in Personal Reflections

Urgency vs. Importance

Urgency creates an attention poverty. It deprives us of the present moment and encourages us to make rash decisions, to act before thinking and to commit before considering. 

Urgency disregards priorities and blatantly ignores what’s important. It demands nothing short of immediate, unmindful action.

Things that are urgent are fleeting. They lose their value and their sense of importance with every passing moment and they feel important because they’re fleeting.

We buy something because it’s on sale or jump into a conversation so that we’re heard; we stay on top of what’s trending or keep up with our favorite shows, authors, or magazines; we stay with our job because it’s a great opportunity or we indulge in the luxuries of life because, hey, life is short.

We chase these things because they’re fleeting, because the unstoppable and relentless marching of time ensures that they will be gone, possibly forever, if we don’t act now

But what’s important, what’s truly important, remains important. It doesn’t fade into the background when we ignore it. It doesn’t disappear after a few days, weeks, or years. 

It doesn’t matter if we’re rich or poor, if we’re ten years old or a hundred years old, if it’s Monday or Friday or if it’s the weekend with a full moon: the important things remain important.

The important things are here to stay. They remain with us, patiently waiting until we’re ready to sit quietly, bring our mind home, and give them the attention they deserve.

Urgency will never wait; you’ll never catch it. Chasing what’s urgent is a fools game. But embracing what’s important, that’s something that has meaning. That’s something that has real value.

The urgent stuff will always be running away from us, but the important stuff — the stuff that gives our life meaning — is waiting patiently with open arms.

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  1. “No rush, no hurry, no urgency.” That’s my motto which I often have to remind myself of, ha! What has worked well is when dealing with clock time, which I’m not fond of, but, hey it’s how most of our society functions….anyway, what works well is to allow myself some 3 hours minimum before having to be somewhere. Today, for example, I am to be at a high school mentoring beginning at 11:10 a.m. I simply insure that I’m awake and out of the house with the dog for morning recreation by 8. Thereby, I have no need of looking at a watch nor worrying about the time as I know we will be able to accomplish chasing the tennis ball at the park, swimming in the Bay, and making the 2-1/2 mile walk back home with time to spare. :o)

    • Ricky, I think you make a great point about “creating” urgency by setting ourselves up for experiencing it.

      If we’re constantly living with only a moment to spare and waiting until the last minute to do things that we know need to be done, then we’ll always have this sense of urgency that we have to overcome (or give into).

      I find that when I’m proactive throughout the day — when I know what I intend to get done and I get those things done first — then the rest of my day goes smoothly.

      Of course developing such a habit isn’t easy and I find myself struggling on a daily basis to create those habits (such as waking early and doing creative work early), but I’m working on it.

      I’m curious if you feel that you have a good sense of time — an accurate inner clock — that allows you to feel confident that you have enough time.

      For example, I feel if I woke up at 8am and left the house for a 2 mile walk without a clock/watch/phone to check the time, I’d feel preoccupied with keeping track of how much time has passed so as to not miss my 11am appointment. As a result, I wouldn’t enjoy my walk because I wouldn’t be as present in the moment. How do you handle that?

  2. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for finding your words in my inbox this morning. I desperately needed the reminder because of what I’m walking through recently.

    “The important things are here to stay. They remain with us, patiently waiting until we’re ready to sit quietly, bring our mind home, and give them the attention they deserve.”

    I have felt such an urgency inside me I haven’t been able to settle. All my thoughts and emotions have been clammering for attention like a Jungle Jim full of little children who want what they want right NOW. Your words I just quoted above had the effect of silencing all of those thoughts in an instant, with the light remaining on what is important to me, and what has remained important to me throughout my life no matter what is happening on the outside of me. All this that I’m walking through right now shall pass…ain’t nothin’ but a thang.

    Thank you, Raam. You rock!

    • Cynthia,

      I’m so happy those words resonated with you! I find that when my mind is all over the place — when I feel a crushing, almost suffocating feeling of not having enough time/energy/resources/life to get everything done — that’s when I’m reminded that nature has given me exactly the amount of time/energy/resources/life I need to do the importnat things and that no matter how much time/energy/resources/life I’ve expended up until this point in time, I still have enough remaining. :)

      It’s such a freeing feeling, but I think it’s equally importnat to seize that opportunity, to reset our priorities and start working on more of what’s important and releasing more of what’s not. I believe it’s a daily practice!

  3. So much to love about this, Raam, thank you. This is a beautiful affirmation of life (and love) “The important things are here to stay. They remain with us, patiently waiting until we’re ready to sit quietly, bring our mind home, and give them the attention they deserve.”
    When I invest in that which is important, I am investing in living fully, and in gratitude for the experience of this moment.
    Much peace.

