Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Urgent or Important?

I grew up in a family where laziness was not allowed. The funny thing is that if you were to ask any of us kids about it, we knew that mom treasured being lazy. No, I'm not talking about taking time away from a busy work day to rest ... pure, unadulterated laziness. She wasn't too terribly happy about raising children, but soon discovered that if trained right, she had three excellent workers. So, she directed us while sitting on the sofa reading a book.

I'm going to start this all over again because as I look back at mom, what she hated doing was physical labor. So, poor Dad ... who was all about being busy and doing physical work ... saw her as being quite lazy. Mom's entire being, though, was about creativity. She despised housework - laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, cooking, cleaning of any sort. But, ask her to teach and she would study and prepare amazing lessons. She painted and sculpted, wrote poetry and stories, sewed clothes for us, as well as stuffed animals and other great items. Her mind was always working on something.

When Dad would walk into a room, if he felt that any of us weren't actively doing something, he would immediately come up with something for us to do. The only thing that was acceptable 'sitting' behavior was reading a book. He could never fault us for that. He would never fault us for that. That's probably one reason that the three of us kids are such avid readers. It was the only thing we could be doing that wouldn't earn us a task if we were sitting down!

A friend commented today that she couldn't believe how much I got done in a day. She sees the amount of things that I get written, the studying that I do and then I talk about the novels that I read and the research that I complete on other projects. I have time to talk to my friends and mess around on the net.

What she doesn't see is that I despise doing housework
- laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, cooking, cleaning of any sort. Consequently none of you are EVER going to be invited to my house. I will be glad to take you out to dinner, but I don't want to have to clean up around here so that you can get in to see how bad it can be.

For me it is about setting priorities. Seth Godin (and many others) speak about dealing with the important rather than the urgent. The important is what will change the world. The urgent only maintains the status quo. And when we are all exhausted from doing what seems urgent at the time, we are too exhausted to work on the important.

Some people love doing housework and seeing a beautifully clean home gives them great satisfaction. I probably need to hire that person - but I'm pretty certain they'd make me crazy.

I spent 25 years of my life (probably more than that, but I'm not going to bother counting - it will just depress me) running from one activity to the next. In my workday, I would tear around handling issues and putting out fires, dealing with customers and employees until my brain was trying to crawl into a quiet, dark space just for some rest. As soon as I left work, I would face evening after evening of rehearsals, meetings, multitudes of things. I would leave the house at 7 am and not return until after 10 pm. Everything was urgent and I set all thought of creativity aside, hoping that some day I would be able to sit and read for pleasure, that I would have the time to study those things that I desired to learn, that I would be able to write and teach and use my mind to be creative again.

I'm fortunate that I was able to get to that place in my life. I should have made it happen sooner, but all I could focus on was the urgent. I am who I am right now, but I can't say that I'm a better person because of the things that I chose to do.

Another friend of mine asks the question, "If you look back at the last seven years of your life and aren't happy with what you've done with those years, what are you doing today to make the next seven years different? In seven years will you be able to respond differently?"

Today I'm choosing to stay focused on what I want to do ... what is important for me to do. In seven years I want to rock whatever portion of the world I'm in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this writing. Today another teacher asked me if the last time I updated my grades was really January 29th. It was. Since then, the kids reviewed for the state writing test, took two days to test, learned to annotate Shakespeare, practiced Shakespeare lines and movement as well as created props and costumes. Everyone is learning and participating, but many of the activities are new to them, so there hasn't been a test yet. . . so there are few grades. . . and thanks to you, I'm okay with that. Grades are important, but not urgent. . . so long as feedback is given and learning is occurring.