The trouble is, you think you have time.
–Buddha’s Little Instruction Book
In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey talks about urgent and important activities. As defined in the book, urgent activities are those that demand your immediate attention, while important activities are those that contribute to results and desired goals in the long run. The book emphasises that one of the characteristics of effective people is that they spend a big chunk of time focusing on activities that are important but not urgent. These include things “like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventive maintenance, preparation — all those things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren’t urgent.”
What Stephen Covey says sounds like very sensible advice, and yet not a lot of people are able to take that advice.
How many of us know that getting up early and going for morning walks is good for our health, and yet how many of us actually do it? The reason is simple, the benefits of getting up early and going for a walk are not evident immediately, while the pleasure of staying in bed and getting that extra sleep is immediate. The urgent activities, it seems, provide us with immediate gratification, while the important activities provide us with benefits in some distant future, which is hard to visualise.
As Paul Graham says in his article, “How to do what you love”:
“It doesn’t mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month. Unproductive pleasures pall eventually. After a while you get tired of lying on the beach. If you want to stay happy, you have to do something.”
Inertia, and a lack of discipline
Man is a creature of habit, and to start doing new things – good things – we need to break the chains of old habits and develop new ones. That however is not easy. First, we have to overcome the inertia that ties us to our old habits, and then we have to have the discipline to develop new habits.
Ask someone who is a regular visitor to the gym about how difficult it is for him, or her, to do it, and the answer we are most likely to get is that it is not hard at all. The thing is: once we start doing the right things on a regular basis, we begin to enjoy doing them. The difficult part is to start doing them, and that is where discipline comes into the picture.
The Right Reason
Many times we want to do things just because people around us want us to. That reason, I am afraid, is simply not good enough. It might show us the direction, but we will move in the direction only when we feel the urge to take the first step.
From the time we come into our senses, someone, or the other, is always telling us what we should do and what is good for us. In the beginning, we might listen to them, but with time we begin to realise that we have a will of our own and we are free to do as we please. What is even more annoying is some of these people are not doing the things that they want us to do. It is always easier to preach than practice, isn’t it?
But, we have to outgrow this and find our own reasons for doing the right things. WE should want to do the right things not because others want us to, but because it will make us better persons.
Time does not wait for anyone. It’s moving forward relentlessly. Why shouldn’t we?
(Image Courtesy: beni_bb from sxc.hu)