There are moments throughout our lives, and they happen almost every day, where we catch a glimpse of what we are capable of, a flicker of what we are destined to be, or a hint of what we desire to become.
It could be a burst of inspiration for that book we always wanted to write. Or the yearning to finally lose the extra weight. Or the feeling of dissatisfaction with our job and an urge to build something of our own.
These are important desires and they call to us all the time. But right before we answer their call, the urgency of life tends to get in the way. Your phone rings. Your car is low on gas. Your boss drops a tight deadline on you. And so we delay our dreams one more day for the sake of putting out another fire.
How do we get past this? How do we start living the life that's important to us instead of just responding to the everyday emergencies?
The Next 10 Years of Your Life
Think about this: you’re going to spend the next 10 years doing something.
Too often that something is responding to what is urgent instead of pursuing what is important.
Too often the need to make money (urgent) wins out over the desire to build something we’re proud of (important). Too often the urge to find a way to lose twenty pounds in six weeks (urgent) wins out over becoming the type of person who doesn't miss workouts (important). Too often the craving to be noticed or appreciated (urgent) wins out over the ability to be present and satisfied (important).
Sure, we all need money. And yes, there are times when the world requires us to put important things on hold so that we can get the rest of our crazy lives under control. Handling responsibilities is part of life. But how long will you delay what’s important to you just so that you can handle the next urgent thing in front of you? How long will you put off what you’re capable of doing just to maintain what you’re currently doing?
Will you wait a year? Five years? Your whole life?
Too often we live our lives based on what is urgent for us and not what is important to us. It’s dangerously easy to spend years constantly chasing the next urgent thing and never setting aside time to do what we know we should.
How to Overcome the Urgency of Everyday Life
If you want to start living an important life, then choose a clear direction for yourself. When you have the courage to say, “This is important to me and I'm going after it,” you don't fall into the trap of living the life that other people expect you to live.
If I know that my unwavering goal is to finish this article, then that goal gives me direction and purpose. Whenever I have a free moment, I write another sentence. Whenever I get a new idea, I automatically think about how it relates to accomplishing my goal of finishing this article. My life is organized around accomplishing this specific, important task.
We all have urgent tasks each day — a phone call we have to take, an email we need to respond to, a sick friend we have to help — but having a clear purpose and a specific goal allows you to get right back to what is important after you respond to the everyday emergencies. A specific goal gives you direction and prevents you from being sucked into a whirlwind of time–consuming, unimportant tasks.
A specific goal is different than a desire, and that's crucial to understand. Wanting to get in shape is a desire, doing 100 pushups in a row is a specific goal. Wanting to start your own business is a desire, securing three paying clients is a specific goal. Wanting to write a book is a desire, finishing the first chapter is a specific goal.
Live an Important Life
Nothing worth working for will ever seem urgent. That’s the nature of important goals. They don’t demand attention right now. They require a sense of purpose, a clear direction, and consistency over the long haul.
I propose that we stop letting the seeds of greatness slip through our fingers. I say that we abandon the frantic rush towards mediocre and start the slow march towards greatness.
Pick one thing that's important to you, set a specific goal for yourself, and get started today.