Working in a prison, I have come to an interesting realization. While the incarcerated prisoners have no choice where they live, they do have some choice over what they will do while they serve their sentence. This said, it is tragic that so many prisoners perceive their stay in jail as "doing time." In case you are unfamiliar with the term, let me explain that "doing time" is first-cousin of "killing time." It describes the mentality of prisoners who have written off the time they must spend in jail, and expect to achieve nothing meaningful out of the experience. "What are you hoping to accomplish while you are here," I often will ask a prisoner. "There's not a lot I can do," he responds with a shrug. Predictably, not a lot does happen. And it doesn't help that he hasn't even tried. So out the window goes eighteen months, or two years.

My question is: how many of us are just "doing time"? I have encountered not a few young men and women doing just that in yeshiva, high schools and universities. In my coaching career I all too often come across people who are doing time in their jobs. Stuck in a rut, they sit it out. There are those who look at their entire life as just "doing time"They are waiting until something changes: until they can graduate or until their contract expires and allowing them to change jobs. This can go on for several years. It is quite possible that G‑d wants you to be in that place for the amount of time it will take before you can move on; but He certainly doesn't want you to simply give up and just wait for the time to wind down. You are in a certain position; what are you going to make of it – or at least try to make of it?

Then there are those who look at their entire life as just doing time. Their attitude is that life is something that happens, rather than something they proactively create. This gives a whole new meaning to the term "life sentence" – to some people life itself is a life sentence. G‑d gives us "time" to serve — is what these people seem to feel — so we serve the sentence. Like the prisoner who just sits out sentence, some people treat life as if it is something to be endured instead of a great opportunity to be embraced.

I have increasingly come across the phrase, "Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious." I found an anonymous quote, "Don't take life too seriously, because you will never get out of it alive." Funny, but untrue. One can come out of life very much alive, if one has spent one's lifetime achieving things of eternal value.

Many people confuse the words serious and morose. Morose is how you feel when negativity and cynicism has overtaken you. Serious is how you feel when you realize that life is important and that what you do matters a great deal. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, "Life was meant to be lived and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life."

I believe that is what is meant by the Torah's injunction: "and you shall choose life."1 Choose to really live each day to the fullest.

The Torah describes Abraham's aging as having "come along in days."2 The Chassidic masters explain that this means that each and every day of his life fulfilled its purpose — he had them all in hand, so to speak, as he advanced in years. You can only do that when you take life seriously and refuse to treat life as merely "doing time."