To Have Versus To Be

Our modern society has only two major mindsets, and those are: “to have” and “to be”. “To have” is the mindset which favors acquisitions, possessions, control, disruption. “To be” is the mindset which favors enjoyment, detachment, freedom and continuity. Throughout our lives we bounce back and forth from one mindset to another. At some point, “to have” seems more important and it’s preferred. Sometimes we chose more “to be” rather than “to have”.

The world we live in has a huge shift towards the “to have” mindset. Every social structure is designed in such a way that it will support acquisition or a form of control. Every definition of success is based on a number of possessions. Almost every form of value creation is based on a form of control and disruption. The “to have” mindset is ubiquitous. It’s so present that we forgot how “to be”.

Limited Versus Continuous

When you have something, you have it only for a limited period of time. The moment you started to have that thing, time will start its destructive action and the thing will start to decay. Every economic theory will state the fact that there is a devalorisation of things based on the time we’ve had possession over them. You can have a thing only for a limited period of time.

On the other hand, being is continuous. By choosing “to be” and not to have, you detach from the time bounding and enjoy your present second. If you obey to the “to have” mindset, you can have a beautiful thing for some time and then try to recreate the feeling by buying another similar one. But if you’re in the “to be” mindset you can be in joy regardless of any other external hook. You don’t need “to have” material incentives if you are just being. Happiness is not bounded.

Past Or Future Versus Present

When you have something you have it only in the past. You may have the illusion that you have it in the present moment but each second that thing will change. Mostly to decay. You cannot really have something in the present moment, it’s impossible. All of your possessions are in the past. All you have is in the past and all you will have is in the future. In the present moment there is only a presence, you.

When you chose “to be” you chose to live in the present. You can’t live in he past or in the future, you can only be in this present second. This second is all you have. You can’t be in the past, because the past doesn’t exist anymore and you can’t be in the future because the future doesn’t yet exist. Having something is always in the past, being is always in the present.

Addiction Versus Spontaneity

Having things is a gravitational activity. The more you have, the more you attract. When you start to shift your mindset towards having, you will draw into your life more and more possessions. And that will create addictions. That will make you want more and more and it will tie you to this endless field of chains you created. The more you have, the bigger the chains, the powerful the addiction.

Enjoying your life as you go by, without focusing on having stuff, but rather being there and observing everything, will favor your spontaneity. Not having something to protect or to acquire will free your decisions. You’ll be spontaneous, in the moment. You’ll be acting directly and focused, no hidden strings. Addiction always comes from the “to have” mindset, if you chose “to be” you can’t be otherwise than spontaneous, living in the present.

Destination Versus Journey

Having something is enjoying the destination, just being is enjoying the journey. Whenever you experience satisfaction for something you just had, for a thing you just bought, you’re opening the door to a big emptiness. Now what? I got this, now what? I have to have more, in order to feed that satisfaction feeling. You reached your destination and now you have to be on the trip again. You have to define another travel, bigger goals, more expensive things, instead of just enjoying a continuous, endless trip.

If you favor the journey over the destination, then you are just  being. You are not bound to a specific destination because the journey itself it’s your destination. You are just enjoying the trip. You are a continuous traveler, not a milestone reacher. Your journey is what is fulfilling you regardless of the actual point of your trip.

Having Versus Being

The “to have” mindset is so present in our lives that it has infected even our day to day language. We often use “to have” when we should actually use “to be”. We really should just be in those contexts but our mindset is twisted and we’re unconsciously using the words “to have”. Using “to have” lower the vibration of those contexts, make them more prone to addiction, to limits, to decay. Imagine the difference between:

1. To have friends / kids / a wife versus being blessed with friends, kids or a wife

You really don’t have those persons, nobody can possess nobody, you are just sharing a fantastic journey with them and yet you’re inclined to treat them as possession. This is why you become frustrated when they don’t behave as soulless things, when they are having bad days or when they don’t agree with you. You treat them as possessions. If you would chose to think at them as
blessings, as wonderful companions for a trip, your attitude will instantly change. Instead of being frustrated by their lack of cooperation you’ll tend to help. Instead of being sad because of their sadness will try to cheer them up. You’ll try to make the journey nicer instead of keeping up the value of your possessions.

