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Publish With Pride

Why We’re Addicted to Doing (And What To Do About It!)


As I sit down to write this piece, I notice the quiet and powerful whisper in my mind attempting to pull me to the myriad of other things I ‘could’ or ’should’ be doing. I sit, notice and choose to continue with this piece.


It’s crazy. Maybe I’m on my yoga mat, maybe I’m sipping my Japanese tea; wherever I go, my mind seems to try nudging me elsewhere.



Why do we have this impulse to constantly be onto the ‘next,’ up to ‘more,’ or crafting the ‘better?’



Evolutionarily we had a strong limbic dominance, meaning we were wired for preparedness and survival. We had to be switched on, alert, ready at all times. We seem to have transcended the need for this level of vigilance, but have either carried this trance with us, or created other reasons for its existence.


Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield calls this our ‘Reducing Valve of Awareness.’ We’ve become heavily fixated on looking for short-term opportunities, quick-wins, quick spurts and looking out for the next threat.

To re-open our Valve of Awareness is to take time for the mind to travel, for your mind to be captivated by the night sky, for your attention to become global for just a moment.


In a culture that places such emphasis on the ‘work’ we do, and the identity we craft in doing such work, it makes sense that we orient more towards doing than, shall I say, being. Constantly looking for the next opportunity to improve – ourselves, our work, our relationships, our house – we end up in the hypnosis of ’never enough’ and ‘forever seeking.’


In our FOMO and concern for being left behind (in many senses), we manage ourselves so stringently throughout our lives. Perhaps the biggest loss and that which we miss out on most importantly, is life itself. Managing ourselves, trying to chase and gather everything in a neat bundle right up to our last breath, realising that we weren’t truly participating or engaging with that which was right there, in-front of us.



If there’s nothing to do in this moment, what’s here and who am I?
Can it be ok, to have nothing to do in this moment?



By now, you may be able to relate to one or two things I’ve spoken to in this piece. Of course, you’re not alone if you have – in fact, you’re among the many. It’s real, it’s rampant and it’s all-consuming. 


So, how do we catch ourselves in this pattern and work to re-balance?


Well, isn’t the title a little funny? “Why We’re Addicted to DOing (And What To DO About It!)” If we meet our habitual-doing with the attitude of doing, will this support us in our intention?


Yet, this is what many of us end up doing. We create another list of ‘musts,’ and a maybe even a regimented routine to try and restore calm, clarity and connection.



I’m going to suggest the opposite, and I’m going to suggest we give it a name; The Sacred Pause.



There is a story about a champion paraglider who was caught in a heat thermal and sucked up to a height greater than Mount Everest. She was encased in ice. Panic, paralysis, shock, distress! Now, of course this is an event when reducing your valve of awareness would serve the moment. 


Her body shut down, and she lost consciousness. All resources directed toward keeping the vital organs warm and the heart pumping. She was forced to pause. Amazingly, after an hour she descended back towards Earth, regained consciousness and was able to land safely with only sever frost bites.


It’s in this pause that another form of intelligence arises. It’s in this pause that we release ourselves from the possibly of reactive or haste-full actions we may regret later. 



Pausing allows the wisdom of the more-than-mind to arise. Pausing allows us to listen to the wisdom that does arise, we realise other options. 



There is another benefit to the Sacred Pause, we start to bring awareness to the drivers of our personal addiction to doing. We become aware of the deeper drivers to this impulse within ourselves. The gift of awareness is that with more awareness (and a sprinkle of self-compassion), we start to be able loosen the chains of the patterns we find ourselves in.


Taking pause though, can be hard. Our environment and culture doesn’t reflect this notion back to us in our everyday environment.


Make it easier for yourself by considering doing one of the following things:

  • Put a sticky note on your computer screen
  • Set a phone wallpaper that reminds you to take a pause
  • Set a phone reminder every 2 hours
  • Setup an accountability buddy so you start to welcome your environment to support you
  • Talk to your manager or lead at work, ask if there is something you can do as a team
  • Plus many, many more…play around, experiment, find what works for you!


As I reflect on often, the clarity, calm and connection really is in the space between. The space between the information we bring in from the outer world and the way we respond to it. The only way we can access that beautiful space between, is to create space between, a pause. 


Let us learn to be a little gentler with ourselves, to know that we are enough as we are and this moment is. To allow ourselves the gift of a pause, in knowing it will bring greater clarity, calm and connection.


I’d love to hear, what spoke to you loudest, felt most useful or resonant in this piece? Is there anything you take away that feels most beneficial? Let me know as a comment, or send me an email to al@aljeffery.com.


