Sunday, 11 February 2018

Urgent vs. Important

Here's an important distinction that I hadn't previously considered: urgency and importance.  How are they different?  Urgent things certainly feel important as the deadline looms closer and your heart rate increases and palms start to sweat, but are they?



Urgent things are defined by a deadline and a requirement to avoid a negative outcome.  For example, if you don't hand in your essay on time you will fail or if you don't get to the hospital in time you will die.  These are things we'd, ideally, like to avoid and so we give them the time and priority we feel they deserve.

So what of important things?  We are all able to list things that are important to us: friends, family, finding a sense of purpose etc. but these things don't feel urgent because any negative outcome is not based on a deadline.  We often find ourselves rushing around from one urgent thing to the next as the things that are important to us fall down our list of priorities.

Urgency sets off a primal, adrenaline-fuelled, all-consuming alarm inside our heads because we fear the negative outcome.  But important - truly important - things deserve our time too.  We feel like there is no deadline because there is no attached fear but, without wanting to get too morbid here, the most permanent deadline of them all looms over the time we have left with our loved ones or time left to live the life we truly desire.  Goals like getting fit and healthy, seeing more of the world or writing a book fall behind because we assume we can give them the attention they deserve later.

And, of course, we should not try and use fear to help us achieve your goals.  Spending time with family only because we are focussed on the fact we will all be dead one day is not particularly healthy.  Urgent things require our time but so do important things.  Spending our time on the important things, as opposed to avoiding negative outcomes, gives us positive ones: feeling proud of ourselves, being healthy, having better relationships...  Both important things and urgent things deserve our time.

Carmen x
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