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- How to avoid "urgent" distractions
- January 08, 2018

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January 08, 2018

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The trouble is, you think you have time.

“The trouble is,
you think
you have time.”

~ Jack Kornfield

Focusing on What’s Important vs. What’s Urgent
There is something about a new year that leads to grand plans and exciting dreams - a burst of psychic energy to do what you’ve been putting off or wishing you had time for.

For some people this is a personal goal – to finally write that book, or to think about the grand vision for your life and your work. For some it is an organizational goal – to move beyond providing programs and selling products, to accomplish something truly important for your team, for your community, for the world.

Unfortunately, life often creeps in, demanding that you react to this or that, replacing the important with the urgent. Before you can blink, it’s summer, then fall, then a whole new year where you are excitedly feeling that maybe THIS will be the year…

When we allow other priorities to encroach upon what we really want, we are reacting instead of creating.

We believe that reactive thing is more important, when in fact, it is usually just more urgent.

That’s because dreams are rarely urgent. They may be the most important things we can do, but they are rarely urgent, on fire, demanding our attention. (And if they are, good for you!)

As day-to-day life encroaches, allowing the urgent to divert us from what might be the most important work we could be doing, we tell ourselves that we will have time, sometime in the future, to create that positive thing.

In reality, none of us knows when our time on earth is up. None of us knows when tomorrow will be too late. The trouble is, as Jack Kornfield, that we think we have time…

Try This:
Creating plans to reach for our dreams requires that we ask a different set of questions. We are used to asking questions like, “How can I make time for that?” which demands that we choose between what we might normally do and this new thing.

Unfortunately, our reactive brains are wired to choose the urgent over the important, and the comfortable over “that new things feels difficult…”

And so we may dedicate the first hour of the day on Monday and maybe even Tuesday, towards working on our goal. But by Wednesday, that first hour is a staff meeting, and by Thursday a coworker needs help, and by Friday…

Instead, effective questions will create conducive conditions for you to take action towards your goal. That is because your ability to create powerful results lies in your ability to create favorable cause-and-effect conditions towards those goals.

The questions to ask, therefore, are questions about the circumstances that would create success for you. Different from the generic internet advice of “5 Things You Can Do To Move Forward,” this is asking very specifically, “What are the circumstances YOU need, in order to focus on what is important?”

In Hildy's TEDx talk "How to Create the Future," she talks about this as “reverse engineering the future,” walking backwards from the future you want, creating the path of cause-and-effect that will get you there. The questions that create that path include…

What would you (or others) need to know before you could move forward on that exciting new project?
What would you need to be assured of?
What would you need to feel? Believe?
What would you (or others) need to understand?

And then the walking backwards questions…
What would it take for you / them to know that, understand that, feel that, believe that?
What would lead to your feeling whatever you need to feel?
What would lead to your being assured of whatever you need to be assured of?

If possible, think back to a time when you were successful at moving beyond the sirens’ song of urgency, to create something important and forward-moving. What were the conditions that allowed you to move past the urgent then? What were you able to be assured of, to count on? What made that possible? Those same conditions may not work for you now, but they will get you thinking about the reality of what it takes (vs. the excuse that you have no time…)

Your ability to create powerful results lies in your ability to mindfully create causality. Because whether you do so mindfully and creatively, or you do so reactively, whatever you do will be setting off a chain of cause-and-effect that will absolutely create both your future, and the future of those around you.

That powerful statement of reality is why Catalytic Decision-making, rooted in the scientific reality of causality, is an integral practice in the Catalytic Thinking framework.

Photo credit: Photo via Creative Commons license at Wikimedia Commons, by S Sepp

Want to learn alongside other people who are also trying out Catalytic Thinking practices? Join our Catalytic Thinking in Action community on Facebook - a welcoming place where you can ask questions and learn from people like you who are experimenting with these practices. We look forward to seeing you there!

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