Doing vs. Want to Have Done

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Okay, class is in session so sit down and pay attention. Today we’re going to learn the distinction between “Doing” a thing and “Wanting to have done” a thing.

You wouldn’t think this would need explanation, but evidently it does. This is based on the large number of people who seem to have the two confused. So confused, in fact, that they try to look like they’ve done the thing when all they’ve done is, well, everything but the thing.

Here’s the crucial difference, campers: Doing the thing requires actual work. As in making time for the thing, learning how to do the thing, and practicing/actually doing the thing.

Wanting to have done the thing requires nothing more than daydreaming about how cool it will be when you have done the thing. Also, maybe some consumerism as you buy all the supplies for the thing, which you promptly shove into the back of the closet. Still, they’re ready to be trotted out should anyone question your sincerity in wanting to do the thing.

I see this a lot with reading. Poor reading. Tons of people claim they want to read more, yet few actually do it. Instead, they resort to literary bluffing in order to make themselves seem better read. They may even stock their shelves with impressive looking books that they think they should have read by now. But they never actually, you know, read.

The funny thing is, reading is one thing that doesn’t require much effort to move from wanting to doing. It’s free if you use the library. If you have an ereader, you don’t even have to leave home to get materials. You don’t need friends to help you or make up numbers. If you already know how to read, you don’t need instruction. All you need is a little free time, something that most people have.

There’s really no reason not to read more if it’s what you want to do. Yet plenty of people are still wandering around, wanting to read more and acting like they have read, but not actually reading. Why? Because actually reading is work. Saying you’ve read is easy.

I also see it a lot in the board gaming community. People buy a boatload of games and call themselves gamers. Yet they don’t play the games. That’s not being a gamer, that’s being a collector. Nothing wrong with that, but you’re claiming to do the wrong thing. Say, “I’m a collector” and great, you’re doing the thing. Say, “I’m a gamer” and you’re not doing the thing. You’re spending money to look like you have done the thing.

Let’s look at writing. Plenty of people want to have written a book. Yet few actually sit down and write a book. Writing is work. Fantasizing about writing is easy. It’s far easier to go buy a bunch of books on writing, buy some cool supplies, read writing websites, and call yourself a writer. It’s easier to tell people you’re a writer, but you’re tortured and misunderstood than it is to actually write the words.

Sports? Same deal. Buy a bunch of equipment and call yourself a surfer, even if you never set foot on a wave. It’s hard to learn how to surf. But dang, you look so cool in your wetsuit hanging on the beach that it’s easier to use the word than to do the thing.

Hobbies? Sure. Buy a camera and call yourself a photographer, even though you have yet to photograph your cat. Learning proper techniques isn’t easy and requires practice and work. Far easier to sling the thing around your neck and look cool.

Activism? That, too, is easier to want to have done than to do. Whatever cause you advocate, actually calling representatives, raising money and awareness, and solving problems takes work. Plenty of people want to have done it. They want to say they helped. But the doing is problematic. So they donate ten bucks and call themselves an activist.

In other words, there are plenty of people out there who want to do a hell of a lot of things. But for some reason, they don’t want to put in the work to do the thing. Instead, they want it to come to them fully formed. Everything already internalized, skills mastered, so they can say, “I am/do…[insert thing here].”

The thing is, the people who do the things will tell you that it’s never that simple. Even if you do the thing, you’re always working at it. It’s never mastered, it’s never perfect. You’re always trying new things, practicing, learning new skills, trying new material, etc. Whatever it is that you do, the doing never ends. There never comes a point where you “have done” the thing. Until you’re dead, anyway, and then you’ve only run out of time.

This is why doing is far more satisfying than wanting to have done will ever be. Doing is an ongoing process that continues for your entire life. Wanting to have done is just that… Wanting. You never achieve anything, get better at anything, or learn anything. It’s just a pile of stuff in your closet and a dream in your head. Do the thing. It makes for a far more fulfilling life.

(Photo courtesy of TeroVesalainen)

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