Sunday, May 9, 2010

One Simple Question

I once read that an ordinance in one of America’s major cities forbids "walking about aimlessly, with no apparent purpose, lingering, hanging around, lagging behind, idly spending time, delaying, sauntering and moving slowly about."

I can’t tell you how disturbed I felt. Some of my best days are spent like that.

But then, I don’t want my whole life to be basically described as having "no apparent purpose...lagging behind...idly spending time...delaying" and generally moving about aimlessly. On the other hand, neither do I want to take myself too seriously. An occasional day spent doing next to nothing sounds perfectly fine.

My problem is that I am usually busy. I schedule tightly and work long hours. I plan my time and make lists.

But it would be a mistake to believe that, just because I am doing many things, I am necessarily doing the right things. Or, perhaps, the BEST things. At least if I’m busy, I want to stay busy at things that matter.

News commentator Dan Rather asked himself a vital question several times a day. Largely because of this one question, he became one of America's leading journalists. Rather wrote the question on three slips of paper. He kept one in his billfold, one in his pocket, and one on his desk. The all-important question he constantly asked himself was "Is what you are doing now helping the broadcast?"

If the answer was yes, then he continued with his work, project or idea. If the answer was no, then he stopped what he was doing and put his efforts into something else. He discovered early on that if he did not focus his time, he would end up in a job where he was under-utilized and dissatisfied.

What if you were to ask yourself a focusing question several times a day? Your question might relate to work, or perhaps to another area of your life that is important to you – family, relationships, personal development, spirituality….

You might ask yourself if what you’re doing now is helping you succeed. Or if what you’re doing now is helping you to be a better parent or a better person. You decide. The point is this: one simple question can focus and transform your life.

Try writing the question you choose on small slips of paper or on the back of a business card. Carry it with you. Post it on your desk. You might even affix it to a conspicuous spot inside your car.

Then read it several times a day. That one question will help you choose activities that contribute toward your best self. And if you are busy, at least you will be busy doing the right things – things that matter.

Then, if you decide to spend an occasional day walking about aimlessly, with no apparent purpose, lingering, hanging around, lagging behind, idly spending time, delaying, sauntering and moving slowly about, why not? The down time will probably do you good.

-- Steve Goodier

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