“Who the hell cares about air entrainment by vortices right now?”
This is the question that ran around my brain as I sat down to work last Tuesday morning.
It felt like a very legitimate question with a very unappealing (but logical) answer: “Your funding agency”.
My husband then voiced the same thing on Wednesday while we were out on our lunchtime walk: “Why sit and work on these presentations to convince a Board of Directors to pay for stuff I know they don’t want to pay for?”
Every day since COVID19 started to become a reality in the US, this thought has been lurking in the back of my mind as I work:
If I’m not working to solve the most pressing problem facing the entire population on earth what am I good for?me, every day since COVID19 became a thing
Here’s the thing (queue dramatic music): I can’t contribute to solving the most pressing problem facing the entire population on earth. I’m not an epidemiologist or a government official or a virologist or an immunologist or a health care provider (bless you for all you are facing and going to face). I study fluid dynamics. I don’t even study sneezes or coughs: right now its vortices and air entrainment.
It feels like a con job but it’s purposeful.
I keep telling myself that, in the near future, someone who cares as much about vortices and air entrainment as I do is going to want to read this paper that I am going to publish on the matter. The little gremlin in the back of my head sees through this con job. What is the purpose of working through a pandemic?
Here’s the secret: focusing on work makes you focus. It makes you focus on something in your life that has the most certainty. It makes you focus on something where you have the most autonomy. And, it makes you focus on something that you can relate to.
In coaching, we talk about David Rock’s “SCARF” model. Neurologically, when you are assured of your “Certainty”, “Autonomy”, and “Relatedness”, then your brain will activate on the side of “rewards”: releasing dopamine or the happy hormone. On the other hand, if you are focusing on your uncertainty, lack of control and isolation, then your brain is going flip (out, literally) to the side of “threats” dumping all the stress hormones into your body and send you on a downward spiral. For those that are curious, the S and F are less relevant to our current situation although Fairness can’t be ignored when some have the luxury to earn income at home while others do not.
In other words, do it for the dopamine
I am blessed by a job that allows me to earn income while I work from home. There are people in my network who do not have that luxury and I am continuing to support them as appropriate. To support them and my family, I have to keep working on vortices and air entrainment. If I find myself drifting towards that downward spiral, I intentionally double down on focusing on my work and “do it for the dopamine.”