "acting like Raskolnikov" in Crime and Punishment, or doing the opposite and "living out christian ethics" to the fullest... Being a good person and acting as one is not the same. Being good is an abstraction, an idea about yourself or others. Doing good is an action, towards yourself or others.
I got a lot of inspiration for this article from two sources. One was a discussion I've had with my wife last week while sitting on our balcony and being eaten by mosquitoes. I was trying to figure out if any of the actions I took after leaving Finland and my regular job a year ago made sense, brought progress, made me a better person or were just a big waste of time.
The other source is an article I stumbled upon from a blogger called Luqman Nieto. He wrote the following on this topic:
"Being good implies a moral judgment; you’re judging the inner quality of a person. Doing good is a factual judgement; you’re judging the actions. Being good is a superficial and materialistic approach: it means judging the inner quality of someone by the appearance of things. Doing good is taking a phenomenological approach: you’re judging the actions, not the person."
After reading his article I've been reviewing a couple of older articles that I wrote in the context of "becoming a better person" and "taking action". One key aspect I was writing about is to understand that it is not enough to aim for something but to "be someone".
For example, if you want to learn a new language you can articulate it in different ways. One would be to say "I'm going to learn Finnish" or "I am learning Finnish". The other would be "I am a Finnish speaker". Believe it or not, this is a huge difference and if you constantly repeat these auto-suggesting phrases your brain will at some point create a form of subconscious believe that you are actually IT, whatever IT is.
But that's not enough. You have to add another dimension: one actually needs to DO something before truly BEING someone. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It's not. One of main issues with taking action and doing good is well summarized in this quote by Luqman:
"That we want to ‘be good’ [usually] means that we want to ‘be seen as good’. The definition of what that ‘good’ entails is another topic, but each of us wants to be a good something (even if it is good at being bad)."
Usually that comes with a specific problem:
"Immediate satisfaction dictates that taking the long route towards that is not really an option [...] since there’s nothing hidden behind what can be seen, what appears to be something [...] must be that thing."
Walking around telling god and the world that you are someone is what I've been really good at for most of my life. "I'm a cook, a musician, a singer, a runner, a consultant, a writer, a student, an investor, a good husband, a good son, an engaged and loyal family member..."
Well, I do believe that I've been all these things at some point in time - but one of the more painful discoveries I made in the past year is that it's not enough to just do something once or twice and hope that it sticks. Creating the illusion of being good by acting in a certain way only for a short amount of time does not get you anywhere on the long run.
What really matters is consistency: focus, sacrifice, discipline, habitual repetition. Everything you think you ARE is defined by what you DO and how you ACT on a repetitive, evident (and ideally measurable) basis.
I will link two of the most meaningful articles when it comes to taking action and motivating yourself. I also believe these articles didn't get enough attention (and readers) so I'm pushing them again... and might use catchier titles in the future.
Finally, here's the link to Luqman Nieto's website who - in my opinion - has published some read-worthy blog posts: http://luqmannieto.com/