Are you confusing 'urgent' with 'important'?
The past few years or so have been highly impactful on the way that I craft my lifestyle. It started with the book I wrote, ARROWS, which is a primer on missional lifestyle design. As I began developing my thoughts on what a missional lifestyle should look like, I had no choice but to trim the fat. The bare-bones version of missional living meant simplifying life so that you have the flexibility, mobility, resources and time to hit the curve balls life throws at you in a way that does the most for the Kingdom of God. Naturally, my ideas evolve over time. As I come to understand more truths of life I can piece them together to create a new perspective within my old worldview.
Over and over, one theme keeps reoccurring:
Invest in things that matter and let those that don't matter take care of themselves.
Creating value matters.
The pursuit of excellence matters.
Standing for something matters.
Material possessions don't matter.
Mindless activities don't matter.
Foolishness doesn't matter.
Petty tasks don't matter.
Pleasing everyone doesn't matter.
Beware of Urgency
When you weigh the items on your to-do list, many of them, I'm sure, seem important. Truthfully, they probably aren't. Most things in our lives are unimportant by an lasting standard. However, the unimportant loves to hide under the guise of urgency because urgency has a way of giving off a sense of importance. For example, you're are hosting a dinner party tonight and are rushing around juggling the preparation of three different dishes and, in the fray, forget to make a dessert. With 30 minutes before guests are due to arrive, the task of whipping up a dessert seems incredibly urgent and thus highly important. In the grand scheme of things, however, your guests will most likely be full by the end of the meal and a cup of coffee will be all they want/need as they sit around visiting after dinner. Choosing to forgo the dessert and instead, take a few minutes to destress, relax, and get ready may end up doing you more good in the end.
Be careful not to confuse urgency with importance. The mix-up is often the cause of a lot of unnecessary stress.
Studies have shown that happiness is often correlated with a deep sense of meaning. Those who are dedicated to a cause rate themselves as happier than those who aren't. These findings have actually fueled a course of action to help treat those who are depressed.
You've heard the phrase, "you are what you eat." I would contend that we are what we do. To quote Ms. Rachel Dawes from Batman Begins,
Our ideas, our values... they remain just that - ideas and values - unless they manifest themselves in our actions. If we say that we value our time and then squander it on meaningless things, then what does it matter?
How we choose to actively live our lives is the ultimate equalizer
...because at that point, everyone is on a level playing field. The rich, the poor, the black, the white, the man with the tragic past, the woman with the perfect childhood... it doesn't matter. How we choose to live our day NOW is the ultimate determinant of who we are. To what we dedicate our time, energy and money, that is what will, in turn, come full circle to define us.
I love this quote from Bob Goff because it takes this post and consolidates it into just a few characters. It also implies that this philosophy can be practically applied to real life. I'm all about uncovering exactly how mindsets affect our day-to-day, nitty-gritty because, after all, it's the day-to-day, nitty-gritty that matters right? To do so, let me bring to your attention an illustration by one of my mentors who I quote far too often, Timothy Ferriss, author of "The 4-Hour Workweek" of which I am a die-hard advocate. In this book, he is delving into the concept of eliminating, automating, and delegating as a way to free up your workload and focus on what matters to you. We all know the hectic, time-consuming task of maintaining #InboxZero - it's a monster that grows two heads every time you cut off one. Tim demonstrates how he sets up an email autoresponder that politely lets his emailers know that he won't be able to answer at the moment.
He explained how, "People are poor judges of importance and inflate minutiae to fill time and feel important. I was initially terrified of missing important requests and inviting disaster, just as you might be upon reading this recommendation. Nothing happened." Urgent action is not, by definition, meaningful action. This email autoresponder is a small sample of the ways in which this philosophy can make its way into the structure of our lives. We are free to get creative in figuring out ways to slice through the time-wasters, the urgent petty things and the meaningless tasks and focus on those things which bring fulfillment and purpose to our lives. And we can begin now.
Here are a few books that have greatly impacted the development of this mindset: