This is a time of year when stress levels peak. Yes, we have parties, holidays and festivities to look forward to. But there are all those other things we need to get done before year end. Project deadlines, work assignments, and around the home perhaps, all sorts of jobs to complete in readiness for Christmas and the New Year.
All these things are urgent. If we don’t get them done, we’ll be in trouble. So we do get them done. If necessary, we wake up early and go to bed late. We put ourselves out to make sure that we take care of the urgent.
There are also people, pets and activities in our lives that are important. It’s important to spend time with our friends. To take in the beauty of sunrise across a frosted field while walking with our dog. To enjoy a fireside cuddle with our feline companion. It’s important to phone an elderly parent or to reach out to a friend who is bored or lonely.
There are often no immediate consequences if we don’t do what’s important. From one day to another, life carries on quite adequately if we don’t take in the last rays of the sun slanting across the ocean, or meet up with an old friend for coffee and conversation.
Over a period of time, however, if we don’t do what’s important, life becomes meaningless. What’s the point in busting a gut to deliver on some work assignment, if we never spend any time connecting with others, or even with ourselves, in a heartfelt way? Who cares when we tick all those ‘to do’ boxes if, in so doing, we’re only chasing our tails in a futile but frenetic circle that’s taking us nowhere – and which may even be a distraction from what ultimately matters to us?
As French psychologist and writer Christophe Andre puts it: ‘Every day the things that are urgent in our lives come into conflict with those that are important. How can we stop totally sacrificing the important things to those that are urgent? How can we stop bowing ever more fully to the dictates of the urgent, with the effect that, after a while, every demand seems urgent to us, even when in reality it isn’t, or not as urgent as it would like us to think?’ (Mindfulness, 25 Ways to Live in the Moment through Art. A brilliant book, by the way!)
This festive season, let’s not lose sight of the important in the midst of the urgent. Let’s not diminish, overlook or undervalue those things that make our lives – and the lives of those around us – truly worthwhile. Let’s make the important a priority too!
By David Michie
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