2. To have money versus being in abundance.

Too often we define abundance by numbers, by figures, by empty concepts like money. The more we have, the biggest the abundance. That is a limiting mindset. You can experience a lot of what life has to offer with little or no money. Of course, acting in this society at this specific historical moment, money will tend to be a big advantage in your trip. But money is only a part – and a small one – from the bigger picture of abundance. Being in abundance has little to do with the number of money you have at some point. Being in abundance means being resourceful, making the trip more enjoyable, not spending more money just because you can. Striving for making more money will shift you to the “to have” mindset instead of aligning you with the abundance mindset, with being resourceful. Money is a consequence of abundance, not the cause of it.

3. To have a disease versus being misaligned

We say “I have a disease”. No, you don’t have anything. You are in a specific state of misalignment. But using the “to have” mindset you’ll empower that misalignment and make it more powerful than it is. Having a disease is a completely different thing than acknowledging the misalignment. When you keep saying you “have” a disease, you’ll be making part of you. Because you “have” it. But if you think at the disease as a temporary state of misalignment, at something that you can change with the shift of your attitude, you’ll make it a temporary glitch on your journey. Diseases are just wrong paths on your journey, they are just signals that you’re engaging on the wrong road. All you need to do is to be willing to change course.

4. To have a career versus being useful

Traditionally successful lifestyle comes from “having” a career. We’re hunting careers and prepare ourselves almost all of our lives for better careers. But just “having” a career lowers you genuine intentions of becoming useful by bounding it to the “to have” mindset. When we have a successful career we strive too much on no to lose that career than on to actually provide value. We fight for keeping our seats in the advisory boards, we strive to get a promotion, to put our feet one stair higher than the guy next door. When you don’t have a career but you’re genuinely provide value for other, you’re in the “to be” mindset. You’re not afraid of losing anything because you don’t have anything to lose, you’re just being helpful to other guys. You’re being instead of having.


How much time are you spending in the “to have” mindset? How much time are you just being?

33 thoughts on “To Have Versus To Be”

  1. I love this distinction. It is true that being will cause us to experience more joy. The ultimate state of being is what scientists call flow. A state when you are so in the moment and feel at one with the universe.

    Whenever I am in a to have state I am miserable. I am working on being more in a to be state by meditating.

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  5. Well, we all ARE, aren’t we? So being born means we are. Being human means we are.
    So it’s natural to go towards “to have”. And one who doesn’t have will always go for things to have. For me right now it’s easy to say that I agree with you, as I am in the position of already having some of the above mentioned. And indeed now, after having, I’m looking towards being. And this post is very helpful 🙂
    .-= Mihai´s last blog ..Prietenul filozof =-.

  6. I remember seeing a reality show where someones house fell into a swollen river, all this stuff came out of the house, besides timber and insulation, just all these possessions, and maybe it was liberating.
    Have you ever put stuff into storage and lived happily while all this stuff was in storage?

  7. Hi Dragos,
    This is excellent! This is something I’ve been thinking about after returning from a vacation – this idea of just “being” more often. And I love the thought of journey vs. destination. It is indeed the journey that matters to me Although I can also think of times when the destination has overtaken that – and for what? When I lose focus of what matters, “having” also seems to rear it’s head more often. So, this is a great reminder for me – to really focus more on “being” in all areas of my life – thanks much!

    Lance’s last blog post..The Destination

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  9. Dragos, I love this post! You’re right about possessions being a past/future phenomena … we want something until we get it, and then we want something else. Instead of focusing on possessions, we should focus on who we are, and on the difference we’re making.
    And even that — focusing on our impact — is not a move calculated to bring us to greatness, but to making life better for everyone else.
    I also do agree with your assessment on disease — being misaligned rather than having something. Parkinson’s does not define who I am — my attitude now is still positive and upbeat. I will live life under whatever my current physical conditions may be. Those conditions don’t define me. My heart, my mind, my soul — those things define me.
    You continue to provide thought provoking posts. Keep writing!

    nutuba’s last blog post..The Fluffy Dozen

  10. Dragos, wonderfully dense content you created today! I think you have truly captured the essence of what I continually repeat about it not being the destination but the journey. For example, most really successful people who have made it rich, don’t get off on the money or the things. They get off on the trip. We think they are not satisfied with what they have and just want more, but in reality it is just the fact that they want to continue the journey because the journey makes them high. They may even think they want the money, but they don’t. Life is the journey and successful people practice that whether they are explicitly conscious of it or not.

