What is Really Important?
“First Things First”
One of the most valuable books I have ever read is Stephen Covey’s First Things First. I try to remember and remind myself frequently of the profound concepts in that book, which is a follow-up to Covey’s famous game changer, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Important vs. Urgent
Stephen Covey recommends that we “keep the main thing the main thing.” He explains that “urgent” things constantly distract us from truly important things that do not seem urgent at the time. Because they do not seem to be urgent or necessary at any given moment, we put of many of the most important things while we waste our precious time doing what seems more “urgent.” We are so busy putting out fires that we leave no time for fire prevention.
Covey’s research at the Covey Leadership Center indicates that the main difference between highly effective people and unsuccessful people is that effective people do important things even when they are not urgent. Everybody does important things when they are urgent. We wait to go to the Dentist until our teeth ache. We put off physical exams until we hurt. We can always exercise tomorrow — until it is too late! We can brush our teeth and floss later, or maybe skip it for today.
Effective People are “Proactive vs. Reactive.”
We can choose to make things happen on purpose, or we can by default let things happen to us. Everyday we have the golden opportunity to take control of our own life.
Ironically, it is natural to procrastinate about important things more so than unimportant things, simply because they are important and therefor scary. We may fear performing inadequately, or to put it more positively, we want to wait until we are prepared to do it very well. This is exactly why I put off writing blog posts! I want my posts to be as valuable as possible.
One of the most memorable things I learned in graduate school was that “Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.” Time and resources are finite (not unlimited), which means that choosing to spend time on one thing keeps us from doing another. See my blog post, “Opportunity Cost.”
Well Begun is Half Done
Gavin Mountford, among others, has said, “It is more important to get it going than to get it right.” Remember the famous quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too...Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”