We all know that, if we keep focusing all our attention on what is urgent, we may very well end up missing what is truly important.
But it’s easier said than done. Trying to do it on willpower alone often doesn’t work. Why is that?
We’re wired to pay attention to what is urgent. On the whole, considering how it came to be that way, it makes sense. Evolutionarily, those creatures that were not able to shift gear quickly to attend to clear and present danger didn’t make it. In other words, we have inherited the genes of people who had a very strong sense of urgency.
In this context, it is easier to see that “sense of urgency” is a fancy word for sensitivity to fear. It means noticing danger, and reacting quickly to it. A very useful ability in order to survive in the wild. In such conditions, it’s better to overreact: Better safe than sorry.
Again, this is very adaptive for living in the wild. But, within a civilized society, we need more than this to prosper (not to mention enjoy our life). We need to turn off the reactive mode (when we are safe, of course) in order to be able to do more complex stuff. Like looking at goals and how to achieve them.
The key part in the above paragraph is that, in order to override the reactive mode which is based on fear, we need to feel safe.
Here’s how this translates to what you can do in real life:
– When you notice that you have been paying so much attention to what is “urgent” that you have been neglecting what is “important”, remember that this reactive mode is fear-based.
– Then look for what you might be afraid of, consciously or not. Chances are you may not even be aware of having any kinds of fear. Your conscious mind may just be aware that “these things need to be done”. So ask yourself: “What might be the fear that pushes me to act this way?”
– As you get more of a sense of what that fear might be, let yourself feel it more, get a more visceral sense of it, as opposed to just staying with abstract words.
– As you do this, keep remembering that you are not doing this as a way to scare yourself needlessly, but as a way to confront the fear. Remember that just engaging in this exercise is showing your courage and strength: You are not avoiding the fear. You are facing it. There’s at least a little part of you that has some degree of confidence in your ability to overcome it. You are giving that part of yourself a fighting chance.
– Little by little, you find yourself connecting to your inner sense of strength. You feel fear, but you’re not paralyzed by it. You start to see possible ways to go at it. From this calmer, stronger place, you are now more able to focus on what is truly important – – because you are experiencing your ability to keep danger at bay.