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Group Huddle

Finding Our Way to Belonging (a snippet of my story, a fragment of ours)

Growing up I always had a sense of being an alone ‘other,’ the image I was told to aspire towards being dramatically different to the impulses and curiosities I had whirling within me. I’d go to school feeling incredibly privileged and confused by the levels of disengagement I saw in those around me, against the backdrop of the inequality experienced by the larger populous on continents I’d not yet seen.


Grappling with my queer-ness in close proximity to my Mother’s Christian family left me feeling extremely disconnected and quite often very mis-understood. I’d sit in my bedroom telling myself over and over again that I was ‘straight,’ as if I would somehow ‘change my mind,’ or ‘grow out of it.’


Of course I need to mention that when I did muster up the courage to share myself with my family, I received nothing but embrace and all-accepting love. It did take the story written below to unfold though, in order for this courage to be reflected back to me. 


When people hear my professional story, and that I began my entrepreneurial career at just 12 years old, they most-often only see the striving, the agency, the creativity. Whilst I do honour myself for having the courage to follow my creative impulses at such an age, of course it too cast a shadow. 


At 16 years old I started up and operated a sustainable clothing label and organised fundraising events, raising funds and second-hand clothing for the Lighthouse Foundation, supporting underprivileged and displaced youth in Melbourne. Lunchtimes at school for me were spent in the library making sales calls and responding to emails, after school I’d be in meetings or sending out orders; on weekends I’d be at seminars or personal development workshops. My self-worth become inextricably linked to my work in the world. 


It become scary how comfortable I grew with the emptiness and the loneliness of my own company.


Although many times I do still feel deeply that I am the only one, it has been in the felt-realisation that I am not, that I have understood the deepest sense of belonging. That I am not the only one who feels alone sometimes. I am not the only one who doesn’t know exactly where they’re headed, all the time. I am not the only one who grapples with internal challenges that sometimes feel far beyond my own capacity.


In 2014 I was invited to join 9 other social entrepreneurs in Boulder, Colorado for a 6-month residential accelerator program. Watson University, with the slogan ‘Protect Your Courage,’ is a place for young social pioneers to come to strengthen their self-awareness, emotional capacity and creative ability. 


There is something extremely magical that happens when a group of humans come together with a common inquiry into a better, more equitable and more regenerative world, with a willingness to open to that within themselves. When our interests move beyond ourselves and become about something more, and when this is our bridge for our connection, we fall gracefully into the essence of community.


Designed very intentionally as a Rites of Passage, I’d never felt so safe, so open and so allowed to express myself as I, myself explored my own inner life. 


It was here, feeling held and that my tenderness and fragility was protected that I began to share the parts of myself that even I was still warming to. Here, in this process of coming home to myself, in the holding of others is where I felt a profound sense of belonging for the first time in my life. 


On the first night we were all ‘kidnapped’ from our rooms, put in the back of a van, driven up a windy road, then given lit candles and each taken to a room within a large house. We were to sit in silence with our blindfolds on for 10 minutes.


After the bell rang, we were to take our blindfolds off, and by candlelight write a letter about that which did not serve us here anymore. We were then collected – blindfolds back on – and taken out to the edge of a cliff with a large bonfire lit in front of us. With blindfolds off, in silence, we then took it in turns to read our letter aloud and throw it into the fire. That was night one!


Sitting on my flight home from LA to Melbourne, reflecting on my 6-month journey, I came to understand this journey for me as being from my head to heart. Firstly in coming to accept the reality of my own inner life, my identity and my challenges, to then living and sharing from this place. The profound difference I felt in my own experience of connection and community, when I allowed myself to express ‘how I feel,’ and not simply ‘what I think’ was immense. Simply now noticing in my own language when I say “I think…” versus “I feel…’ has been a great gift.


Sitting in circle, sharing my inner life and being so totally accepted and honoured for that, has been my greatest tool for coming home.


The Nguni Bantu word, Ubuntu, meaning “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that which connects all humanity,” comes out of me quite often as a way of describing this. My hope is that we can all find our own circles to sit in, to be held as we find our way back to our own stories yet to be told. This allows us to facilitate the cultural renewal required to hold our human family with tenderness.



In my sharing, I’m sure there will have been inner-smiles, inner sparks and inner resonance in some way. This small portion of my story of separation, transition and re-connection is simply a reflection of our cultural story at large. Recognising that yours will likely look quite different, it certainly may have felt very different, but I do invite you to reflect on your journey through belonging. 


This practice of ‘belonging,’ and of ‘community’ truly is a verb. As we each learn to soften and be witnessed in our own journeys back to ourselves, and in sharing ourselves courageously in community, we find what belonging is for us.


My hope is for a world where our inner lives are tended to, held with gentleness, spoken about openly, guide and inform our outer work. 


There is no way to community, community is the way.

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Why ‘coming out’ is so complex (and how we’re all in the closet).

For the most part of my adolescence, I was burning inside, split between two worlds. 