    • Thank you, Joy. Living fully is truly about investing in what’s important and having the courage to release that which feels urgent and fleeting.

      I find this true even for our mortality: I’m constantly reminded of the limit that exists on the length of time my physical body will be functioning and that motivates me to respect and take care of it, to appreciate the opportunities this vehicle awards me and to explore the potential it gives me. :)

  4. Beautifully said Raam – you remind me of many of the great words by Dr. Stephen Covey who has written extensively on principle centered leadership.

    I understand your use of the word important to be the same as what are life principles to me. They are non changing regardless of the situation I am in. For example, honesty, integrity…

    Keep smiling,

    David

    • Thank you, David. I think of “what’s important” as anything in my life that seems naturally recurring, even if that means things like bad habits. (The bad habits are important because they need to be changed, but they’re important nonetheless.)

      Life principles are also recurring: They keep coming back to us, quietly influencing our decisions and our choices despite the noise (the “quiet rebels” that I wrote about in my journal recently).

  5. Adding my thoughts:

    If only the best things in life were not free, but had limited time offers.

    Maybe we’d spend time with them?

    Life is full of glory. If we slow down we can appreciate it. Sun on water. Drifting clouds. Christ, there’s a sunset every bloody day.

    But most of us miss most of it. Why?

    It’s always there and it’s always free. There’s no barriers or limits. And this is exactly why we don’t spend time with it. Because we know we can do it any time, we might as well do something else first, something more urgent, sometihng that has barriers and limits and will be gone forever soon!

    • Well put Ali…so true. I know it is a bit trite, but the saying ‘stop and smell the roses’ is quite apt.
      I like what you said about the best things being free.

    • Ali, I love these thoughts. :)

      The tool I’ve used to recognize the “limited availability” of things like the sunset, or the clouds, or a beautiful flower, is that of my own mortality. I remind myself daily that this physical body known as Raam Dev will be gone forever at some point within the next hundred years or so. There will come a point where I no longer exist in this physical form, with these physical experiences, experiencing the world through these eyes, and ears, and other senses.

      To really feel and accept that truth is incredibly freeing because it makes me feel immense gratitude and appreciation for everything, every minute. Sure, there are challenges and things can be “difficult” at times, but in the end — in the greater perspective of things — it’s all but a blip in the fabric of time. :)

      • Yes, life lived in the shadow of death is appreciated better. If only we weren’t so protected from a young age from the concept of death. Perhaps your upbringing, where death is more celebrated and prepared for, has prepared you better to live?

        • I wouldn’t say death was more celebrated in my upbringing, but rather that it was more a stated-fact-of-life that we talked about regularly.

          There was also the constant discussion about reincarnation and how we’re more than the physical body, so I’m sure that helped! :)

  6. Raam,

    This is such a beautiful and essential message. Urgency – isn’t it a made-up concept anyway? You only find it among humans. There’s no urgency in a flock of geese flying across continents, or a bud blossoming into a beautiful flower.

    Urgency is fleeting, like you say. When I think of the word, all I can imagine is fast-forwarding a TV show. It’s an illusion of “skipping” time, however, all you are doing is blurring your present.

    Looking forward to hanging out here more often, my good friend.

    - Amit

    • Amit, I love that perspective. Nature — and all that lives in harmony with nature — does not experience urgency because it has embraced what’s important (birds flying south when the need to fly south, flowers budding or closing when they need to, etc.).

      If we embrace what’s important and steer our life in that direction to the best of our ability, then urgency doesn’t exist, for we’re doing exactly what we should be doing when we should be doing it. It doesn’t matter if we die tomorrow because we would die tomorrow knowing that we did exactly what we should’ve been doing. :)

  7. Awesome article Raam.
    I recall a popular saying – Speed thrills, but it kills.

    Urgency is nothing but speed. Speeder we go, more are the chances that we miss to see the details, enjoy the ride or even end of going on wrong track altogether.

  8. Very well said! And a very important read :)

    If we could really conceive the end then we would spend more time enjoying the things that really matter. I think society has indoctrinated us not to think this way. Working at a job sunset and sunrise (amongst other things) has been perveresly twisted to be more important than enjoying the important things!

    Anyway my rant could go on but there are more important things to do. :) Just wanted to say what a great piece of writing this is.

    Cheers Tim

    • Thank you, Tim. :)

      As difficult as it may be, the beautiful part of this all is that the power to change — the power to start giving the important things more attention and higher priority — is entirely in our hands.