    Stephen – Rat Race Trap’s last blog post..What You Need to Know About Your Amazing Brain

  11. @Agent_Luke yeap, “to have” is part of our lives too. Whatever it is, whatever exists is part of our lives. Finding balance between “to have” and “to be” is also a part of our lives.

  12. @Daniel Brenton yes, the pleasure of having things is always subject to decay. Even if they’ll have a new model of Mercedes this yer, it will never be the same as your “first” one. Or, to be more exact, you’ll never be as happy as you were that day 🙂

  13. @BunnygotBlog yes, what you described about how you position yourself in regard to yesterday and tomorrow is exactly and exercise of “to be”, great example 🙂

  14. @Eric D. Green great idea to use language in order to trigger situations in which “to have” will be mistakenly used instead of “to be”. I might even want to start an experiment with that. Thanks for subscribing 🙂

  15. @Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills: life is about who we are and who we become. You’ve put everything in one single phrase. Thanks 🙂

  16. “To have” and “to be”. I am both sometimes to have and sometimes to be. because I depends on time and situations and you should be clever.


    The difference is in living the life now, oppose to working on it to live it later.
    Every moment in life has it’s positive and negative side, but as human beings we need to focus on exactly that – being – not having. Although having isn’t all that bad either. After all everything is meant for us – human beings!


    @Agent_Luke’s last blog post..Agent_Luke: This is why #twitter & #fb is here to stay. You need? You ask! And it shall be given! Long live #free #twitter #fb! Thanks Olivia & Brad!

  18. Dragos —

    I love your line: “All of your possessions are in the past.”

    I came into some of this a little differently some time ago through a fellow named Joe Domenguez of the New Road Map Foundation. He pointed out that there was such a thing as “enough” … that getting that second Mercedes didn’t give you as much pleasure as getting the first one. The pleasure does wear off, and sometimes quickly, which puts it all in the past.

    Daniel Brenton’s last blog post..Gratitude Watch – 2009-04-17

  19. This is pretty heavy stuff. I don’t wont to hold on to yesterday if it doesn’t make me happy today.
    Yet- with what happened to me yesterday brought me to where I am today. So with that I am richer in wisdom,for having the experience.
    So yesterday is gone and I have no regrets for it was brought me where I am today.
    Tomorrow is yet to be seen but I face it head on.

    BunnygotBlog’s last blog post..How One Great Idea Made Such A Difference To So Many

  20. It’s good when we realize that we are human beings, not human havings!

    My favorite book on the subject: “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle

    Io_da’s last blog post..Mental rehearsal – key to change!

  21. Hey there, I’m new to your blog and really enjoyed the post (Celes tweeted it)

    For me, I think about how powerful the ‘to-have’ mindset really is. It’s the programming of our whole culture – something we are ingrained with from the time we see the first commercials and ads on television or on a billboard somewhere (at least that’s how it is for me).

    I think one way we can start to truly ‘undo’ the programming is to use language in the way you suggest. To catch ourselves using the phrase “I have” and really decide if it’s appropriate, or if there is a better way of phrasing it in a “to be” type of mindset.

    Thanks and I will be subscribing to your RSS feed!
    – Eric

    Eric D. Greene (artist)’s last blog post..Ladybug drawing in oil pastels

  22. Marvelous post Dragos. I’m planning to write a post sometime in the future on Journey vs. Destination. Your post covers this perfectly, including other things in spades too. I’m retweeting your post!

    Celes | EmbraceLiving.Net’s last blog post..Layout Improvements

  23. Wonderful Article Dragos,

    The ironic thing about placing too much emphasis on the destination is that we miss the journey altogether. That journey is our life, it’s not some unimportant holding pattern. In reality we never reach a destination, just mile markers along the way. What a waste it would be to miss out on the experience of life because we were too focused on the imaginary finish line. Goals are great, but like a rudder on a boat all they do is help us to adjust our course. Life is not about what we accomplish or acquire, it’s about who we are and who we become.

  24. @Secara you’re right, and even more: fearing is in itself something outside the present moment. Fear is a projection of something that could get bad in the future, based by some memories of what went wrong in the past. Fear is outside of the “to be” mindset all together.

  25. Hey Dragos,

    Excellent post! Thanks for sharing this 🙂 Also another point / difference between imagined fears (those from past / future) vs. real fears (present). I guess that the “to have” types have lots of unreal fears…




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