I was walking through the local botanic gardens recently, as I often do. I enjoy it because no matter what else is happening, anything I may be concerned about fades away for a while. For me, part of this year is about doing what’s important. Not what’s right, or what needs to be done now, but what’s important.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Steven Covey teaches people to divide their activities into 4 areas, based on urgency and importance. The four areas are urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, important but not urgent, and unimportant and not urgent. The author notes that the majority of people of spend their time doing activities that are urgent but unimportant, or not urgent and unimportant. Think about it for a moment – how much time do you spend watching tv? Not urgent and unimportant. People dash here and there, doing this and that, when ultimately what they are doing is unimportant in the long run.
I’m convinced that the richness in life is actually in those activities that are important but not urgent. Achieving what is important to us as individuals requires effort – sustained effort. But the paradox is that typically those actions aren’t urgent, which is why they tend to get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We make time to do the urgent but unimportant things because we tend to them as they crop up. Often, we don’t stop to think about whether it’s something that is actually important and worth doing.
I’m a prime example of that. Right now I’m not just prepping for my black belt exam this year, I’m also taking classes related to the healing side of the martial art I study as well. These tests are coming quickly, and I need to attend class and study the healing related material so I’m ready. These things are important to me, but not urgent. They are things I need to take action on regularly. These are the things I have chosen to find meaning in – but if I do nothing with them, skip class, don’t study, I’ll have wasted that opportunity.
Priorities are a touchstone of our lives. There’s a very easy way to determine when our actions are out of alignment with our priorities, what we think is important. There’s one simple question to answer: If you knew you only had one year left to live, what would you do?
If your answer involved living any differently than you do now, your actions and priorities are out of alignment. The reason I say that is simple: you don’t know how much longer you’ll be alive. Though it’s likely you’ll live past retirement age, you never know when sudden calamity may strike and end it all. I don’t know about you, but when I die, I want to be able to look back and say I died in pursuit of dreams, doing the things that were important to me. I don’t want there to be any doubt in anyone’s mind that I lived life to the fullest, the best I knew how.
As much as I want people to see that, I’m not living my life for them, I’m living it for me. I may or may not reach my dreams, but at least I’m reaching for them. I know what’s important to me, and I’m doing what’s important. What’s important to you?