“The need,” he said, stifling a yawn, “is an urgent one.”

Urgency. The word inspires. A matter of urgency is a matter of weight, a matter to be regarded with careful seriousness. Ugent issues, after all, are the ones attended to first, the issues that eclipse other questions of, well, less urgency.

Urgent does not, however, mean the same thing as important.


What, you are asking yourself, is this sap going on about? We’re getting to it. There are urgent issues at hand, first.


Urgent not important. Right. Urgent means, essentially, that something is time sensitive. The commercial I saw last night (was it for a melon baller or one of those clever razors that remove the little pills on blankets and sweaters?) spent quite a lot of effort convincing me of the urgent nature of my melon balling needs. Act now and for a limited time were mentioned, reaching a peak with order tonight and we’ll also–. I could hardly stay seated, the need to act on the moment was so strong.

And yet, here I am 18 hours later, undoubtedly far past my deadline, and I am not crushed at my inability to make old sweaters like new again. My family, probably from ignorance, still loves me, and my employers have not yet gotten word of my negligence; I will have a job tomorrow.

Urgent. Not important.


Now, let us take that step back and to the side for which I am becoming justly reknowned. People, by and large, do things for the same reasons my dogs do things. They have done them before, and found the results suited them. The sit, speak, and offer a paw in greeting, and they get a cookie. They go outside to pee and are get told they are good dogs. When they remember to put their dishes in the dishwasher or put the toilet seat down, we thank them. People are just that way, too.

No, I don’t mean that if you thank me for something, I’ll pee in your yard. Put some effort into this, will you? Try to keep up. I’m not going all that fast.

What I’m getting at is, people do things when the payoff suits them.

I have covered in other entries that your basic floor-model human being, one that doesn’t waste valuable time thinking, acts on three motives, those being fear, pain, and need. Most people have some fear that they are not sufficient to whatever standard they feel is appropriate. I work in a place where the majority of the people, especially the owners, not only don’t know if they are sufficient but suspect they don’t know how to tell. When one doesn’t know if one is doing the important things, but suspects one isn’t, shouting that there is a deep need for widgets inventory to be relaminated — now, dammit, now! — gives the appearance of knowing what is important and acting decisively on it.

As a side benefit, if it turns out that what really needed to be done was anchor the sidewalks more firmly and the person responsible is called to question, he can always defend himself with, “I would have, of course, but I was laminating widgets. Had to be done. Couldn’t be two places at once,” with a sad head shake.

So, more concisely, if everything one does is urgent, then one is important and defensible. Self-regard and parried accusation, all in a sweep.

The fellow off in the back right of the room is asking, “Don’t you always claim that you would, but there are important things about that you must do right now?”

Cringe, I believe, is the word for my action right now.

Yes, cringe. That’s the one.


People do things for the payoff. People are motivated by fear. Urgency is used as substitute for important. Now add this: My default assumption about me is, if I am failing to do something I should be doing, it is because I am utterly negligent

I wouldn’t have been, of course, but there were a lot of things that really had to be done right at that moment.

[facepalm]

How many times have I made my priority list based on time-relevancy? And what the hell does that have to do with what is important? If I base everything on time-relevence, all I will ensure is that I jam as many things as possible into my schedule. Did I get the important ones, though? Did I relate to my family and friends? Did I pursue my dreams? Did I, for Christ’s sake, spend an afternoon just being happy?

Or did I make sure that I ordered a melon baller and relaminated the widgets?

What am I going to do to change this behavior?

I’ll letcha know. I’ve got a bunch of really important things that just have to be done right now.


Thanks, Emily.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

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