What else would I be doing?


What else are we to do?

Regardless of what I am doing, I find it helpful to ask, “what else would I be doing if I were not doing ___________.” There is a big lag between the big picture questions that we ask and the day to day activities which occupy the vast majority of our time. Reconciling higher ideals and ambitions to low order processes is often more difficult to do consistently than establishing a higher ideal in the first place. A common example of this goes:

Q: What is my higher goal or ambition?
A: I want to love people?

Q: How do I do that?
A: By being nice or kind to people (Whoever said that nice/kind=love should reevaluate)

Q: How am I doing that?
A: By doing the same things I would always do but with a smile and maybe a nice compliment to people.

Or some variation of this. We can agree that this is certainly not bad, however it results in steps that are not really concrete or actionable. When I am considering whether or not my day to day work is aligning with overall goals, it is easier for me to ask, “what else would I be spending my time on?” Often I work until reasonably late at night. In some cases this can be a negative, in others a positive. When I am considering whether it is a negative or a positive I use that question. If the answer is that I would be investing in relationships by having a drink with or helping a friend the extra work is called being a workaholic and is a negative. However if the answer is that time would be spent watching Netflix or staring at my navel (just to make sure its still there-fun fact, sometimes you can see it bounce with the pulse from your abdominal aorta), then the extra work is called ambition and is a positive. By asking a more simple, yet direct question, I am better able to evaluate my use of time, and thus also my priorities. If you ask this question and find a better use for your time, transition to that new task or activity. If you ask this question and find the answer is less worthy of your time, continue in your task knowing you are operating at your optimal already. 

Published by JR Stanley

I am an MD, PhD student, training to be a physician scientist, with a deep interest in science, faith, and living life as an adventure. Join me as I entertain ideas from new findings in science, evolving interpretations of faith, and experience life one day and one adventure at a time.

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