Two sticks inside of me rubbing up against each other, creating such heat, I’d burn on the inside. My inner-world and deeper-knowing telling me I was this way, my inhabited-narrative and the world around me telling me I should be otherwise.

How was I to reconcile this?


You may feel this in many ways also. Something in our reality that simply does not match the story we are told. Some vulnerability on the inside seeking to be seen and acknowledged.


Either I’d give in and live in complete dissonance with myself, shun and ‘other’ a core part of my identity. Or, I’d take the leap, honour my self fully and come-out. Not as gay, but maybe ‘queer,’ if I was to put a word to it. That’s a whole other piece 😉


I’m now 25 and couldn’t be more grateful for the nurturing, loving and deeply-understanding journey I’ve had to being who I am and where I am.

Of course, many who identify in any way other than heterosexual, have not been and are not graced with such tenderness in their journey of coming home to themselves in our world.


This leads me to note that this piece is written – of course – from my experience. Which to note was a fairly comfortable experience with my very accepting and understanding family. It feels important to acknowledge this, to make sure there is space for others who may disagree or have alternative perspectives to my sharing, so please comment and let this be a conversation starter.


Behind the notion of ‘coming out.’


It’s a complex, challenging and quite revealing notion. Telling much about our culture and the core assumptions, biases and dualistic beliefs ingrained into our unconscious social agreements. 


For one to need to come-out, connotes that they are ‘other than’ the norm. Otherwise, it is assumed that they are ‘as everyone else is.’ Wouldn’t it be so pleasant and easy if we were all just like each other. Kidding. It would probably be quite a glib and bland experience I would think. 


So what if we all had to come out? What if, we didn’t have a tightly-held assumed orientation (gender or any identifiers for that matter) at birth?


What if our culture had a compassionate and curious tone. One that might come to know us, be curious about who we are, as we navigate that journey ourselves? What if the messaging instead of attempting to encourage us in one direction or the other was a little more, should I say, open in its nature?


Ok, yes maybe it would make checking those boxes at the doctor or when filling out that government services form a little less ’streamlined.’


The practice of coming out is an incredibly important practice for all humans. The recognition of who we are, the explicit acknowledgment of our identity is something very few of us have felt.


Ancient cultures has practices Rites of Passage ceremonies and ‘rite’ for centuries. When the elders in the community noticed a young teenager become agitated and restless, they would let them know they are to prepare for their ‘ritual of transition.’ This would consist of any number of rituals, ceremonies, group processes and culminate in the individual coming out the other side, and being publicly acknowledged as now being a ‘young adult.’


The social cohesion, the strengthening of identity, the community that is formed when there is a public acknowledgement and ritual to celebrate someone’s identity is incredible. When I slowly started sharing people in my family, friendship circles and wider-community that I was other-than “normal,” each time I felt heard, accepted and seen I felt myself drop further into feeling at home in our world. I felt the hiding drip away.


So what if there wasn’t an assumed ’norm?’ We do all truly exist on a spectrum of identities and the more intimately we get to know ourselves the more we come to know this. My hope is for a world of self-aware, embodied and authentically-expressive leaders.

For this to happen, we need to create space in our culture.


Aren’t we all in the closet about something? 


Whether it’s our sexual orientation, gender, spiritual belief, our sense of loneliness, the truth that we actually don’t know where we’re headed; aren’t we all hiding something? Aren’t we all impacted by the multiplicity of assumed norms that exist in our culture? I would think we are, even in the most subtle ways. 


Now I’m dreaming. Imagine, if as close friendship groups we sat in a ‘coming out, coming home’ circle once a month, and each shared something that we needed to ‘come out’ about. Some vulnerability is inside us that wants to be seen, to be acknowledged? 


Our responsibility as leaders.


Firstly, may we all acknowledge the assumed norms and biases we carry as we walk the world. May we recognize them as malleable, and upon noticing an outdated colonial story running its script, question it and course-correct when we can. 

In Buddhism it is called ‘shoshin,’ beginners mind. Forgetting all that we think we know, allowing the person in front of us to teach us something, even if it is deeply uncomfortable and conflicts many of our beliefs. Can we build the willingness to listen, more than we know to speak.


Secondly, may we all give ourselves the freedom in coming out, and in that, coming home to ourselves. To reflect upon what it is in us that wants so badly to be seen. Then, to share it with one person, a group of people. Coming out is a deeply-courageous, incredibly inspiring and honorable act, offering permission and guidance for others to do the same. 


To a world of individuals who are allowed and confident in themselves. A world where the culture we weave and re-weave in each moment, creates space for individuality and ultimately, that which is our gift, our expression.


Please do share any comments, perspectives or alternative thinking here. This is intended to be a conversation starter, and so I do acknowledge that I have not addressed all the many layers and complexities to this notion in varying contexts.

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