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What I'm reading #1: We are verbs, not nouns

By Sam Instone - January 07, 2022

It’s that time of year again. 

When the "New Year, New You" image, posts and emails flood our social media channels and inboxes.

Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying,
"if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it. That is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know, you will never become anything, and that is your reward."

Are you a static 'person, place or thing' or are you an 'active, doing, being'?

As a father, I relate to these thoughts.

We wish for our kids, to become 'nouns' - doctors, engineers, coders, or in my case an Army Officer.

And in this pursuit, we forget they are 'verbs' - always evolving, always a work-in-progress...

And often do not let them find joy in whatever they are 'doing'.

Dancing, painting and, often just 'nothing'. 

We treat ourselves the same way. 

When someone asks us, "what do you do for a living?", we often reply with nouns such as lawyer, CEO, business owner, investor, engineer. 

We rarely say, "I help build a better working world" or "I help people live their best possible life".

But we're not nouns.

We're verbs. 

In the same way the values we hold dear in our lives should also be verbs - actively lived and practised. 

Only if we give ourselves permission to intentionally 'do' what brings us the greatest joy - will we find the satisfaction in the next year. 

Consider the idea of 'success' that most people believe to be the gospel truth. 

The desire to live out our potential and succeed is one the most basic and powerful human needs.

Everyone wants to succeed in some way or another.

And often, one of the reasons we chase success is to achieve fame - as pillars of society, titans of industry, clever investors, wealthy bankers...

And therein lies the problem. 

Our need to 'become' highly regarded by others takes precedence over the need to 'do' things. 

The seeds of this are sown in our childhood, when the education system teaches us to love success (grades, ranks) and not what we are learning.

The result (noun) becomes more than the action (verb).

Go back to the last time you made a sincere effort at something that went unacknowledged by others.

How did you feel?



Well, it's normal to feel that way.

We start doubting our efforts because no one notices them. 

Such indifference often puts us off.

But then, like a flower (noun) keeps flowering (verb) and rivers (noun) keep flowing (verb), our lives are always a continuum. 

There will never come a time when we are 'complete and finished' human beings, because the state of being complete and finished is the antithesis of what being human is all about. 

We are always a work-in-progress. 

And it's a wonderful thing. 

There never comes a full stop.

So let's not plan our years with language that makes us believe otherwise.

As Richard Buckminster Fuller put it, 

"I live on earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing - a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process - an integral function of universe."

Austin Kleon, the author of Keep Going, writes,

"So many people think you have to first call yourself an artist, know who you are and what you're about, and then you can start making art. No, no, no. You do the stuff first, then you can worry about what it is, who you are. The important thing is the practice. The doing, the verb. We aren't nouns, we are verbs."

With the help of a coach from 2B Limitless and to help ensure I stay on track and get what I want out of 2022, I've created a '2022 Accountability Document'.

It will help me act in line with my values and use my rituals to maximise my chances of making 2022 my 'best year ever'.

You can read mine here and if you want the help of an exceptional professional coach to build one of your own, feel free to contact David Labouchere at any time