One of my favorite management theorists, Steven Covey, distinguishes ‘important’ from its poor cousin, ’urgent’. ‘Urgent’ seeks your immediate attention, right now, irrespective of its importance e.g. the plaintive call of your cell phone (invariably unimportant, yet we respond as if our lives depend entirely on that call). Important matters generally do not require immediate attention – they usually require serious and unhurried consideration.
Urgent things may be important, but generally their outer garb of stature hides a feeble body, which, ‘in the raw’, exposes an unimportant personality. On the other hand, important matters may at times be urgent, but more likely, seek the passage of time for wisdom to solve and sort.
In a world where time always seems to be of the essence, ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ often merge into a curious hybrid I have titled - ‘impurgent’ – a ‘glorious basterdization’ of these two cousins. Most urgent things in life are rarely important and most important things are rarely urgent – hence the illegitimacy of the ‘impurgent’.
Have you sat down and really figured out what is important in your life? It isn’t money. It may be what money brings you by way of life’s fulfillment. It isn’t friends, but rather the connectedness with another life-in-being that magically brings meaning into one’s life. It isn’t knowledge per se, but rather the enlargement of one’s self, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, that provides the vantage point from a mountain peak from which to view the pattern of higher reality.
Too often we don’t see the forest for the trees. One great Hassidic master noted introspectively: “two fingers in front of an eye can hide the tallest mountains.” We respond to the call of the moment, instead of surveying the landscape of time.
Yes, of course be mindful – ‘be here now’. But beyond the moment of now there must also be ‘the timelessness of flow’. Flow begins in the past, appears in the present, and carries you through the future.
Let me give you a quick litmus test to distinguish between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’: if the matter goes to the core of relationship, then it’s likely to be important. If it relates more to shoring up personal inadequacies and insecurities it is likely to be ‘urgent’. If you act on the latter you are being ‘impurgent’.
Resist the temptresses of ‘urgent’. Grace yourself with the space of time and you will earn the respect of wisdom, resulting in recognition of the truly ‘important’.