Many words have been written about the tension between urgent and important. In the 1960s, Charles Hummel published a booklet called “Tyranny of the Urgent”. In it, Hummel makes the case that there is a constant tension between things that are urgent and things that are important and that far too often the urgent wins. There is a story about a man named Lazarus that Jesus raised from the dead. Upon examination of the story, the raising from the dead is not even the point of the story. It is really a great picture of the tensions between the important and the urgent.
In the story, Mary and Martha need Jesus to come right away because their brother Lazarus is sick. Jesus decides to wait a couple of days. When he does decide to go, His disciples are scared that they are going to get killed if they go and so they try talking Jesus out of it. Lazarus dies and the sisters complain when He finally arrives. Jesus seems to repeat this constant theme several times: this happened for your sakes. They had urgent problems. A sick brother. A fear of being killed because of previous threats. Jesus was concerned about the important more than their urgent. He wanted them to believe in Him. everything that happened took place so they would believe more.
Important is a long term strategy. Urgent is a short term disruption. If you have not determined what the important things are, the urgent things will constantly drive your life. Many people go through life from one crisis to the next without ever taking the time to determine what they deem to be most important in life. Determining what is important requires some big-picture thinking. Where do I want to go? What do I want to accomplish? Who do I want to be? What kind of life do I want? It requires you to determine your priorities instead of letting your life be dictated by the current situation or need.
Someone else will be glad to set the agenda for your life and family. Sometimes we do not even realize how other things become urgent and take us away from the important. Social media has an agenda for your life. Television and other entertainment have an agenda for your life. So do retailers, websites, email, friends, and coworkers. They may not describe it that way, but they all have something they want and expect from you. If you allow their urgency to overtake your important you will find yourself following their path instead of yours.
I encourage you to take some time and determine what is important in your life and work to control the moments that the urgent disrupts your life. It will require you to answer some important questions and have the discipline to follow through and say no. Understanding the value of the important over the urgent can be life-changing.
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