This reflective article highlights how particular instances and experiences, called ‘focusing events’ in the article, shape critical choices that are made in the research process, ultimately influencing the focus of the study and the way it is conducted. The article thereby argues that the distance between the finish line and the start of a research endeavour is seldom a straight line but one where choices, preferences, and methods have to be adapted in view of evolving theoretical and practical considerations. By way of reflecting on the research process, the article also calls for increased attention to neglected concepts in health systems research, such as the power relationships between actors. Specifically, the article joins increasing calls for in-depth analysis of power that moves beyond traditional stakeholder analysis approaches; one that involves an inquiry of how stakeholders mobilise the differential power resources available to them in order to safeguard their stake in particular policies and programmes. The article emphasises the need to increasingly pose questions such as ‘whose ‘should’ is that?’ in global health research.