Our minds are mostly occupied with two types of thoughts:

      • figuring out what we (should) want, and why it matters,
      • and working out what to do next – and how to do it.

It sounds logical to assume that we would spend enough time on the first; selecting sensible priorities before turning our attention and energy to execution.  After all, how can you set your sails if you don’t know to which port you are sailing?

Unfortunately, that is not how we do it.  We are, as a general rule, victims of the intrinsic conviction that ‘getting on with things’ is worthier than thinking too deeply about the ends we pursue.  It is as if we have an innate energy for execution and being engaged, but an equally inborn resistance to thoroughly reflect before we start doing. 

We ever so often ‘dive into it’ before asking fundamental questions about the intention and merit of the causes we launch ourselves into. Many of our actions are not backed by a credible answer to ‘why’ – and so leave us with meagre rewards.

To change this, we need to accept this weakness of ours: that being efficient is more appealing to us than being effective.  We find a to-do list more alluring than an empty page with a fundamental question on it.  Running between back-to-back meetings feels so fitting to the diligent servant in us!  We will keep record of excess stock in great detail, without being clear on why we hold the stock in the first place.  We will go the extra mile to earn more money, without a clear idea of what to do with it once we’ve earned it.  We will pack in more subjects in children’s school years, without a clue how the additions will really benefit their development.

Is this true for you as well?  Are you over-devoted to execution, chronically absorbed by haste and action – but vague on the overriding ends you pursue?  Do you pause frequently enough, to ask ‘why’ you do what you do in the first place?   

It may be harder than you realise to unchain yourself from tight schedules, harsh timelines and rigid performance targets.  From an evolutionary perspective, mulling over larger questions was never a high priority.  Our strategic goals were all based on daily survival; being efficient.  Modern life, however, is not about basic survival anymore – and avoiding the central enquiries into why we should – or should not do something, can leave us very occupied but highly unproductive.

Challenge yourself to pause more.  To deliberately raise larger questions instead of indiscriminately following your intuition to be dutiful.  Make time to reflect upon more of life’s ‘why’ and ‘why not’ questions; finding clarity on ‘What is the point of this?’.  You may be surprised by the insights that follow the question ‘Is this the best way to spend my time?’. 

The point: Develop healthy suspicion of our covert devotion to haste over enquiry.  Relegate the glamour that famously clings to busy-ness – and carve out more space for speculative reflection.  If you do, you may find that many of those ‘to-do’s’ no longer make the list.